Four Stages of the Development of the house at Boyers Park
Stage One: Planning
n Find Site
n Select Team
Stage Two: Initial Construction
n Site Grading and House Placement
n Geothermal and Rainwater systems
n Siding and Roofing
n Root Cellar
Stage Three: Final Construction
n Solar PV and Hot Water
n Radiant Heat Floor
n Paint, Cabinetry, Vanities
n Furniture and Appliances
n Oak Features
Stage Four: Performance and Use
n Monitoring Energy Production and Consumption
n Monitoring Temperature and Humidity from Root Cellar
n Hot Water Temperatures and Breaker Off
n Rated on HERS for Energy Star Certificationn Emerald Rating from NAHBC Green ProgramStage One: Planningn Find SiteAfter over a year and failing on a bid to purchase a smaller property in Walnut Cove, I stumbled upon 26 acres through an ad in the Winston-Salem Journal. I visited the property and put in an offer that day. My parents saw an opportunity to purchase the lot across the street and made it so that the only property further down the road was a tract owned by a timber company. One day a man came walking up the road and introduced himself as Norman Nance and he was running the timber operations. He asked if I was interested in buying the property when they were finished logging. I negotiated about how the timber would be selected and was able to get a satisfactory buffer area along both of the creeks on the property. The loggers set up their main operation on the highest point of the property and opened up a beautiful view of Hanging Rock and the Sauratown Mountains. I knew where I was going to build my house.n FinanceI had put myself in an average position, with a strength that I didn't carry any real debt, but I was still - with one teacher salary - short of what I had envisioned. My parents, grandparents, and I were able to put enough down for me to finance the rest. Now we were moving forward!n DesignI started to get a better feel about what I wanted in a home as I researched more and more about energy efficiency. I started sketching from a solo cabin in the woods, to a modern passive solar home. I set up the layout and compromised on the size to ensure I would have the space I want. After getting the floor plans and sketches ready, I contacted an architect - Matthew Rodda. Matthew turned my drawings into builders floor plans and got them ready to show contractors.n Select TeamHaving Matthew Rodda on board and plans, I was ready to ask builders to consider taking on this project. After meeting with three builders, we felt most comfortable with Ron Ricci. Ron seemed to understand what I wanted in making the house perform in a way that fits the best science of our time. Ron received help with the geothermal system by Duggins out of Walkertown and Alternative Energy Concepts worked with the solar items.n Negotiations/DecisionsAfter choosing Ron Ricci, it was then a process of making decisions about specific materials and colors. I debated between natural cedar shingle siding and Hardiboard cement board. I ultimately opted for the Hardi because of its durability, maintenance, and the relatively small impact cement fiber material. I kept cedar in the exterior by choosing it for the entrance pergola, a solar panel awning structure, and the majority of the wood for the outdoor stairs and second floor deck. These kinds of decisions took research, trusting my team to help me make wise choices, and the commitment to maintaining what I had envisioned as my dream home.QUESTION: What things do you think would be most important to consider when planning to build your own house? What would you research to help you?
