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Innovative Passive House: Uber Haus

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Aug 26, 2014 11:19:09 AM

DUBBED "PASSIVE HOUSE IN THE WOODS", this project takes energy efficiency far beyond the experience of most residential builders. It’s a bleeding edge design, a strikingly modern structure that produces 65% more electricity than it needs. It also has an interesting back story.

“The client’s wife was ill with cancer as we were planning this home,” notes architect Tim Delhey Eian.
“She passed away before construction began, and we ended up changing the design to a much more vertical plan.

“We chose ICFs deliberately, as a pretty fail-safe construction method,” he adds. “I had a good grasp of Passivhaus concepts, because I grew up in Germany and completed the training there.”

Deep Science
Although the systems in this home are familiar, this project takes them to a higher level. The ICFs, for example, extend below grade, and are augmented with a commercial-grade EIFS system that includes 11” of EPS foam above grade—making a wall 22” thick with an R-value of 70.

“We tried to get the North American branch (of Sto Corp.) to provide the details we wanted, but the deal fell through,” the architect notes. “They only offered this version of EIFS in Europe. It puts all of the water management on the exterior. They’ve now started offering it in the U.S.”

The flat roof includes 14” of polyisocyanurate foam, achieving R-95, and the windows and doors, imported from Germany, are triple-pane, low-E coated, with insulated frames. They have an installed R-value of 8. By comparison, a typical wood or vinyl-framed, dual-pane, low-E window achieves only about R-2.

The slab also sits on 12” of EPS foam (R-60), and the garage doors are insulated as well, so the overall heating demand for the home is extremely low. In fact, it has no furnace and no fireplace, despite the cold climate. The home, designed for a heating load of just 3,000 W, relies on passive solar plus a modest ground loop geothermal system, with a back up of electrical floor mats from Nuheat. A super-efficient HRV provides ventilation to the whole house, with minimal loss of BTU.

Along with the 4.5 kW PV panels, the house has a 40-sq.-ft. hot water solar collector that provides 90% of the home’s hot water demand. A small electric hot water heater provides the rest.

Ongoing Improvements
The architect notes that by monitoring the home’s performance during the first year, the team was able to identify hidden energy wasters. “For instance,” he says, “we now know that the well pump was using a lot of energy—12% of the home’s consumption for a year. That was easy to improve.

“At the same time,” he adds, “some of the appliances out-performed our original estimates, in part because they weren’t used as much as expected. But we’re now extrapolating from the lifestyle impacts.”

Too often, notes the architect, home owners look at the aspects of a home that are not important—things that “are really going to go down the drain.” Not so, with this house, he says. It’s a project that ultimately gives the owner freedom—so “he won’t owe monthly bills to anyone.”

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Topics: ICFs, solar, solar hot water, 2011 Green Home of the Year Awards, passive house

On the Edge

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Aug 22, 2014 4:56:41 PM

UNDER NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES, it would be hard to imagine a home on this site, high atop a cliff, surrounded by breathtaking views. But neither this home, known as the Zero Energy Idea House, nor its
architect, are of the average variety.

“It’s self-evident that this design is saying ‘I’m a different kind of house,’” says architect David Clinkston. “That was the intention—that you see the green roofs, PV panels, solar hot water panels and vertical axis windmill. These are all visible from the road. A ‘green wall’ at the main entrance (to reduce afternoon solar gain) is another clue that all is not ‘normal’ with this house.” The wall is a galvanized steel grid that will provide privacy when vines grow over it.

Not every aspect of the home’s infrastructure is obvious, of course. The structural  insulated panel (SIP) structure sits atop concrete grade beams that thrust back into the steep slope, and the below-grade wall at the back of the house was poured into ICFs.

The house is heated with a Warmboard radiant floor system—wood panels coated with reflective aluminum.

“That aluminum skin is thick,” Clinkston says. “with grooves that direct the heat exactly where you want it.”

Advanced Engineering
The architect took the owner’s interest in “seeing the bones” of the home seriously, specifying a steel frame as the carriage for the SIPs.

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Topics: SIPs, solar, green roof, rainwater harvesting, alternative energy, 2011 Green Home of the Year Awards

Gathering Place

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Aug 20, 2014 11:20:00 AM

OUR JUDGES DID NOT select this home lightly during the 2011 Green Home of the Year contest. There was serious debate about whether its grandiose scale should count against its “green” building science. In the end, however, the ecological zeal of its execution won them over.
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Topics: solar, Insulation, AquaPEX, FSC Certified Lumber, rainwater harvesting, salvaged materials, 2011 Green Home of the Year Awards

Smart Style

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Aug 19, 2014 5:05:52 PM

SOLARIA IS THE FIRST “pre-designed” affordable green house in the Puerto Rico housing market. At $130,000, it’s making waves as a cost-effective way to provide high design to the masses.
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Topics: solar, Energy Star, rainwater harvesting, 2011 Green Home of the Year Awards

The Vermont Street Project

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Aug 18, 2014 4:35:13 PM

THE BUILDERS OF THIS timber frame house took craft to a new level with their extensive use of salvaged and natural materials and reclaimed wood, impressing the judges with its thoughtful detailing and warm interiors.

The house is the first LEED Platinum timber frame home candidate in Oregon, points out Jonathan Orpin, the co-designer and builder. “For me, the main issue of sustainable building is that there isn’t only one issue. Projects must balance four major points: advanced thermal and mechanical systems, thoughtful and sustainable sourcing of materials, longevity and effectiveness in structure and enclosure systems, and high levels of design and craft.”

Orpin calls timber frame a “smart way to build.” An expression of structure and craft, a home built using this structural system will last many generations. This home’s high-efficiency envelope of structural insulated panels and Matrix walls eliminates thermal breaks. The timbers are FSC reclaimed wood. Prebuilt frame and enclosures meant reduced construction time.

A high percentage of the materials for the house were sourced locally with low embodied energy and recycled content. “Every effort was made to use products sourced and manufactured in the United States, which is not always an easy task—but worth every moment,” Orpin says.

Built on a vacant flag parcel in southwest Portland, the 2,000-sq.-ft. home is a good example of urban infill. It is situated to take advantage of both passive and active solar efficiencies. Strategically placed energy-efficient windows and doors combine with large overhangs to reduce solar heat gain and wind exposure. In colder months, a 96%-98% efficient boiler warms wall-hung radiators and radiant floor systems. Windows and ceiling fans cool the home without the need for air-conditioning in warmer months.

Clean air for the family includes locally manufactured insulating concrete forms, which uses recycled wood, cellulose (recycled newspapers) offering low embodied energy, breathability and cost efficiency. Dual-flush toilets, natural plaster wall coverings, a heat recovery ventilation system, photovoltaic panels and all natural finishes create a system of clean air, minimal environmental impact and high energy efficiency. A 4,000-gallon rainwater system supplements municipal water.

“The services and products manufactured by the divisions of New Energy Works and its sister company, Pioneer Millworks, were created in an eco-friendly facility in a way that is healthy for our employees, our customers, and the planet,” Orpin adds.

Perhaps most important to Orpin is the fact that this house reflects the company’s intense commitment to fine craft, which helps ensure it will last for centuries. “If we inspire everyone involved in our projects with the greatness of beauty and the craft of it, then the bar is raised throughout the project and for the next few generations,” Orpin says. “No one will ever tear down my houses to make way for a Walmart parking lot.”

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Topics: 2011 Green Home of the Year Awards

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