Active House Specification Migrates to U.S.

It’s time to welcome a new green building protocol with the arrival of the Active House specification in the United States.  The specification gets a big test with this home, called Active House USA, which will be the first Active House in the country when finished.  It’s designed by Jeff Day & Associates and will be built by Hibbs Homes and Verdatek Solutions in St. Louis to test the new specification in a mixed climate.  Here’s a little more about Active House and this 2,500 square foot home.

First and foremost, Active House is a “target framework for how to design and renovate buildings that contribute positively to human health and well-being by focusing on the indoor and outdoor environment and the use of renewable energy,” according to the specification published by Active House Alliance.

An Active House is designed to the Trias Energetica concept — first reduce energy demand, then source renewable energy, and finally use fossil fuels as efficiently as possible, if necessary.

In addition, the specification has an indoor climate component that relates to lighting, views, thermal environment, indoor air quality, and noise and acoustics, as well as an environment component that relates to energy consumption, water consumption, and cultural and ecological context.

All of these will be put to the test in Active House USA, which will be built with Insulpan SIPs, triple-glazed windows, zero- and low-VOC paints and finishes, an ERV, a high-efficiency furnace, and reclaimed materials.

For extra measure, the project team will also pursue four certifications: Energy Star, EPA Indoor airPlus, Building America Builder’s Challenge, and the National Green Building Standard, according to the Structural Insulated Panel Association.  I’ll follow the project and provide updates in the future.

[+] More about energy efficient Active House USA in Webster Groves.

Credits: Jeff Day & Associates (top); Active House Alliance.

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Go here to read the rest: Active House Specification Migrates to U.S.

SolarCity Expands with Home Energy Loans

California-based SolarCity started out with solar and gradually expanded to energy efficiency services.  Now, with more than 5,000 efficiency projects completed or underway, the company wants to help the typical U.S. family save some of about $1,900 that’s spent every year on home utility bills.  The company just announced a plan to make energy-efficiency improvements more accessible with a new Home Energy Loan.

The Home Energy Loan is provided by Boston-based Admirals Bank and, of course, subject to credit approval.  Right now, there are three main loan products available, the one-year “Save Now, Pay Later” option and a three- or 10-year “Pay As You Go” option.

SolarCity starts off with a customized evaluation of a home and uses its own software to evaluate opportunities for improvement in nine area, including air infiltration, insulation, heating, cooling, and duct leakage.  The company then establishes a priority list with home improvement options based on energy and cost savings.

Homeowners can finance the efficiency upgrades, and SolarCity can implement most of the improvements (or make recommendations).  The point is not just to lower energy bills but it’s to help homeowners obtain the benefits of cleaner indoor air and greater interior comfort.

SolarCity currently has energy efficiency services available in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, D.C.

Credit: SolarCity.

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Hybrid Solar Tube Panels by Naked Energy

A company called Solyndra pioneered the solar tube but this new invention by UK-based Naked Energy may just take cylindrical solar to a whole new level.  Called Virtu, the product includes an integrated photovoltaic cell in a vacuum tube to generate both electricity and warm water at the same time.  The setup keeps the PV cool to optimize energy production and maximizes space with a combined PVT solution.

Specifically, “heat is transferred away from the photovoltaic cells with a patented thermosyphon technology that harvests the unwanted heat from the photovoltaic cell to heat up water,” according to The Engineer.  The process is expected to generate about 45% more energy over conventional solar PV.

Virtu can be installed anywhere — pitched, curved, or flat roofs or walls — and system owners can prioritize electricity or heat generation, depending on their energy demands.

Naked Energy is on a trade mission in the U.S. right now seeking additional investment capital, so perhaps it won’t be long before a production level product becomes available to residential and commercial consumers.  I’ll keep you updated on future progress.

[+] More about PVT Virtu by Naked Energy.

Credits: Naked Energy.

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  1. Hybrid Panels Increase Solar Efficiency
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New Elements Surface Launches in Texas

Elements by Durcon is officially launching in the DFW market in Texas, where it is also manufactured (about 200 miles from Dallas in Taylor).  The eco-friendly surface is made with a proprietary blend of at least 10% post-consumer recycled glass, natural quartz minerals, and resin to create a low-VOC material that’s solid, non-porous,  and “never requires sealing,” according to Durcon.

The material carries GREENGUARD certification for indoor air quality, SCS certification for the claim of 10% post-consumer recycled glass, and NSF 51 certification for food contact. It may also contribute toward LEED credits in various areas.

Elements is made in the USA, 100% recyclable, and can be recycled through Durcon’s Dust-to-Dust program.  Basically, when the material is at the end of its useful life, fill out the form, ship the surface to Durcon, and Durcon will recycle it at no extra charge.

After the launch in Dallas and Fort Worth, Elements will be available in San Francisco and Toronto later this year, in 2012.  It’s perfect for use in kitchens, baths and other high-traffic surface design applications.

[+] More about Elements by Durcon.

Credits: Durcon.

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Go here to see the original: New Elements Surface Launches in Texas

NZE Showhouse Finished in Edmonton

This is a net-zero energy showhouse in the Belgravia neighborhood of Edmonton.  The home, built by Effect Home Builders, has been open on Sundays and displays the solar-powered approach to reducing the use of fossil fuels.  A massive rooftop solar array feeds energy into the grid and produces as much energy as will be needed on an annual basis.  In addition, the home has several other green aspects.