Stage Two: Initial Constructionn Site Grading and House PlacementThe logging operation had already prepared a nice home area, but we still had to adjust the location of the house to get the best benefit of mountain views, clear of shading from nearby trees, and be able to face perfectly in a horizontal position to true south 180 degrees (which for our area is about 188 degrees magnetic south).QUESTION: Why is it important for the longest part of the house to face south? Read about passive solar design if you do not know.n FoundationThe process of building a house became real when we broke ground and dug out the root cellar. The root cellar has a gravel base and later gets a cement floor. The foundation is then constructed of ICF (Insulating Concrete Forms), which are like styrofoam legos that get concrete poured in to secure them.When the ICF foundation was complete it was time to pour the slab. The slab is vital to storing the heat that is collected due to the passive solar design and maintain a comfortable temperature. It then started to show signs of having rooms.n Geothermal and Rainwater systemsOne of the most intriguing feature of energy efficiency - the geothermal slinky loop system, was probably the coolest to watch installed. A backhoe digs an eight foot deep trench a little over seventy-five feet long. The idea is to exchange heat energy with a more consistent temperature. At that dept the temperature is constant at about 58 degrees F. By using this as the source of heat exchange instead of the air, the system is able to trade energy at a more efficient temperature. The trench is filled and packed down to return the earth as best as possible.The unit for the geothermal is inside my utility closet rather than a typical home that uses an outdoor unit that is exposed to everything from near zero degree temperatures to over one hundred degrees.For rainwater collection and use, all the gutters on the front and back of the house are piped to a buried 1,000 gallon cistern tank. In the tank there is a submersible pump and rainwater is pumped through a hose to be used for outdoor landscaping.QUESTION: What does the word "Geothermal" mean? Look up "Geo" and "Thermal".n FramingWe elected to use 2 x 6 studs instead of the typical 2 x 4 for two reasons. With 2 x 6 walls you can space the studs 24 inches on center instead of the standard 16 inches and there becomes more room for insulation. Along with other strategies this is called advanced framing techniques.Within days I could see the inside of the house.In preparing the house for siding and roofing, the building gets wrapped up tight before windows and doors are cut out individually.n Siding and RoofingI worried more about the solar heat gain in the summer than the potentional for getting too cool in the winter. One choice to combat this was going with a galvanized metal roof. The color is optimal for reflecting heat away from the roof. The windows allow light into the house in the winter due to our position relative to the sun.Other than a couple of the big ticket items, the windows were the most expensive because of my insistance that they be of high quality. Windows can be a problem for a home's envelope if not done well, but if designed right for the site windows become vital for absorbing heat from the sun in the winter. I chose Sun Windows Low Emissivity Argon-filled double paned casement windows.n Root CellarRoot cellars have a long history of use on American farms due to their stable, cool, and humid environments that make storing fresh produce for longer periods of time. To circulate air, we installed a intake air pipe and a vent fan on an outtake pipe. The fan runs every night during the summer for one hour. Because of the ICF insulation and being completely buried under ground, it is possible to maintain 60-70 degree temperatures and about 80% humidity.The root cellar can/will also double as a storm shelter in case of a tornado.
Stage Three: Final Constructionn InsulationOne aspect that I demanded detailed focus on was the envelope of the house. The envelope is the outermost barrier with the unpredictable exterior climate. Closed-cell spray in foam insulation was able to penetrate the smallest of spaces and perform incredibly well.QUESTION: What kind of insulation does NASA's Space Shuttle use?n Solar PV and Hot WaterThe pipes for the solar hot water system were installed before insulating so that they traveled through controlled circumstances between the panels and the tank.The two panels above my guest bedroom are actually boxes with coils of copper piping and a glyclol solution circulating. They supply all of the hot water needs of the house and contribute to the warming in the winter through a radiant heat floor in the upstairs bathroom. Here the hot glycol passes in a piped system under the bathroom tiles before heat exchanging at the hot water tank.When researching options for a photovolaic solar panel system I had already learned that the panels are best attached to south facing roof and sloped at the same angle as your latitude, but things like inverters versus microinverters was new to me. By the way, our latitude up in Sandy Ridge is about 36.5 degrees North and my roof has a 37 degree pitch.After talking to my team and Alternative Energy Concepts, I decided to opt for microinverters instead of one larger inverter. An inverter is necessary to convert the electricty from the DC (Direct Current) form - that the panels generate power as - into an AC (Alternating Current) form that Duke Energy Needs it as and my home uses. That can be done all at once with a large inverter or each panel can have its own microinverter connected together in a system that is producing AC power. Both systems were comparable in cost and efficiency, but the one advantage I saw