It is an old world answer for modern heating concerns. Masonry heaters, also known as Finnish fireplaces, have been used for centuries in Europe and now are gaining notice here as a heating alternative. Faced with rising prices for fossil fuel, and at the same time environmental restrictions on charming, but smoke-spewing wood-burning fireplaces, homeowners coast to coast are experiencing the unrivalled efficiency and clean burning technology of masonry heaters.
According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, the leading international trade association for hearth products, shipments of wood burning appliances, which includes masonry heaters, increased 54% in the first half of 2008, compared with the same period the year before. Leading the charge for a change to masonry heating is Finnish based Tulikivi. The company has adapted a centuries old hand-built home heating method to modern production techniques. Today, Tulikivi (too-lee-kee-vee) manufactures and exports fireplaces that operate at up to 88% efficiency.
While a masonry heater may look like a fireplace, it works differently. It stores a large amount of heat from a rapidly-burning fire within its masonry mass and slowly releases that heat into the home throughout the day – for as long as 18 to 24 hours after the fire is out. A Tulikivi’s thermal mass is made of soapstone, an exceptionally heat-retentive natural material, of which Finland is blessed with deep deposits. A Tulikivi’s fire burns hot inside its closed hearth, converting more of the wood into fuel, meaning less wood is needed to produce the same amount of heat as a traditional fireplace or other wood-burning device. Just two or three loads of wood – about two baskets full – burned over two hours time are sufficient to generate long-term heat for as much as 1,400 square feet. The near complete combustion of the wood also means less smoke and ash is produced, too.
The EPA recognizes masonry heaters as inherently clean burning, but it does not require them to be certified. Some state and local governments with localized emissions regulations do require testing of masonry heaters in order to be approved for installation. Tulikivis are approved nearly everywhere in North America, including three of the most difficult areas for wood-burning appliances to gain approval – Colorado, Washington and San Luis Obispo County in California.
In addition to the cost savings of heating a home with wood and the benefits of using a local, renewable resource, masonry heaters are also highly valued for the comfort they provide. Masonry heaters, like a Tulikivi, combine the ambiance of a crackling fire with a safe and healthy form of heat, emitting only soft, radiant heat – universally considered to be the healthiest form of heating. What strikes most people as a key difference is that no matter where one is in the room, there is warmth, not just next to the fire, as is the case with traditional wood-burning fireplaces.
While masonry heaters will never altogether replace conventional heating, a Tulikivi does an incredible job of heating a home. “Customers specifically select Tulikivis for their exceptional radiant heating capabilities,” says Ron Pihl of WarmStone Fireplaces & Designs, a long-time Tulikivi distributor in Livingston, Montana. “But, in the long run, they’re guaranteed unmatched efficiency, ease and comfort. They also get a striking centerpiece for their home.”
Tulikivi fireplaces and bakeovens are available through a network of dealers in the US and Canada. For more information and a distributor listing, visit the website at www.tulikivi.com or call 800.THEFIRE.
For more information on Tulikivi, hi-res images or an interview with an energy-efficient heating expert, please contact Shannon Burton at French/West/Vaughan, 212.213.8562 x 309 or email@example.com.
First and foremost, green building needs to be about energy savings. The Architecture 2030 challenge provides milestones for the reduction in energy use in new buildings and retrofit projects with the goal of zero energy buildings by the year 2030 – www.architecture2030.com. The explosion of green building as a concept confronts reality in this challenge. How will we actually build and retrofit buildings that produce as much energy as they consume? The Architecture 2030 Challenge is the architecture community’s declaration of energy independence. We do not have time to waste and civilization’s very existence may lie in the balance. Sustainability is a real and pressing issue to you and your children.
The Architecture 2030 Challenge energy savings goal is a 60% reduction in energy use for the year 2010. That means that buildings you are designing now, or have already designed and are still yet to be built, are supposed to be 60% more efficient than a “code built” structure. My assertion is that if you are going to say you are committed to green architecture, meeting the goals of the Architecture 2030 challenge should be priority number one.
