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Earthen Elegance

Posted by Sarah Lozanova

Nov 5, 2014 10:29:27 AM

WHEN THE JENNINGS FAMILY prepared to build a family home on Bowen Island, British Columbia, sustainability was a top concern. “The homeowners wanted a home that would represent something that was more ecologically conscious, so that their children would grow up in that type of environment and recognize that it doesn’t take that much to achieve it,” explains Arno Schmidt, owner of Ecosol Design and Construction and a member of the North American Rammed Earth Builders Association (NAREBA).

Although Schmidt may be at the forefront of rammed earth innovations, this method has been used for many centuries. Even parts of the Great Wall of China were constructed using this technique, and the wall still stands after 2,000 years. Rammed earth has been regaining popularity since the 1970s, particularly in the American Southwest and Australia.
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Topics: durability, solar, passive solar, rammed earth, Resilient Housing

Solar Power House

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Sep 22, 2014 1:48:18 PM

WHEN ILLINOIS RESIDENTS Dennis Kruepke and his wife decided to purchase a second home in Arizona to be closer to their daughter and grandkids in California, they were instantly intrigued by a gated 55+ community which guarantees “no electric bill.” Shea Homes in Peoria, Arizona offers net-zero-energy homes, which the builder dubbed “SheaXero,” in its Trilogy community of 2,400 homes. Once the Kruepkes settled on specific features of the Veritas Genova model they had chosen, the 2-bedroom, 2.5-bath, 2,180-square-foot home took about six months to build.

All homes within the Trilogy community are now built with a solar array, but at the time of the Kruepkes’ purchase, the couple was given an option to lease the solar power generation system. Excited by the prospect of having an eco-friendly home that would also save them money, Dennis agreed to a 20-year lease. As part of the agreement, SolarCity, the company installing the solar array, guaranteed the amount of solar energy the system would provide.

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Topics: net-zero energy, solar, 2600 to 3400 square feet

Helios NW Eco: A Net Zero Vacation Home

Posted by Suchi Rudra

Sep 12, 2014 6:16:00 PM

WHEN SARAH AND HER HUSBAND (surnames withheld) purchased what is now the Helios Eco-House in Bend, Oregon, the primary goal was to achieve LEED standards. But after doing much research, the biotech and engineer couple discovered that “if you’re willing to go a little further, it’s really painless to go net zero.”
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Topics: net-zero energy, 1600 to 2500 square feet, Green Landscaping, LEED, solar, standing seam metal roof, water conservation, zero-VOC, radiant heating systems, Low-E Window glazing

Energy Smarts

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Sep 4, 2014 2:31:12 PM

JUST OUTSIDE SAVANNAH on an organic farm developed for a new zero-energy lifestyle sits a modular home that produces as much energy as it uses. The home was built in a factory, which reduced resource use, kept costs in check, and expedited the schedule.

The house, dubbed iHouse by Clayton Homes, the company that designed and built it, offers a host of sustainable features, but it was the house’s energy efficiency that attracted Charles Davis, president of The Earth Comfort Company.

He built an iHouse for himself, which also serves as a model home. He handled all the site work and added a geothermal heat pump and 3kW PV panels. 

“I chose the house for its thermal envelope,” Davis explains. “I tell everyone if you start with good, tight envelope then you need less geothermal and solar. I put just enough solar on my house to cover peak usage.” He takes advantage of Georgia Power’s reduced rates for off-peak power use by, for example, charging his Chevy Volt at night for 1 cent per kWH. And he uses an energy monitor connected to his iPhone to monitor the energy use of each appliance in his home. “The most important green product is the energy monitor, which allows you to see the actual wattage by each appliance and number of watts of power produced by the solar panels, and the number of watts sold back to Georgia Power,” Davis says.

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Topics: solar, energy efficiency, electric vehicle charging, home automation, renewable energy, 2011 Green Home of the Year Awards

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


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