Green Home Building

Earlier today we had a call with our designer and it was very productive. We are both happy with how it is progressing and the designer is providing good feedback to help us along. One goal with the design is to have a complete set of instructions for building our home. There will be a complete list of materials needed and images of how they will be poured or connected.

This means that if we want the house to be built environmentally friendly we need to start speaking up now. So we have been pouring over the books tonight and my assignment has been the Green Home Building book.

Green Home Building is one of the books we have been reading for getting our home building education. It’s some 400 odd pages about various techniques and technologies for making a home that is more environmentally friendly.

This is a well written book that for the most part cuts to the chase. I do wish they had more graphs and charts showing how different building techniques measure up. While environmentalism is important we do not have an endless budget, so it would be nice to see relative gains based on expenditure.

In chapters 11 and 15 the rubber really hits the road with their actual recommendations. Chapter 11 covers the Net Zero Energy home and 15 is the Zero Cost Premium. Net Zero is the focus on having a home where all energy used is offset by photovoltaic (PV) solar power. This does not mean the home is powered directly by the solar, but rather that the power used from the grid is returned by the solar system. Zero Cost is the focus of getting as environmental as possible while still spending the same as a typical US built home.

In a few areas the book has introduced us to something new (ERV), and in others is has cemented things we have learned elsewhere (stained concrete first floor). Overall if you are new to green building concepts I think this book is worth your time. If you are already familiar with passive house building techniques then you can skip this book.

One of the more interesting things that they promote is spray foam insulation. We did this on the cabin and felt a little guilty because of the chemicals involved. But the Green book promotes their use since they are far superior at insulating and will be with the house for its lifetime.

It turns out that a lot of what we did in the cabin is going to be good for the house. 2×6 framing, sprayfoam insulation, and extended roof for seasonal shading. For the house we will upgrade the windows and look at the U-value and SHGC to get better efficiency.

One new thing we are learning about is Advanced Framing. Rather than using traditional framing of 16 inch spacing AF uses 24 inch spacing. It also makes other recommendations that result in less material used which improves insulation by reducing thermal bridging. Here is something that helps the environment, reduces costs, and improves the structure. The issues with this technique are that most house plans are based on 16 inch stud spacing, and its original intent was to reduce materials used, not improved insulation. Based on this we are going to follow our designer and builder recommendations.

In regards to designing the house the Green book has a few suggestions that we like. They suggest putting the kitchen on the north side of the house. Since the kitchen is a heat source placing it on the north side, in the northern hemisphere, will help balance heat generated by the hot summer sun on the south side. In the winter it will add heat to the cooler north side of the house.

The bedrooms are going on the south side as they are mainly used at night. This means they will heat up during the day and retain that heat when we go to bed at night. Since we work from home we plan on spending 99% of our time in the central/northern living grand room area. The master will be on the second floor with a large landing area that looks out over the first floor great room. The house will be oriented to take advantage of the view to the east:

The La Plata mountain range.

We are going to have a 2 bay garage that we can put the truck and Honda Element in. The roof of the garage is where we will probably put the solar panels as well. Since we have dirty dogs we are also going to put a shower in the garage for quick cleanups before entering the house.

Overall the project is moving along and we are starting to collect bids from various contractors for everything that needs to get done. The plan is to break ground no later than October 1st!

Interesting video about passive building techniques. This Youtube channel has a lot of building sponsors so take all the recommendations with a grain of salt.


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