How do we meet these goals without drastically increasing building costs? Green building is integrated design. Planning for energy efficiency from the ground up must be the cornerstone of green architecture for new buildings and major retrofits. Starting with passive solar design, the integrated design of a house or building should prioritize building enclosure technology (thermal envelope), utilize energy modeling, and incorporate HVAC engineering. Spending time and effort during design to implement energy saving measures creates value; i.e. dramatic results without extra costs. If you are not energy modeling, you will probably not reach the project’s full potential.
I have chosen to focus professionally on thermal envelope technology. The building enclosure has to be a major priority of your integrated design. Solar panels and bamboo flooring are getting a lot of attention in the green building world, but reduction of energy loading is the bedrock upon which zero energy buildings will be built. Give me the thermal envelope…..please.
Eric Miller, LEED A.P., assists architects, general contractors and developers in the creation of energy efficient buildings. As Business Development Director-Western Region for kama Direct, Eric specializes in thermal envelope technology and building enclosure science.
Roof detail at California Academy of Sciences
It has become increasingly clear that the design and building of living roofs is making a transition from early adoption to mainstream application. Driven by environmental policy, economic necessity, and social responsibility there is increasing emphasis on a “living systems” approach to building and vegetation design. The designs integrate and complement mechanical and plumbing operations. The operation of the built environment provides great opportunity for owners and occupants to apply green walls, living roofs, and water conservation strategies that enhance carbon sequestration, energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reuse, habitat renewal, and create a place of “well being”. I have been honored to work with creative designers, architects, and owners on brilliant projects that exemplify sustainable design, architectural ingenuity, community focus, and economic return. This piece highlights recent works, presenting current trends and future opportunity.
So far real estate developers and institutional investors are implementing living systems because the economic rationale for the development of sustainable buildings has advanced beyond anecdotal evidence. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a private non-profit organization, has developed the LEED (“Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design”) green building rating system to encourage the “adoption of sustainable green building and development practices.” LEED requires the inclusion of living systems to qualify for certain green building performance objectives relative to site impacts, wildlife habitat, storm water efficiency, and innovation. LEED has been the driver for many Living System projects in San Francisco and elsewhere in the Country.
CALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
In the heart of one of the country’s largest urban parks, the California Academy of Sciences is a pioneering LEED® Platinum Green Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Rana Creek Living Architecture worked with Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Chong and Partners Architecture, SWA Group, ARUP Engineering, and the Academy to create a living roof that covers 160,000 square feet of roof with four steeply sloped domes replicating the surrounding rolling hills.
The roof is planted with over 50 plant species native to San Francisco. The three-year research period during which Rana Creek Living Architecture designed, built and monitored a series of living roof mock-ups, informed this diverse assemblage of indigenous plants, as well as the soil retention and drainage techniques ultimately chosen for the project. The California Academy of Sciences is unique amongst natural history museums in its dedication to combining research and education under one roof.
- California Academy of Sciences
In the heart of the East Bay, Rana Creek Living Architecture worked with McCall Design Group on a living system for this high-end urban retail space. Within the building design, ecological considerations were incorporated to enhance urban habitat, reduce, capture and treat stormwater on site, and improve air quality.
Through a diverse drought resistant plant assemblage, consisting of California native plants and sweet smelling cultivators, the building was brought to life through a combination of a living roof, stormwater planters, and a vertical Green Screen™ that will eventually cover the entire north, south and east walls. The 6,000 sq ft living roof reflects a native California landscape and provides shelter and valuable food sources for birds, bees and butterflies. In addition, the 5,300 sq ft of groundplane landscaping captures and treats stormwater as required by Emeryville’s stringent stormwater requirements. Rana Creek is thrilled to have contributed to this brownfield development and look forward to the day when all urban infill requires living systems to mitigate the impacts of the built environment.
Paul Kephart is the Executive Director of Rana Creek and Technical Consultant for Living Architecture. Founded in 1997 under the guiding principles of ecology, Rana Creek is a premier design and build firm offering an extensive portfolio of services in land-use planning, sustainable design, ecological consultation and habitat restoration. Our nursery provides quality plant material for the wholesale trade specializing in contract grow services.
