I have not yet provided much detailed information on the house so I thought I would take a few moments to highlight some of the sustainable/green elements included in the design of the house:
SIP wall construction – SIPs are Structural Insulated Panels. The house will be using Thermocore’s SIPs, which are produced locally in Mooresville.
The panels are manufactured in the factory and will come to the site and be tilted into place. As a result, they allow for more precise construction practices, quicker on-site construction, and less waste. Finally, the panels allow for a much greater insulation value then traditional 2×4 framing, achieving an R-24 in a 4″ thick panel as opposed to around an R-13 for a traditional wall.
Small Footprint – The total interior square footage of the house is 1204 sq. ft. The fact of the matter is most homes today are oversized and sacrifice quality for quantity. A smaller footprint allows for a smaller lot, less material, and a smaller, more efficient space to heat and cool.
R-5 Windows – Windows can be a challenge when attempting to achieve a high R-value for new construction. Thanks to a government program promoting energy efficient windows, the house is able to get R-5 windows for an affordable rate, much higher than prior affordable window insulation values.
Interior Material Finishes – Finishes often account for a large number of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and products and materials not harvested in a sustainable fashion. The house’s flooring strategy is simple, a slab-on-grade allows for the first floor to be a polished concrete floor eliminating the need for an extra material finish. The second floor uses stained PureBond plywood in alternating grain patterns as the finished material. PureBond is free of formaldehyde, uses a soy-based adhesive, is manufactured in the U.S., and is cost competitive. PureBond will also be used in a few other instances in the house.
Countertops in the kitchen will be Paperstone. Paperstone is made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper and is bonded with petro-free phenolic resins and uses natural pigments. It is a great solid surface countertop with a small footprint.
Additionally, interior paints will be no VOCs and stains will be low VOCs. These are small, easy decisions which can lead to a much more responsible home design.
HVAC – Systems often become energy hogs. While the house is small and well insulated, the systems chosen are still important. For the heating and cooling, the house uses a multi-split system, allowing for a more individualized system. Basically, this type of system allows for control over a larger number of spaces individually, with 4 units in the house each to be controlled on their own. Further, the systems don’t require any central duct system, so no energy is lost during transfer and no ducting required. The house also uses a tankless water heater, allowing for greater efficiency.
Green Roof – It is also the hope that the house will have vegetated surfaces on both roofs. The lower roof portion over the dining space is meant for more habitation but will still allow for pockets of vegetation while the upper roof portion will be almost completely plant material. Green roofs act to reduce rainwater runoff, increase insulation values, increase the life of the roof, and, honestly, are just aesthetically pleasing.
Landscaping – The landscaping strategy, while not completely designed yet (designs will be shown later) will feature a large garden and native plantings. We all know urban gardening is the new trend, and for good reason. It’s more sustainable to grow the food you can and rely less on outside sources. The native aspect of the landscaping allows for plants which are already adapted to the environment in which they are situated, allowing for a landscape demanding less water and maintenance to thrive.
*I know these features listed are not the only sustainable strategies in the house but hopefully give you a sense of the goals of the house. Sustainability should be inherent in all new construction and these features reflect that modern, sustainable design does not require lots of money but, in fact, can be quite affordable.