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Gathering Place

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Aug 20, 2014 11:20:00 AM

 Best Above and BeyondOUR 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.

“In 30 years of residential building and remodeling, we’ve never seen commitment like this from clients,” notes Michael Martuscello. “We all worked as a team to achieve the highest green goals possible.”

The proof is in this home’s documentation. Eco-oriented features are far too numerous to list, from use of salvaged materials to site-built super windows to 100-year durability targets—it’s a showcase of the very latest building science.

And the team is refreshingly frank about good intentions that simply didn’t work—such as their attempt to build a natural swimming pool.

We literally cried over that pool,” says Martuscello, “We tried everything, but just couldn’t get it to work on this site, in this climate.

“You have to be honest with what works and what doesn’t,” he adds. “If you sugar coat this thing, then your credibility goes down the drain.”

Ultra-Efficiency
Many of the home’s most impressive details are hidden: the roof assembly, for example.

“If you look up at the ceiling, you may see FSC fir finish,” the builder explains. “But on top of that are rafters with 10 inches of blown-in insulation between them. Then on top of those are Hunter rigid, insulated panels. The roof was the most important factor in hitting the high R-values we were after.”

Exterior walls received a similar treatment, with blown in 2” x 6” cavities enclosed by a layer of rigid foam, followed by a half-inch spacer and thick (1 ¼”) cedar siding.

The home’s large custom windows also had to maximize efficiency, so the team combined glazings and frames from two companies, and put the two elements together on location.

“Our tolerance on those large window walls was less than 1/8” in 25 feet. We used glazings put together by Serious Materials. Then Roeder (a German firm) provided the FSC frames. They have a lot of unique hardware that worked for us.”

No Compromises
“The idea with this home was also to think about health of the residents.” Martuscello continues. “That meant looking at everything. For example, we went as far as asking the various plywood manufacturers what kind of resins they use in their products, and often we really couldn’t get the answers we wanted.”

That lack of full disclosure, he says, led him to a radiant floor system that contains no plywood at all, a combination of concrete and douglas fir. For wood floor surfaces, he put down 120-year-old refinished barn boards.

A previous home on the property had sentimental value to the owner—it was the house she grew up in. So the builder chose a disassembly contractor (Marcan Enterprises) that he knew would salvage whatever could be saved, and recycle the rest.

“We ended up with about 90 percent of the materials from the old house recycled,” he says. “We didn’t use a lot of the structure, though,” he says, “because it didn’t meet our 100-year standard for durability. The wood simply didn’t have that much life left in it.”

Full-On Commitment
“I swear we woke up thinking about this house and went to bed thinking about it,” Martuscello says. “Our framer, Jeff Adasiewicz from Evolution Construction, was instrumental to getting this job done. He was on the job all the time.  

“The owners had a dream of doing a true demonstration project,” he adds. “This is not a normal home. It’s all about exploring every possibility, to see what we could come up with. They’re already using the home in that way. In fact, there’s a gathering there tonight of people who could really make a difference.

“It was a totally integrated process,” he continues. “Every person who worked on this job will never do another project the same way. They’ve been changed by this.”

  • A durable exterior of cedar siding and metal roofs should help this home achieve its goal of at least a 100-year lifespan. Roof runoff provides about 50,000 gallons of water annually.

  • Natural materials abound in this home’s wide open interiors, from 120-year-old barnboards on the floor, to reclaimed wood countertops.

  • To maximize window space without sacrificing energy performance, the team combined glazings from one company with frames from another, and assembled windows on site.

  • Exposed rafters and fir sheathing conceal a super-efficient roof system that combines rigid foam with blown-in Johns Manville fiberglass.

  • The massive 180-panel PV array supplies 39.7kW at peak output, meeting all of the home’s demands, including heating.

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