A couple of years ago, Michigan’s Cobblestone Homes partnered with Dow Chemical Company to collaborate on the InVision Zero house, a home that is entirely sustainable for its energy use while being affordable and attainable for many Americans.
The InVision Zero home showcased several Dow products including POWERHOUSE solar shingles, WaterFurnace geothermal heating and cooling system, walls that are filled with 5” of Dow closed-cell spray foam, one inch each of Dow Structural Insulating Sheathing (SIS) and Dow Tongue-and-Groove Styrofoam to ensure a complete thermal break, and triple-paned Paradigm windows.
The most recent collaboration between Dow and Cobblestone is the TEETH (Twelve Energy Efficient Test Homes) Project, a five-year energy efficiency study on twelve homes that have been recently built in a subdivision in Midland, Michigan.
Vermont-based Vantem Panels, one of the United States’ first producers of SIPs (structural insulated panels) and one of three American producers of urethane panels, has released the first affordable net-zero energy kit homes: SmartHomze.
With an estimated $150 per square foot cost of construction (not including permits, site work, or foundation), SmartHomze are significantly more affordable than typical green homes that range between $200 and $250 per square foot and more in line with construction costs for an average new home that doesn’t include sustainability features.
This 3,600 square feet home in Leon Springs, Texas is LEED Platinum-certified and features several affordable green building strategies that contribute to its net-zero water use. The homeowners asked architect Karla Greer (of Lake Flato Architects of San Antonio, Texas) for a sustainable home that celebrated nature and provided space for entertaining and energy-efficient living.
Featuring a five-story atrium lit by natural sunlight at its entrance, the expansion of the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Delaware incorporates significant amounts of prefabricated modules and materials into its construction. Project executive and prefabrication manager for Swedish builder Skansa USA, Marty Corrado, hired Rob Whartnaby as foreman and superintendent to build 144 pie-shaped rooms and bathrooms at a warehouse, using prefab technology that has rarely been used on hospitals and high-end commercial buildings, from which they would be shipped and installed on-site.
“It’s very innovative,” said Whartnaby, in an interview with Architectural Record. “We’re relearning the trade. It’s definitely good for the unions. It’s good for the customer . . . because you’re getting the building done faster. And there’s a big safety factor. On a wet day like this, we have a very controlled environment. Nobody’s going to fall over six feet on this job.”
“This is a radical departure,” said Corrado. Pipes and ducts are built into “one big box” that is linked to headwalls, which are then pre-approved by Underwriters Laboratories prior to installation. Each box is then lifted and hung in the building. While the project is not saving significant amounts of money by using prefab technologies, the reduction in construction-related injuries is notable. “We’re still using the same amount of material,” says Corrado. “We’re fairly confident that we are using less labor, but subcontractors are still reluctant to bid less on prefab commercial jobs. The practice is that new.”
Expected to open in 2014, the expansion features outdoor views from all patient rooms, which are private, single-bed areas, each with two televisions, shower, refrigerator, and closet space. Each unit has a playroom, serenity room, laundry facilities, overnight sleeping areas for residents, conference room. There are 24-bed patient care communities with three eight-patient neighborhoods, along with multiple serenity gardens, a Discovery Zone for children, and 188 underground parking spaces.
Hummingbird Tiny Spaces is a company in Nashville, Tennessee that builds small outdoor living spaces that can be used for storage or dwellings. Owner Will Yount has more than thirty years experience in home building and maintenance. He and his family hand pick materials with a focus on providing affordable quality over quantity, limiting offerings to just a few models and options, and a “do one thing and do it well” philosophy.
The city of Minneapolis, Minnesota has set a goal of building 100 energy-efficient homes during the next five years in an effort to revitalize neighborhoods in the northern region of the city that have been suffering the most during the economic downturn. Homes will be built on vacant, city-owned lots and will be priced between $150,000 and $200,000. Energy efficient and designed to complement surrounding structures, it is expected that the new homes will contribute to increases in property values, along with owner confidence.