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On August 16th 2006, The house received óóóóó ½ Energy Star rating, the highest possible, and a HERS Index of 36.

This awards winning project is the contractor’s own house, and his first home.  The 3750 square foot house is overlooking a lake. The home design style is now referred to as contemporary craftsman.  The original 2500 SF house built in 1983 utilized an octagonal floor plan.  The previous owner referred to it as an “upside-down house”, due to the bedrooms being located below the main floor.  It was clear from the very beginning that the renovated home would need to have more living space to accommodate the lifestyle of a family of four.  Keeping the same footprint was the obvious choice, since doing so is more cost effective and minimized the amount of design by building up rather than out, not to mention less red tape.  Additional benefits are a better view of the lake and a much improved curb appeal.

The house has features that are attractive from many perspectives.  The exterior has all engineered products for durability and low maintenance.  Many of these products came with a lifetime warranty, like the oversize trim, the decking and the railing.  The roofing and the siding carry 50 years warranties.  Absolutely none of these products requires any paint or stain whatsoever.

The interior of the home has many green features as well. All interior surfaces are made of basic raw materials: Wood, wrought iron and stone.  Raw, but not "virgin": Most of the wood were either reclaimed from the original house or from other buildings.  The reclaimed wood floors for example, are re-milled hickory, chestnut and pine, each of the 3 levels of the home highlighting one of the three.  The main floor structural supports, and those for the additional level added to the home, features reclaimed 200 year old Doug Fir and hearth pine beams.  Ten of the twelve existing engineered roof rafters were salvaged and re-used.  The barn doors, the dining table, all the bath vanities, a bed platform, all were custom made from left-over wood.  One vanity was rebuilt from a discarded armoire found on a street curb.  The walls are finished with natural earth plaster.  Speaking of walls, we should mention that absolutely none of the interior walls are load bearing, providing great flexibility in future alterations to suit changing needs and/or new homeowners.  Welcome universal design.

Central to the home on all three floors is the stone chimney, and the lower and main level see-through fireplaces.  Massive but not overwhelming, the stone structure rises 48 feet tall.  None of the stones needed for the additional 15 foot chimney extension had to be purchased;  All stones were reclaimed from the existing home, providing a perfect match.  Custom wrought iron structural elements, fasteners, light fixtures and hardware are used throughout the home, and for the one inch diameter tension rods holding up the dramatic suspended catwalk to the rafters.  The library rolling ladder, the two pull-down cupola ladders, the hardware for the barn doors, all are wrought iron as well. The old exterior spiral staircase was salvaged and re-used, providing an access between the deck and the patio below.

The existing home was basically taken down to its foundations; The only framing that could be retained and left untouched was the lower level floor joists.  Using advanced framing techniques, close to 100% of the new home structure is made of engineered lumber.  This method allows for extra insulation, which is blown wet sprayed foam for maximum efficiency and air tightness.  Many wall studs from the original home were salvaged and re-used, some for temporary bracing, concrete forms, blocking, etc.  Most floor joists were put to uses as well, many as planks needed for scaffolding.  All of the exterior sheathing, as well as the subfloors, are made of OSB, instead of standard plywood.   Floor joists, and most of the roof structure are TJI’s, also at 24” on center.  The sheathing was caulked before siding was installed, providing a very tight building envelope.  The exposed eaves and its generous 4’ overhangs, which provides ample shading to minimize heat gain during the summer, were built from salvaged lumber originally used for the vaulted ceiling/roof sheathing and for the porch roof.  All metals was sold to scrap yards for several thousand dollars.

Looking past the materials, one finds more than just a multitude of energy saving featuresThe unique shape of the structure - (Why Octagon?), the open floor plan, the high and/or vaulted ceilings, all maximizes the use of natural light and certainly make the dwellings more spacious than they actually are.  A cupola was added with power windows, not only allowing for extra natural light, but also for passive cooling during warm weather, taking advantage of the natural “stack effect”.   Trellises over the South-facing windows and doors provide shading in summer months.  Another passive cooling feature is the window's manufacturer factory tinted glass that greatly reduce solar heat gain in the summer and eliminate harmful UV's to fabrics;  An unexpected benefit is the resulting privacy.  The thermal mass of the stone fireplace keeps the interior cool during summer and warm during winter.  A 3 ton high velocity air conditioning system is all that was required.  Radiant hot water PEX loops beneath the floors puts heat where it’s needed, under your feet, and allows the ultra efficient sealed combustion condensing gas boiler to run at a much lower water temperature. An instantaneous flash water heater provides ample hot water on demand, without the standby losses of a storage tank.

All of the appliances are Energy Star and the lighting is a mix of low wattage LED’s, CFL‘s and some halogen lighting.  24 outside LED spots that lights the entire house use less electricity combined than one single 75-watt incandescent bulb.  Four of the eight facets of the roof are utilized for photovoltaic solar panels generating 6.27Kw of electricity.  Cooling, heating, cooking, lighting and electrical costs average $3500 for the entire year;  That is less than a dollar per square foot for the whole year!

Even though the existing water well never ran dry in over 25 years, the new plumbing fixtures, including all four toilets and three shower valves, are low water consumption, which is less taxing on the septic system.

Last but not least, still one of the most neglected aspect in our industry today, healthy indoor air quality:  Fresh air is maintained in the home by employing two heat recovery ventilators. Stale air is picked up from “wet room” such as the laundry room and the bathrooms and conditioned fresh air is supplied to bedrooms and other living spaces.  Since showers always produce a large amount of moisture, supplemental ventilation was in order.  All three showers (two of them being totally enclosed since they double as steam showers as well) received their own in-line unit.  A separate, completely independent whole-house HEPA filter system continually filters out fine particulates such as dust mites, allergens, etc., with its sole return at the highest point of the house (where again physic laws “pull” the warmer air) and the sole supply at its lowest, the lower level, therefore providing a continuous cycle.

Vital "Make up air", to this day still very much not understood, is provided for each of the fireplaces.  In the kitchen area, two automatic mechanical dampers provide more make-up air absolutely necessary to supply the range hood, which is equipped with a powerful yet surprisingly quiet 1000 + CFM motor.   Mounted in the attic rather than inside the hood, this system is referred to as a remote, in-line exhaust fan.  Due to the "attic being inside", all the AC ductwork is inside the conditioned space, which is critical to eliminate unhealthy condensation and mold that can form between the air handler cycles.  Because the air-tight sprayed wet foam insulation was installed below the roof deck as opposed to the attic floor, it does not have to fight 130 degrees temperature found in common attics in the summer months.  This makes the whole system remarkably more efficient, also resulting in longer life for the equipment.  One last requisite to healthy indoor air is a central vacuum system.

The public demand for such efficient homes in our area is surprisingly still very low compare to other areas of the country but inevitable.  Making the public and the medias and the public aware of the immeasurable benefits is our top priority.  And for us to experience and live those benefits after two years of intense work is a pretty good reward in itself, but to be able to contribute by building more of these gem homes for other conscientious families is “the ultimate satisfaction”. -

 

 

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