Cost-effective New Green Home
Site Characteristics or Focus During Construction:
The home was developed from a stock set of plans, with the goal to integrate as many energy efficient and sustainable practices into this conventional home within the owners’ budget of $175/square foot.
When selecting plans, factors taken into consideration were the forested, northwest facing, 18% sloped lot, and western mountain views.
Aside from tapping into the potential market value of the location with its abundant privacy and mountain views, the owners sought to:
- Use sustainably harvested wood where possible
- Use recycled wood and other content where possible
- Manage on site waste through recycling and calculated material ordering
- Protect health of workers and owners through use of low voc and non volatile glues and treatments throughout
- Create energy-efficient home
- Encourage alternative transportation of workers and material
- Leave owners with safe indoor air at move-in
Building Construction Type:
Stick frame construction with wood.
Site Use and Protection Measures Before and During Construction (LEED Cat. I):
A construction zone was delineated prior to commencement of the project outside of which all vegetation was protected by fencing throughout the course of construction. A minimum number of trees were removed, with special attention given to the retention of a large tree designated for removal by the building department. All disturbed soils were immediately stabilized with native mulch and silt fencing set up to protect watershed from contaminated run-off from site.
Outdoor & Indoor Water Efficiency Measures in Project (LEED Cat. II):
The site was plumbed for an underground drip irrigation system.
Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Measures Used in Project (LEED Cat III):
Low e glass was used throughout the project, with windows and skylights placed on south facing aspects to gain passive solar advantages as well as to enhance natural light. Three main light sources in kitchen were wired as a low-voltage system.
Recycled cellulose and soy-based polyurethane spray-in insulation were used, exceeding local code and Title 24 requirements. These were used on all exterior walls, crawl spaces, attic space and plumbing walls. Furthermore, all exterior doors and windows were carefully set with sealed flashing, weather stripping and water-based caulking where applicable to reduce air leakage. The same caution was applied to siding the house.
Space and Water Heating Systems:
Systems included in-floor gypcrete embedded hydronic heating throughout utilizing a high efficiency (92%) Munckin boiler. All exposed pipes and tubing were insulated. A high efficiency (94%) on demand hot water heater was also installed.
Passive & Active Solar Features:
Skylights and windows were placed on south facing aspects.
Green Materials & Measures Implemented in Project (LEED Cat IV):
- Entire exterior siding and trim package FSC certified cedar milled by solar powered mill
- 1,500 sq. ft. of FSC certified tan oak flooring
- Reclaimed decorative beams used on interior ceiling, shipped on bio-diesel truck
- 26 4x4 deck posts milled from reclaimed pine, shipped by bio-diesel truck
- Redwood deck rail components milled from locally procured recycled redwood
- Decorative log rail and log slab breakfast bar milled from local dead fallen trees
- All subfloor adhesive used was zero VOC rated
- No OSB sheathing or MDF wood products used; both are saturated with carcinogenic glues and are used abundantly in standard construction
- Wool carpet with non-volatile glue backing used in bedrooms
- Half bath counter made from hardwood pallet and deck wood waste material
- Employees given cash bonus for each day a bike was ridden to and from the job site.
- Re-planting done with native shrubs and grasses
Indoor Environmental Considerations (LEED Cat V):
- Fuller O’Brien “Wonderpure” low VOC primer and top coat interior paint used throughout
- Hardwood floor finished with water based non-volatile treatment
- All wood finishes for log, exposed beams, and trims water based
- All glues and adhesives used in construction were zero VOC rated
- No OSB sheathing or MDF wood products utilized
- Wool carpeting with non-volatile backing
Subjective Evaluation/ Design Considerations: How well has the structure achieved its design goals? What would be done differently the next time?
Given the budget, the homeowners are very proud of their effort, though in some ways, they feel they fell short of their goal. For instance, the owners intended to frame with FSC certified lumber but discovered the lead time required didn’t fit the timeframe. However, in other ways, they exceeded their expectations, such as when they ran an ad in the local paper seeking redwood deck material which was being hauled to the dump. They intercepted these valuable loads from the landfill and milled a great deal of it to put into this project and others.
On the whole, this house was built with the green concept of long lasting quality always present. The intent which was met was to have an end product which would not require remodeling, an inherently wasteful process for the foreseeable future. This was accomplished in an environment that emphasized health, safety, minimum impact, and the support of other green/sustainable businesses in the process. Given a few more dollars per square foot, this house could benefit greatly from its solar energy potential.