Systems Built Home: Amazing design features for amazing homeowners

| by Michael Harris
Systems Built Home: Amazing design features for amazing homeowners

Young newlyweds Mike and Brenda build their classic gambrel style Lindal Cedar Home in New Mystic, Connecticut, in 1974. A decade later as their family grew, they enlarged the 1,100-square-foot home by 800 square feet. Today they are building another Lindal Cedar Homes addition, a first floor master bedroom suite and solar garden room that opens to the home’s great room.   

Mike, a retired engineer and Brenda, a former corrections officer, now spend much of their days tending to their farm, raising horses, gardening, and being self-taught green pioneers. The 400-square-foot solar room will enable Brenda to employ her green thumb year around in the vegetable and flower nursery. As their Lindal representative and project designer, I planned the addition with Mike and Brenda with the objectives of providing enough heat to make the additional 900 square feet of living space energy neutral without the use of high cost technology, and at the same time bathing the original home's interior in natural light.

Features of the home's new addition:

  1. The 400-square-foot two-story garden room, designed with a gambrel form to reflect the original design, features a south-facing window wall with over 300 square feet of Lindal high performance windows to admit the bright New England winter sun that will heat the room’s tile floor and create a warm convection current through wide French doors and operable widows into the great room
  2. The original upper level will benefit by utilizing the heat at the top of the sunspace to heat the office and guest bedroom through new sliding glass door off a balcony overlooking the garden room.
  3. Awning windows near the floor of the garden room will admit cool outside air into the space, and mature oaks and maples will shade the south facing glass during the summer months.
  4. A whisper quiet thermostatically controlled variable speed fan will return the warm air at the top of garden room to the first level during the winter and exhaust it to the outside in the summer

The savvy homeowners are not neophytes when it comes to environmentally responsible home living. In 2007, Mike transformed the home's oil-fueled heating system into hybrid system that uses vegetable oil as its sole fuel source (the system is capable of switching back to petroleum-based fuel at any time within 15 minutes, Mike reports).

Mike collects the vegetable oil from local restaurants when it can no longer be used for cooking and then refines it through a month-long process. He designed and built the refinery and converted the furnace, entirely of all readily available, sometimes repurposed, parts. The combined cost of the refinery and retrofitting the oil burner to burn vegetable oil cost about $5,000.

The updated system will continue to consume 1,000-1,200 gallons of fuel during the cold winter months (450 degree days, similar to Boston and New York), saving Mike and Brenda $3,000-$4,500 each year since converting the system.

The vegetable oil contains fewer pollutants than petroleum based heating oil. Mike filters it to 1 micron after it has settled for at least a month to allow for separation from water.  Burning the refined vegetable oil emits fewer pollutants than burning petroleum.  The vegetable oil contains no heavy metals or toxic substances and is not considered a hazardous material.

Mike and Brenda are right at home in the extended Lindal Cedar Homes family. The seventy-one year old Seattle based company naturally attracts environmentally responsible clients to its the pre-engineered post and beam product for its use of sustainable material, energy efficient green design, and environmentally responsible practices.

Mike and Brenda’s “retirement project” provides encouraging testimony to others considering building green:  

  • Building green does not require a major additional investment over non-green building
  • Green living does not require the use of uber technology
  • The proper siting and design of a house to provide winter sunlight, summer shade, and to capture natural breezes can produce a naturally lit, healthy, and energy efficient home.
  • A well conceived building system that creates a sustainable and energy efficient environment is key. The system must be flexible enough to respond to every aspect of the building site’s environment … the topography, the path of the sun, the direction of the wind, and the existing vegetation. The system should also minimize waste in production and on site and be efficient to ship.

Topics: Building Green, Home Design & Plans, Lumber and Structured Panels, Prefabricated Homes / Systems Built Homes / Modular Homes, Remodeling

Companies: Lindal Cedar Homes


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