in the microinverter system was that it has more capabilities to monitor data. Being a science teacher I felt it would be cool if I could use my system's data in some way in the classroom, as well as showing them what a green house could be like. My system incorportes a reporting system through Enphase Energy, where my 16 panels report every minute on the internet with production data.QUESTION: What are some reasons why using solar energy for hot water and electricity is such a good idea?n Paint, Cabinetry, VanitiesThe kitchen was certainly a spot for choices. After selecting the Wellborn natural hickory cabinets, we were brought samples from Matthew Rodda of the New River Concrete Company. This company uses reclaimed dredge material from the New River dams, fly ash from coal-fired powerplants, and concrete to make really nice countertops.All of the paints selected were low or no VOC paints and in natural brown colors.The kitchen cabinets are from Wellborn and are made of natural hickory.n Furniture and AppliancesI had the intention of buying old furniture, but decided to keep the interior somewhat modern. My parents bought a dining room table for my moving in present and I added barstools to complete the living room/kitchen area. I looked for wood that had a FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) approval.I tried to do my best to choose appliances that were going to be top of the line and energy efficient. I knew that each appliance would be rated when my house was scored.n Oak FeaturesOne of my favorite features of my house is the use of three oak trees that were standing dead within 100 yards of the home site. The whole process was fascinating and there is a deep connection between this wood and my new home. First, Ron Ricci helped to fell the three trees before I cut and cleaned the logs and my mom hauled them up the hill with our tractor.We staged the logs up near the homesite for the portable saw mill to come out.The logs were sawed into rough boards and stacked to be stored in my shed to dry. After reaching a certain moisture content the boards were transported off-site to a drying kiln. After drying in the kiln for about eight weeks the boards were ready to be dressed up to use in the house.Columns, headers, corbels, and the stair treads for the spiral staircase were all made from the oak wood. Upstairs, my computer desk and most of the bookshelves in my library are also from Boyers Park wood.n LandscapingI've been responsible for all the landscaping except for the permeable paver brick walkway and patio. It is important to have permeable surfaces to allow the rainwater to penetrate and drain slower down hill, thus preventing serious erosion. I designed a rock garden on the south side and a Japanese garden one the east side. The north now has a garden surrounding the walkway to the rainwater cistern pump and a windscreen beyond that. I planted Canadian Hemlocks on the north side because the cold winter winds primarily come from the north; the windscreen will help to reduce the energy load for winter heating. The west side has a patio facing Hanging Rock and a likely spot for major improvements in the future.QUESTION: What are some things to keep in mind when landscaping around a green home?
Stage Four: Performance and Usen Monitoring Energy Production and ConsumptionThrough the Enphase Energy system I can look online from any internet source and see the production of each of the 16 pv panels. I can generate reports of production per panel or for the system. Now that it has been one complete year since I began producing electricity I can start to look at the data I've collected as a sample year. I can then compare them to my Duke Energy reports for production and consumption to see how I'm faring in a goal for net zero electricity.n Monitoring Temperature and Humidity from Root CellarA usable root cellar needs to maintain between 50 degrees and 70 degrees and nearly 80 percent humidity but no more. We installed a monitor in the root cellar that reports wirelessly to a device in the bedroom with its data.n Hot Water Temperatures and Breaker OffThe heat exchanger for the solar hot water (glycol) to the hot water tank has information about the temperature in several spots along its movement. I can check the temperature of the glycol flowing through the solar panel coils, particularly to watch for overheating (over 360 degrees!). Even if the panels don't get very hot on some days, the water is stored in a 120 gallon tank and I can monitor the temperature at the top, middle, and bottom of the tank to see the supply of hot water. The middle of the hot water tank has an electric element that can heat up the water in an emergency, but I keep the electric breaker turned off. That means that (other than a small pump to move the glycol), my hot water is free from the sun.n Rated on HERS for Energy Star CertificationI think the cost of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification scared me away from it, but Energy Star and the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) has a Green program that uses a HERS (Home Energy Rating System). An inspector came out to conduct tests on the house and look at each appliance. Every little detail counted as potentional points to earn a higher (actually lower, you'll see in a second) score.n Emerald Rating from NAHBC Green ProgramWhen rated, my house scored an 11 on the HERS (Home Energy Rating System). A house with a score of 100 is a typical home built to code with all the minimum requirements. My 11 score, means that my home uses only 11% of a standard code-built home - or another way of saying it is that it is 89% more energy efficient than a typical home. That 11 score is one of the lowest scores in North Carolina or even the United States.