Located on a 14,000-acre active ranch in the upper Carmel Valley watershed, Rana Creek’s goal is to replicate nature’s cycles, structure, function and diversity with each stage of project development. From compliance and permitting to project implementation, Rana Creek offers over 60 years combined experience in environmental planing and design. Our client list is comprised of world-renowned architects, developers, non-profits, land-use planners, government agencies, and community associations. Rana Creek’s team of professional biologists, ecologists, designers, contractors and horticultural specialists are well versed in the rapidly growing commerce of sustainable development.
Rammed earth has been a part of the alternative materials scene in Northern California since the mid 1970’s, when we first broke through the building permit barrier. Initially our goal was to develop a resource-efficient construction system that would be affordable and widely adopted by the building industry. We began with a strong commitment to construction simplicity and to the use of site materials.
As market confidence and client appreciation increased, we continued to improve the technology to meet the demands for a crisp, complex and highly refined product. Rammed earth’s reputation as an organic, rustic, inexpensive solution for the owner builder morphed into the perfect expression of artistic whimsy for those who could afford any structural system but preferred the visual power of a thick monolithic wall. Thirty years ago “rammed earth” was unknown in California building terminology. Today it’s on the drafting boards of some of the world’s leading architects.
Now that rammed earth has grown into the ultimate demonstration of client commitment to green building, we need to step back and consider what might have been lost along its road to recognition. Maintaining the connection to resource efficiency remains our primary goal, but as projects involve more complex wall systems with tighter specifications, formulations become more dependent on the uniform soil gradations of imported quarry products and stabilization ratios rise in response to engineering demands.
The upside is that today’s rammed earth walls are immaculate, as well as being safe, quiet and comfortable. The downside is too many eighteen-wheelers on the road burning diesel and too much imported cement from China. Our carbon footprint increases in proportion to the demand for art walls rather than simple structure. The fact is, a hand made wall with its human imperfections is much “greener” than the perfectly plumb, sharp edged, stratified art walls that are currently in demand.
The challenge now is to re-focus on our original vision: can we return to site materials, reduce cement content, simplify formwork and still produce a beautiful, affordable, and supremely sustainable wall system? It is imperative that we try – for the sake of future builders.
David Easton is a graduate of Stanford Engineering’s Product Design Department in 1970; founder of Rammed Earth Works, California’s oldest structural earth wall company; author of The Rammed Earth House; and developer of mechanical systems, soil mix designs, quality control procedures, and seismic strategies specific to building with site resources in earthquake regions. His project portfolio ranges from low-cost solutions for construction in developing countries to high-end commercial and residential projects in the United States.
Project Description for the Ningbo Eco-Corridor
Location: Ningbo, China
Scope of the Project
The landscape architects, SWA Group, provided master planning and conceptual design services for the 250-acre metropolitan Eco-Corridor Park located in Ningbo’s East Town, an area of 6 square miles that currently includes a mixture of industrial and agricultural land uses. The plan revitalizes and regenerates the existing environments to create a “Green Lung” for the city, providing recreation, education, and cultural facilities for the entire city. The design provides habitat for flora and fauna and creates a constructed open space system for recreation and adaptive reuse.
To achieve these goals, the design team proposed four strategies of integration, balance, creation, and sustainability, as described below. Master planning and conceptual design phases are complete and the first phase of schematic design and site analysis is now underway.
Located in the heart of the Yangtze River Delta on China’s Coastline, Ningbo is one of China’s oldest cities. With an area of 3,616 square miles and a population of 5.43 million, Ningbo has been a well-known key port for foreign trade since ancient times. Bordered by Shanghai to the north and Hangzhou to the east, Ningbo is an important industiral city, foreign trade port, and economic center for east China. Water is integral to the shape and function of the city: “Ningbo,” meaning “Tranquil Waters,” overlooks the Handzhou Bay and rests within the matrix of industrial water canals and delta river fabric of land.
In 2002, to support the growth of the Old City and upgrade infrastructure, the governement called for a master plan for “Eastern New City” to add 6 square miles (3,953 acres) to the urban area. The development of the “Eastern New City” triggered a strategy to build Ningbo as a larger metropolitan area of economic and environmental importance and set the stage for an ecological approach to development.
The Ecological Corridor
The Master Plan for the Eastern New City developed along a grid framework with an east-west “central” corridor and north-south “ecological” and “river” corridors. The north-south Eco-Corridor forms a greenbelt linking the city’s business, governmental, cultural and entertainment districts.
