Consider Scientific Building Standards for your next home

| by Tony Richardson
 Consider Scientific Building Standards for your next home

There are many options available for those who want to build to Scientific Building Standards. The number of sustainable and energy-efficient options used in the construction of a High Performance or Net Zero Energy Home is dependent upon taste and the level of desire to be independent of the grid and utilize sustainable practices.  Although incorporating energy efficient components will raise the initial investment of your home, payback begins the first month with total amortization within a determined specified time making you money thereafter. Each home is computer modeled before and tested during and after construction to maintain standards of projected energy performance. Ultimately, energy performance is also a result of occupant lifestyle which cannot be projected.

  Following are further reasons to build a Scientifically Built Home:

  • to protect yourself and family with the safest home built, safe from intrusion and the environment, proven to withstand category 5 hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and direct impacts from 15 ton boulders rolling off a mountain
  • live in healthy, regulated, clean air environs
  • drastically reduce electricity usage thus the cost of rising electricity prices, or
  • produce as much electricity as used eliminating the cost of electricity altogether
  • wall tightness;  peacefully enjoy quiet environment through minimization of outside noise
  • conserving the earth’s natural resources

Enjoy the knowledge you have something your neighbors do not, a very special living environment that you can share with them as guests.
Here is a checklist of things to consider when building or remodeling a home to be sustainable and energy efficient:

1. Insulation

Advanced framing techniques and the correct application of the most efficient Insulation are the keys to a tight envelope which is the most important component of an energy efficient High Performance Home.  The foundation, upper deck and exterior walls must all be properly insulated and sealed.

2. Air Sealing

The HERS Rating process will incorporate a blower door test that will show where outside air is coming into the house (infiltration) and Thermal Imaging to identify air leakage with infrared scanning techniques to identify energy loss areas (exfiltration). A tightly sealed home requires less heating and cooling.

3. Windows and Doors

There are many options in design, frame material, color and efficiency of windows and doors incorporating either double or triple-pane wind

4. Appliances

Use ENERGY STAR-rated appliances. They consume far less energy than non-rated. That saves energy and dollars throughout the life of the appliance.

5. Non-toxic Materials
Stains, finishes, paints and adhesives are no-VOC or low-VOC. These toxins can continue to seep into the air and can cause discomfort and illness.

6. FSC-certified Wood

Using wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council helps provide healthy forests for future generations.

7. Passive Solar Orientation

Orient the house for optimal solar gain, if possible. This limits the need for artificial lighting and saves money on electricity, while also reducing energy costs.

8. Footprint

Limit the hallways in the house. Space should be used efficiently so there are fewer square feet to heat and cool. When a house is well designed, less space can still provide all the areas and functions desired.

9. Multi-functional and Flex Rooms 

For example, a guest bedroom can easily work as an office or playroom when friends or family are not visiting. During the design phase, attempt to multipurpose rooms to ultimately save on square footage.  Walls can be designed to expand or contract room size for multiple usage.

The 4D House built by Team Massachusetts for the Solar Decathlon has a partition wall that can be closed for privacy in the bedroom or opened to increase the entertaining area. Courtesy of Jim Tetro

10. Ventilation

To maintain a healthy indoor environment, a tightly built house requires adequate ventilation. Energy Recovery Ventilators are systems that continuously exchange the stale inside air with fresh outside air, while retaining the warmth or coolness already created in the house which also means there must be a balancing of the HVAC system, ERV system, and outside air ducts as a function of the HERS Rating tests.

11. Low-flow Faucets, Showerheads, and Dual-flush Toilets

Energy Star low-flow faucets and shower heads substantially reduce the water being used in the home.

12. Recycled, Reused, and Reclaimed Materials 

This limits our depletion of natural resources as well as the amount of material that goes into landfills. There are many types of recycled, reused and reclaimed materials -- including countertops made with recycled glass, reclaimed flooring and antique furnishings.

13. Lighting

LED and CFL lighting uses less energy than incandescent bulbs and the bulbs last much longer. The cost of these efficient bulbs is going down, and the variety of bulbs available has expanded.

14. Large Overhangs 

Large overhangs around the house block the sun's heat in the summer months when the sun is high in the sky. In the winter, when the sun is lower in the sky (in the northern hemisphere), overhangs allow the sun to come in through the windows and help heat the house.

15. An Efficient Water Heater and delivery system

Traditional water heaters maintain a tank full of warm water and are continuously using energy. Heating water with a Heat Pump hot water system located either overhead or in the garage delivered with a Manabloc Pex plumbing system.

16. Native Plant Landscaping

Using plants indigenous to the area limits the need for irrigation thus conserving water and limiting chemical contamination of the soil.

17. Permeable Paving

Using paving materials that are permeable, such as gravel, allows rainwater and melted snow to return to the water table.

18. Solar Hot Water Panels

The cost of solar panels is coming down and there are subsidies available to reduce the cost further. Hot water panels can be used to heat the household's water or be used as part of a radiant heating system in cooler climates.

19. Photovoltaic Panels

PV panels can be used to reduce or eliminate the electric load. While connected to the grid, they can provide electricity when it is needed and receive electricity when the sun is not out. Extra electricity can also be returned to the grid to reduce electric costs.

20. Thermal Mass, Orientation, Window and Overhang Placement

Placement of the home in relation to sun direction, eave overhangs for shading, window size and placement to maximize sun in cool weather and minimize the sun’s rays in the heat.


Topics: Building Green, Certification / LEED, Energy Audits, Energy Recovery & Heat Recovery, Energy Star, Going Green, Home Design & Plans, Solar Power



Tony Richardson
Having spent over thirty-five years in the new home building, real estate industry has afforded Tony Richardson the opportunity to provide new as well as used homes to hundreds of families from Michigan to Florida. Although he has designed, developed, and marketed his own line of passive solar green houses as a licensed Residential Contractor and launched three major gated communities in SW Florida as a RE Broker, the most exciting opportunities are on the horizon in the Scientific Building industry. Tony believes we have just scratched the surface of the potential to provide healthy, safe, energy efficient, quiet and sustainable dwellings to the new home buyer in the United States. View Tony Richardson's profile on LinkedIn

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