Green Design with Breathtaking Views

Leicester House Marvin Windows - exterior

This is the last installment in our series called Energy-Efficient Windows 101 made possible by Marvin Windows and Doors.  Last time I discussed how Marvin windows contribute towards LEED certification, and today want to wrap it up with this showcase of an award-winning home in Leicester, North Carolina.  Designed by Eric Gartner of New York-based SPG Architects, the energy-efficient home has a custom configuration of Marvin windows providing expansive southern and western views.

Leicester House Marvin Windows - interior

It’s hard to explain how digging the water well in 2008 influenced what ultimately was built, but that’s what happened, according to Gartner, SPG Architects.  Due to drought conditions, the well had to be dug much deeper than expected, and the housing economy basically crashed at about the same time.  When these two things happened, the owner reassessed plans and worked with Gartner on a more environmentally friendly home while still keeping a tight construction budget.

The result is a 3,000 square-foot abode with three bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms, split between two levels.  The upper level has the living and master suite, while the lower level has the guest wing and can be zoned off when not in use to save energy.

A key feature of the Leicester home is an engineered window wall overlooking a green roof with sunset views of the west and also toward the south.  This was accomplished with the custom configuration of Marvin windows and doors explained below.

Leicester House Marvin Windows - windows

Contemporary and Green

Leicester collects about 80% of the water that falls on the house and diverts it to two tanks that hold a total of 3,400 gallons.  The non-potable resource is used for landscape irrigation and in the water-conserving toilets.  Also, the green roof reduces water runoff and the heat-island effect and insulates the guest wing below.

As for the construction, Leicester has a basic insulation package with R19 fiberglass in the walls, an insulated foam in the basement, and an R38+ roof with a combination of R19 fiberglass and closed-cell urethane foam.  The HVAC system has three zones – again, these can be shut down when an area of the house isn’t being used – powered by a geothermal system with a field of horizontal loops.

To conserve energy, the owner installed Energy Star appliances, Energy Star Marvin windows, and low-consumption lighting, and Gartner’s design includes massive overhangs for summer shade and winter warmth.  These windows facilitate stunning views and also provide for cross-ventilation.

Leicester House Cross Ventilation

About the Windows

The window package from Marvin works overtime to minimize unwanted heat gain from the west.  Gartner said the UV rating is really high, and, specifically, the windows have low-E2 glass filled with argon.

Marvin’s team was able to sync with the design team to deliver a mostly continuous view using steel bars engineered for structural support, connections, and an arrangement of the Ultimate Swinging French Door, Ultimate Casement Window, and Ultimate Awning Window.  And Gartner was honored as one of Marvin’s 2012 Architect’s Challenge winners.

If you’ve ever thought about having stunning views like this from your home, find a Marvin dealer near you to bring your vision to life.

Leicester House Marvin Windows - architecture

Courtesy: SPG Architects; credits: Daniel Levin Photography.

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Emigration Canyon Home is First Recipient of LEED Silver Green Home Certification

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Located in Utah’s Emigration Canyon just north of Salt Lake City, this contemporary 2,500 square foot home was designed for a family with small children by Sparano + Mooney Architecture. It provides breathtaking canyon views from every angle, and is the first recipient of the LEED Silver green home certification thanks to sustainable materials and energy-efficient qualities.

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The main living room consists of a 30-foot operable wall that transforms it into an outdoor room, and cor-ten steel cladding mixed with board-formed wood textured concrete create a modern, low maintenance interior that maintains a natural style. The lower level is an open, flexible design, ideal to be used as an art studio, playroom, home office, or entertainment room.

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Solatube skylights maximize the use of natural light, and an in-floor radiant system provides energy-efficient heat during cold Utah winters. The surrounding landscape complements the architecture with native, drought-resistant plants that provide a seamless transition between the cozy home and rustic canyon surroundings.

Read more here: Emigration Canyon Home is First Recipient of LEED Silver Green Home Certification

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Altius Architecture’s Bala Park Island Cabin

This gorgeous Bala Park Island cabin designed by Altius Architecture is a 3-bedroom, 2,200 square foot seasonal home located near Lake Muskoka in Ontario, Canada. The home is separated into two sides, consisting of a public and open kitchen, dining and living areas, and a side with private bedrooms. The roof contains clerestory windows, offering views of the nearby ridge, and the Douglas Fir roof joists allow for a clean pattern across the ceiling on the ground floor.

Two of the first energy efficiency strategies put into place for the cabin were orientation and passive solar design. Since it is not intended for use during the cold winter months, the most important factor is to keep it cool in the summer and provide enough heat during the spring and fall to maintain a comfortable temperature.

A Contraflow Masonry Heater is used for heating, which burns over 90% efficiency with radiant heat on demand. Renewable materials and finishes are also used in the design, along with low energy lighting, a solar hot water system, non-toxic materials, and water-efficient appliances.

