The Colorado-based Formworks Building Inc. has been specializing in earth sheltered building technology since 1979. The main idea behind their buildings is the creation of sustainable, affordable housing. Formworks structures have an estimated usable life span of over one hundred years without any major maintenance. These houses are built into the earth surrounding the building site, which has the added bonus of protecting the home from raging storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, mudslides and so on.
The future Earthship residents Kris Plantz and Nicole Bennett, along with a group of enthusiastic volunteer helpers, have been busy constructing the first Earthship home in Manitoba, Canada for over a year. Their future off-the-grid, eco-friendly home will be made from mainly earth, concrete and recycled materials such as old tires, pop cans and glass bottles.
Last week the judges of the 2013 Solar Decathlon announced this year’s winner. The award went to Team Austria’s LISI House, which was a clear leader all along, having already won the Communications, Market Appeal and Energy Balance competitions. With LISI house, Team Austria sought to create a home, which seamlessly combines indoor and outdoor living, and can be built anywhere, be it in the Alpine forests of Austria or the temperate regions of California.
Team Middlebury is one of the twenty teams chosen to compete in this year’s US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition and their entry is the design and building of a socially and environmentally sustainable house called the InSite house. The team is made up of more than 100 Middlebury College undergraduate students from over 25 different academic disciplines. The finished two bedroom and one bathroom house will measure 956 square feet, while the building costs are $250,000.
Architect Joseph Bennett recently completed a remodeling project of a 1917 Austin, Texas bungalow measuring 2,500 square feet. The remodeling was done with the goal of achieving sustainability and energy efficiency. The renovated bungalow has received a LEED Silver and the Austin Energy Green Building 5 Star certifications. The house also has a HERS rating of 55. The total cost of the renovation was $625,000.
Since the bungalow stood on 90-year-old cedar posts, the remodeling began by fully weatherizing the house from the ground up. The cedar posts were first replaced with concrete footings and piers, while the crawlspace floor and walls were wrapped in a CleanSpace polyethylene vapor barrier. Around the perimeter, the remodeling team sprayed a minimum of five inches of open-cell spray foam.
A half basement constructed of CMU’s had been added to the house in the 1950s, and the team covered these existing CMU walls with PolyGuard 650 and three inches of E.P.S. insulation.
The whole house was wrapped in a polyethylene membrane air barrier, while an ultra-insulated wall system with a radiant barrier was then laid over this wrapping. This, together with adding spray foam insulation at the roofline, served to construct an airtight envelope around the house. Prior to this treatment the original stone veneer covering the house was removed, and then reapplied after the above wall system changes.
The remodeling team wanted to ensure as much natural daylight in all the rooms as possible. To achieve this, Bennett opted for the Loewen metal-clad double-glazed windows with Cardinal 366 low-E glazing for a SHGC of 0.28. On the first floor, all the public spaces were made one room wide in order to let in natural daylight from both sides. Such an arrangement also allows for more natural ventilation. Furthermore, the windows and stairs in the loft were designed so as to enhance natural ventilation through the solar thermal chimney effect.
When removing the original Sheetrock walls, the team found the original long leaf pine shiplap. They reclaimed it and used it to wrap the coffered ceiling beams in the master bedroom, as well as in the foyer ceiling.
The cabinets in the bathrooms and the kitchen are made from mesquite and eucalyptus, while the floors are made by Enviroglas recycled glass flooring, and Caesarstone quartz. The countertops are made of recycled paper by Richlite.
Apart from those mentioned above, the remodeled bungalow also features a 24-gauge metal roof made by Galvalume, while only no-VOC paints and water-based polyurethane and stains were used in the renovation.
For heating and cooling the team installed a 18-SEER Carrier Infinity multi-zoned HVAC system. Furthermore, all the HVAC equipment and ductwork was placed within the thermal envelope of the house.
For landscaping, only pest-resistant drought-tolerant and plants were chosen. For irrigation the remodeling team installed a Solar Sync rain sensor that automatically shuts off the system when it rains.
A Miami Beach home, located at 2020 Alton, has been awarded LEED Platinum, with the score of 120/89.5. The project is a joint effort of developer Matthew Lahn of the Florida Green Home Design Group, architect Ari Sklar of Sklarchitecture, and general contractor Robert Arkin. The project also has an -8 HERS score, has been named an Energy Star Qualified Home, and has received the National Green Building Standard Emerald rating, which indicates that the house saves 60% or more of its energy use.