Green Concepts in the Construction of a New Home

Trish, a landscape architect at Design Concepts, has recently built a new house with her husband. They have implemented many green concepts, including the following.
  • Deconstruction: Much of the material from the previous structure was donated to Resource2000 of Boulder, sold, or reused/recycled in some way--including in the new home!
  • Building Envelope: The exterior walls of the house are constructed with structural insulated panels (SIPs). These are made by sandwiching a layer of expanded polystyrene (EPS or styrofoam) between two layers of 1/2" oriented strand board (OSB) (see photo below). The architectural drawings were provided to the SIP manufacturer, and the panels arrived pre-cut. The construction process was therefore assembly rather than framing (see second photo below). When done correctly, this type of construction allows very little air leakage from the outside. It is much tigher than batt insulations. The walls contain 6" of EPS, and the roof 12".

  • Indoor Air Quality: Because the house is constructed so tightly, a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) was installed. This unit brings in fresh air from the outside and exhausts stale air from the inside. It contains a heat exchanger that transfers up to 80% of the heat from the warm exhaust air to the cool supply air.
  • In-Floor Radiant Heat: Heat is provided to the living space via tubing snaked beneath the wood floors (see photo below). This tubing is filled with water, and when a room calls for heat water begins to flow through the system where it is heated either by an Energy Star gas-fired, condensing boiler or the solar thermal system (see mechanical room photo below). Condensing boilers are more efficient than standard boilers because they use the hot exhaust gases to pre-heat incoming water.

  • Material Reuse: The deck of the front porch is made from floor boards recovered from the previous structure. The original bath tub and several other fixtures were reused as well.
Trish and her husband's highest utility bill this winter was $35--now that's green!