Additional information and photos are available at

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Efficient SIPs Laneway House in Vancouver

Laneway houses, like this one on 19th and Slocan, seem to flourish in Vancouver.  This is another contemporary, small home by Lanefab, which is the firm behind the Mendoza and Net-Zero Solar laneway houses.  The 800 square-foot home (including a 200 square-foot flex-garage) shelters a young couple that built the property on their parent’s property — an intergenerational phenomenon made possible with flexible laneway zoning.

The SIP-panel home has one bedroom, one bathroom, and an in-floor soaker tub in the living room covered with acrylic.

Lanefab built the home with structural insulated panels, including R40 walls, Cascadia triple-glazed windows, triple-glazed aluminum-clad fir doors, Watercycles drainwater heat recovery, a Daikin air-source heat pump, and home automation, etc.  Plus, it rated 87 under the EnerGuide program, which is among the top-five most efficient homes registered in Vancouver, according to Lanefab.

[+] More photos of the construction of this Lanefab House.

Photo credits: Tordia Images.

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Four Insights from a Passive House Retreat

This is the Passive House Retreat in New England built by Aedi Construction with architecture and Passive House consulting by Boston-based ZeroEnergy Design.  I was able to trade emails with ZED, including Stephanie Horowitz AIA CPHC and Jordan Goldman CPHC, about the energy performance of the home over the last year, and they said actual performance exceeded all predictions — including Energy Star and PHPP usage calculations.  The home averaged 412 kW per month for all energy consumption.

That means the home can be net zero energy on an annual basis with the installation of a reasonably-sized 4.1 kW solar electric system, according to ZED.  And if you’re interested in the detail, all the geeky performance data is listed here.  Meanwhile, I want to share some takeaways or insights from the project team at ZED pertaining to the retreat.

First, it’s important to focus on the envelope first.  ZED treated the envelope as the primary “heating system” with special attention to orientation, insulation, windows, and air sealing.  Horowitz said: “You may have heard this before, but just in case you haven’t, prioritizing the building envelope first, then mechanical systems, and finally renewable energy systems is optimal.” That way you decrease the size of systems and, in turn, the renewable energy needed to power those systems.

Second, indoor comfort is under-appreciated. Most people are accustomed to drafty or cold housing, but an ultra-efficient home like the Passive House Retreat has even temperatures throughout. “Once you try it, you won’t go back,” said Horowitz.

Third, Passive Houses can be beautiful. Early architecture yielded to experimentation or overall testing of the requirements for airtightness or energy use. Now, windows and products and software are better, and Passive Houses can have both “exceptional performance and aesthetics,” according to ZeroEnergy Design, just like this retreat.

Fourth, values other than financial payback drive energy choices. When building a home, not every decision is driven by financial payback. Homeowners have many influences — including aesthetic preference, product availability, cultural background, personal values, etc.  When choosing paints, for example, financial payback may take a backseat to color, odor, quality, brand, or impact on air quality, or something else.

The same can be said for energy choices. An ultra-efficient home can be an expression of a non-financial value such as the desire to avoid using fossil fuels, consume less overall energy, or emit less CO2, according to Horowitz and Goldman. Similarly, the decision to use renewable energy could be driven not by payback but by a desire to advance the use of renewable energy.

Passive House Retreat obtained LEED Gold certification and the systems include a Mitsubishi ducted air-source heat pump (HSPF 10, SEER 15.5), Zehnder Comfoair HRV, and a GE GeoSpring heat pump water heater.  The build includes a double-stud wall assembly with spray foam and cellulose achieving R44 walls, a R50 slab, and a R60 roof.

[+] More about the Passive House Retreat from ZeroEnergy Design.

Update 10/25/12 – this has been updated to correct the source of certain quotes.

Credits: Greg Premru Photography (#1, 3-4); ZeroEnergy Design (#2).

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The Greenest Home in the World [Video]

I was noodling some recent journalist potshots about headlines for “the greenest …” when I landed on this video piece from the Nightly News. NBC’s Kiko Itasaki wonders if this home in Unst, one of the northern Shetland Islands of Scotland, is the greenest in the world. Everyone knows the question has no answer, but I think Michael and Dorothy Rea have accomplished something worth noticing that’s for sure.

The aim of their project, according to the Reas’ website, was to “pilot an approach to carbon-neutral living that can be replicated across the UK and elsewhere.

They built a home from an off-the-shelf kit from Scotframe Timber Frame Engineering (water-tight assembly in 4.5 days by three men). Systems for the home include an air-to-water heat pump with a custom water battery, a heat recovery ventilator, LED lights, solar panels, small wind turbines, and fuel cells that store power for use with a refitted electric Toyota Yaris.

Additionally, the Reas have a 1,000 square-foot, hydroponic greenhouse where they grow food to sustain a vegetarian diet. Apparently some of the food is maintained by minerals and rainwater harvested from the roof, too.

[+] More about the Zero Carbon House in Shetland.