Ningbo’s Eco-Corridor balances the impact of new development and revitalizes and regenerates the natural environment to:
- create a “Green Lung” for the city
- offer a link between humans and their environment
- create opportunities for education
- revitalize and improve existing ecosystems
- restore and create new species habitats
- create a network of open spaces for recreation and adaptive reuse
- provide cultural facilities to connect different land uses in a common space
- filter and treat canal and storm-water to release cleaner (level II) water to the river
Framework for Analysis and Planning
The four key elements influencing the design were: integration of the environment within the existing urban fabric; balance between environmental processes and human habitation; creation of positive open spaces, spatial character, and park identity; and sustainability emphasized throughout the design.
Hui-Li Lee is a Principal at SWA Group, a world reknown landscape architecture, planning, and urban design firm.
There are a number of exciting design trends that are quickly becoming mainstream in architecture and development around California. Mostly due to the continuing drought and concerns over water availability, these trends are simply implemented and have an enormous impact on a broad scale. One of the latest trends to receive publicity is the re-emergence of rainwater harvesting systems. Though the idea of capturing and storing rainwater is ancient, the concept of harvesting rainwater from downspouts has been designed and implemented in many projects for several decades.
At this point homeowners and commercial property owners are taking the steps to have rainwater harvesting systems designed and installed at their residences and project sites ranging in sizes from 1,000 to 30,000 gallons and more. These systems, which for the most part are used for irrigation, simply divert the roof water through simple filters into storage tanks and then direct it to landscapes when needed. When designed properly, these systems can provide adequate water for landscaping irrigation and other outdoor needs, as well as a myriad of valuable on-site and off-site benefits. Benefits include increased soil health, reduced stormwater runoff, conservation of potable water and associated energy for pumping and treatment. These benefits are more difficult to quantify but nonetheless provide a much needed advantage especially in the realm of strategic planning.
When designing rainwater harvesting systems, it is important to calibrate and size the capacity for the application it supplies. In other words, a determination of how much water is being used needs to be made to give an idea of how much water needs to be captured. This water balancing calculation is often difficult to evaluate and typically requires the skills of an experienced professional involved in the latest irrigation, planting, and water conservation design techniques. During the early planning stages, the design of a landscape can be crafted to minimize water use while providing the desired aesthetics, along with the installation of a rainwater harvesting system to handle the irrigation needs. However, existing landscapes can also be modified to utilize much less water and integrate a rainwater harvesting system to provide a large quantity of irrigation demand.
Rainwater harvesting systems, which are commonplace in Australia and other drought plagued countries, have also spurred an increased awareness of the importance of water conservation. Studies conducted show that just the presence of a rainwater harvesting system can stimulate a water savings of 60 percent. At a time when the whole nation is striving to do more with less, it is wise and satisfying to go back to the basics, regard our natural resources with the utmost importance, and do our part to contribute to the quality of our rivers and bays, landscapes, and security for generations to come.
Bobby Markowitz, founder of Earthcraft Landscape Design, has been designing rainwater harvesting systems and educating professionals for nearly a decade. A licensed Landscape Architect, Accredited Professional by the American Rainwater Catchment System Association, Certified Permaculturist (taught by Founder Bill Mollison), Mr. Markowitz has advanced the viability of water conservation systems into the forefront of landscape architecture. A graduate of Rutgers University, Mr. Markowitz’s work is influenced by his study abroad in Japan and advanced water harvesting workshops in Australia. A frequent guest lecturer and keynote speaker for numerous Landscape Architecture and Rainwater Catchment System Associations, Mr. Markowitz has provided valuable insight into the design of sustainable sites and water conservation systems. In addition to his practice, Bobby Markowitz also teaches “Rainwater Harvesting System: Principles and Design” at Cabrillo College.
My first exposure to waste diversion on a jobsite was a response to LEED requirements. Of all the standards we had to meet, practices we had to modify, and requirements we had to satisfy waste diversion presented the most tangible upside – across the board. It’s obvious, too. Once you have modified your waste handling practices, you realize a few things: first, it is just like recycling at your own house, so it’s something we’re all use to by now; and second, by the time the first loads of cardboard, plastics, and clean lumber cut-offs have been hauled away you can see the enormous quantities of material that you have diverted from the landfill.