In order reduce energy losses, a Nascor wall system combines engineered Pink Wood with 12″ of CFC-free expanded polystyrene (R48).  Also, there’s a Plasti-Fab ICF foundation with EPS (R41).

In addition, the Belgravia Green Showhome has triple-pane All Weather Windows, an HRV, and an air-source heat pump.

The 1,540 square-foot home is all-electric and has what’s believed to be the second-largest, residential, solar-electric system in Edmonton (a 12 kW system with 58 modules).  The showhome is located at 11536 – 74 Avenue.

[+] More about Belgravia Green NZE Homes in Edmonton.

Credits: Effect Home Builders.

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View post: NZE Showhouse Finished in Edmonton

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Dead Solar Thermal, Mainstream Green, Sustainable Apartments, + Rental Efficiency

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for updates, article summaries, newsworthy links, and other site news. Also, check out the latest green jobs in our list.

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Read the original post: Dead Solar Thermal, Mainstream Green, Sustainable Apartments, + Rental Efficiency

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Roof-Mounted Solar Tracker in Maryland

We’ve mentioned solar-tracking but the systems are usually pictured on a pole in a big grassy yard.  This is a Dual-Panel Tracker by Maryland-based Advanced Technology & Research Corp. (ATR) on the roof of a row house in Federal Hill in Baltimore.  The install consists of two panels, 235-watts each, on a sun tracking mount with a GPS-controlled drive unit that follows the sun to yield about 30% more than fixed panels.

Nexus EnergyHomes, builder of NZE homes in Maryland, put the system on a homeowner’s house to get about a 20% reduction in the electrical bill.  Over time, the homeowner can add more and reach net-zero energy with roughly five DPTs.

Additionally, as it turns out, the homeowner is one of the engineers at ATR.  The company designed the home-unit DPT for easy installation on a pole or simple wooden post and this installation will be a good way to provide more documentation for the savings that can had with a roof-mounted solar tracker.

Credit: Nexus EnergyHomes.

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Contemporary INFILL is The New Prefab

John Dwyer was involved in the design of the first LEED Platinum home in Minnesota — 5ive — and now aims to change the way homeowners purchase homes.  He recently unveiled INFILL, “the new prefab,” with a plan to provide complete delivery, high performance, and full adaptability from three basic prefab designs.

The homes will be “super insulated and durably finished for near zero utility and maintenance costs,” according to Dwyer’s new site for INFILL.

INFILL homes are priced from $198,000 for a 1,248 square-foot home, which is about $160 per square foot, including all hard and soft costs, design, engineering, and construction.

To keep prices reasonable, Dwyer will use integrated project delivery and contract structure based on IPD.  With IPD, the critical players come together early in the design process to facilitate sharing, solve potential problems, eliminate waste, and maximize value for the homeowner.

All of the INFILL designs are smaller than 2,500 square feet and available from less than $400,000.  As this new prefab endeavor takes off, I’ll make sure to keep you posted with more detail.

Credits: John Dwyer Architect.

Related Articles on JetsonGreen.com:

  1. Work Begins on New LEED Platinum Prefab
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Continued here: Contemporary INFILL is The New Prefab

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Twin SIP Panel Sett Studios in Austin

Several months ago, I shared photos of a tiny studio shed by Texas-based Sett Studio and want to share details of cool new project by the same firm in same area.  Sett Studio recently worked with The Goodlife Team, a local real estate company, and created these two studios that are now being used as extra space for the company’s expanding East Austin offices.

You may catch a glimpse of several naked Plumen CFLs hanging in these offices.  Mike Speciale of Sett Studio told me his company is using these on a regular basis now because the bulbs “add an artistic look without the bulk of a full light fixture.

The Goodlife Team studios — one is 12′ x 12′ (144 square feet) and the other is 12′ x 14′ (168 square feet) — were built with floor-to-ceiling Ply Gem windows and structural insulated panels for the walls, floor, and roof.  Sett Studios installed the tiny structures in about four days, as documented here.

The twins are joined by a white cedar deck and clad in a mixture of U-channel galvalume and yellow pine style siding with a shou-sugi-ban treatment.  It’s a great look, the combination of charred wood and textured metal, worth pinning if you have an exteriors board like mine on Pinterest.

Sett Studio fabricates their studios off-site within 45 days of contract signing and installs them in two days.  They have models of various sizes and prices, but to give you an idea, a couple studios like the ones purchased by The Goodlife Team will run about $55,000, including the deck.

[+] More information about Sett Studio structures from Austin.

Credits: Lisa Hause Photography.

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Ivory Dream is an Eco-Friendly Mosaic

Italy-based Benetti Stone Philosophy makes a beautiful mosaic surface called Ivory Dream, which is made from vegetable ivory.  In this case, the vegetable ivory — which was used to make buttons before plastic became popular — comes from the seed of an Amazon palm tree called Tagua.  The seed is hand-harvested without causing any damage and is then cut and supplied for use as a floor, covering, or other surface mosaic.

Ivory Dream is available “light” or “toasted” and can be backlit, too. It’s light as wood but hard as stone, according to Benetti.

The eco-friendly material is available in the United States through Opustone. In terms of pricing, you’ll have to check with Opustone, but I’m given a price range from Benetti that puts Ivory Dream at about 300 – 350 euros per square meter, which I calculated to be roughly $37 – $44 per square foot.

[+] Visit Benetti Stone Philosophy to see their products.

Credits: Benetti Stone Philosophy.

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