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Excerpt from: The Greenest Home in the World [Video]

LEED Platinum Avant Garage in Fishtown

This is Avant Garage, a four-unit residential project by Postgreen Homes in Fishtown Proper.  Designed by Interface Studio Architects, these homes are targeting LEED Platinum and Postgreen’s President Chad Ludeman tells me he can see no reason why they won’t achieve that level of certification (just like the 100k House which also took home the USGBC’s 2010 LEED-H Project of the Year).  Here’s a little background on this stunning new development in Philadelphia:

This project was unique in that we inherited the zoning of homes with garages on a back alley street with no parking on it. To help get the owners of the land out of a bind, we partnered with them and ran with the zoning in place,” according to Ludeman in an email to Jetson Green.

In other words, Postgreen embraced the situation with a full pass-through garage and doors on both ends.  With three units already sold, one owner turned the garage into an arcade and music room and another pointed an entertainment center out one end for backyard movie nights with neighbors.

Postgreen is an open book in terms of how they’re building these homes, but to give you idea, they have super insulation (12″ double-stud walls with dense pack cellulose), extreme air sealing (ZIP System sheathing and tape), triple-pane windows, HRVs, air-to-air heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, green roofs, and rainwater collection, etc.

The four green homes average about 2,100 square feet, including the garage, and have a base price of $360,000 – $375,000.  If you’re in the area, Avant Garage is located at 401-407 Memphis Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

[+] More about Avant Garage by Post Green Homes in Fishtown Proper.

Credits: Daniel Sandoval.

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Platinum Beachaus II Prefab in White Rock

Following the sale of Beachaus I, a contemporary prefab in the White Rock area of British Columbia, the neighboring Beachaus II now hits the market with a price tag of $1,275,000. The LEED Platinum home — three bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, 2,025 square feet — was designed by Pb Elemental, fabricated by Method Homes, and developed by InHaus Development.

The green home has bamboo hardwoods, soy-based spray foam insulation, FSC-certified black walnut for the cabinetry, xenon cabinet lighting, dual-flush Toto toilets, an ultra-efficient laundry with steam dry, rainwater harvesting, and xeriscape landscaping, etc.

Other green technology used in this home includes efficient Bosch appliances, a Control4 Home Automation system, integrated iPad touch control, an energy monitoring system, a HEPA-filtered HRV, an on-demand gas fireplace, air-to-water heat exchange, and in-floor radiant hydronic heating.

There will be an open house on August 19, 2012, from 1-4 pm. The address is 15619 Columbia Ave, South Surrey White Rock, British Columbia, V4B 1K9, Canada.

For more of Beachaus II, check out this video on YouTube or the Maureen Fritz listing.

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The First Passive House in Virginia

This is the first Passive House to be certified by PHIUS in Virginia.  Located at 229 Lankford Avenue in Charlottesville, Virginia, the project was designed by Giovanna Galfione-Cox and certified by John Semmelhack of Think Little.  Lankford Passive House has three bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, and about 2,250 square feet, according to a local real estate listing, and is offered for sale at $598,000.

Lankford Passive House met the airtightness requirement with 0.42 ACH at 50 Pascal.  For systems, the new home has an UltimateAir ERV, GE heat pump water heater, and a Mitsubishi mini-split heat pump with two indoor units.

All of the appliances are Energy Star or better and include a Bosch EcoSense dishwasher, VestFrost refrigerator from Denmark, and Schott Ceran glass-ceramic cooktop.

In terms of the construction, the green home has triple-pane Serious Windows 725 Series, double-stud wall framing, FSC-certified framing lumber and plywood, structural insulated sheathing with taped seams, a hybrid wall with nine inches of Agribalance open cell spray foam and cellulose insulation, a roof with Agribalance open cell spray foam and two inches of closed cell roof foam, a white roof, and an exterior with stucco and Western Red Cedar.

The home is solar ready and includes several other green elements, including a 1,100-gallon rainwater harvesting system, locally-sourced slate, regionally-sourced red oak floors with a water-based low-VOC finish, and building finishes from cherry and locust trees harvested on the site.

[+] More about the Lankford Passive House from The Hook.

Credits: CAAR MLS. 

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Prefab Aktiv Ideabox Summer in the City

You may recall the Aktiv prefab by Ideabox that we mentioned a few months ago.  The media picked up a thread on this modular home thinking it was an IKEA prefab but the reality is the home was built by Ideabox with a ton of IKEA products on the inside.  Ideabox is running what it’s calling “Ideabox Summer in the City” with an Aktiv on display at Cascade Station in Portland (down the road from IKEA Portland).  It’ll be on display through the first week in August with solar from Sunmodo and Solar World, a ductless heat pump from Fujitsu and The Heat Pump Store, and furnishings from IKEA.  Aktiv is priced from $87,000 with one bedroom, one bathroom, and 745 square feet.

[+] More about the Ideabox Aktive prefab with IKEA products.

Credits: Ideabox.

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