The process is really simple. You can create a segregated waste area with separate space for wood, cardboard, plastics, and garbage that fits the space you have on the jobsite whether small or large. If the jobsite is spacious and you can fit a few containers, your local waste handler can often provide separate bins. Otherwise, simple plywood boxes work fine. Most local dumps have recycling centers, which makes dropping the material off very easy. There is generally a significant cost savings when leaving clean material at the dump rather than “construction debris.” On the LEED project referenced above, we saw a 40% reduction in our typical waste handling costs.
Carpenters and tradespeople are generally resourceful, so we’ve found this effort integrated into the jobsite operations smoothly. With our own crews we found that with our new practices of segregating and diverting clean material from the dump, there have been trickle-down benefits. For example, instead of cutting up new lumber for structural blocking, our crew is salvaging from the clean waste lumber pile first.
As a builder, one of the most astonishing things we see is how much material goes into even the most sustainable homes. And often there is a lot of waste produced in an effort to build such homes. By segregating the waste material we calculated that 85% or more of the material could be diverted from the landfill. It’s clear that changing this one practice can make the process of constructing a green home much more sustainable.
Brendan Connolly manages projects and is COO for Groza Construction in Monterey, CA.
With the official launch of LEED for Homes in February of 2008, we were already consulting on several custom LEED-H pilot projects. We provide LEED-H “Representative” services through the LEED-H “Provider” in California, Davis Energy Group. The Representative is similar to having a LEED consultant on a LEED-NC project, except there is a strict limitation on the Representative’s time, since they are contracted through the Provider in an effort to keep certification costs down. The Provider is contracted by USGBC to act as the local agent for USGBC, since there is such a large volume of residential projects compared with other LEED programs. The program works fairly well, as long as the architect and contractor are savvy with green building, energy, water and indoor air quality.
Our most successful projects hired us independently to provide additional LEED-H consulting, which eased the burden on the design team and contractor. Some owners and architects initially expect LEED-H fees paid to USGBC to cover the consulting portion, which Davis Energy describes as the “how you do it” scope of work. Fees charged by USGBC, including the Representatives’ time, actually only cover the “did you do it?” scope of work. Davis Energy encourages owners and design teams to hire the Representatives independently, if the design team needs support in meeting prerequisites and credits. The most successful projects either pay someone in-house or hire a LEED consultant to coordinate, update, and administrate the LEED-H process. LEED-H requires numerous documents in addition to the LEED-H checklist, such as the Thermal Bypass Checklist, Accountability Forms, Durability Evaluation, and Rater Checklist. Keeping track of all these documents and preparing them at the appropriate time is challenging and confusing, particularly given the ongoing evolution of the LEED-H program. It is also important to keep in mind that the design team, owner, and contractor are also required to produce supporting documentation for each credit. Many people have the false impression that a LEED consultant prepares everyone’s documentation for them.
The main areas of discussion around LEED for Homes are hard and soft costs, prerequisites and credits. I’ve heard people say that only the top 15% of homes are targeted for LEED-H. This may be due to design team experience, quality of construction, potential added costs, and sheer will of the owner and architect. We had 5 LEED-H Platinum Homes certified last year where the added hard costs were very low; in the range of 2%-5% with a per square foot cost under $250. Those five homes are also net-zero energy homes. We also have the other spectrum of larger “green” custom homes that do not fit into Sarah Susanka’s “Not So Big House” concept; I’ll call them “Case Study Green Homes.” Added costs for LEED on these case study projects may actually be a smaller fraction of the overall costs, since volume and fancy finishes typically outweigh green elements and systems. Our hope is that working together, we can streamline the LEED-H program with the goal of added hard costs under 2% and added soft costs for the entire team under $10,000. It would be interesting to hear what others have to say about added soft costs and program efficiency improvements.
LEED-H Silver house in Palm Springs by Solterra Development
Michael Heacock + Associates is a LEED consulting firm with offices in San Francisco and Santa Barbara. Their work includes schools, commercial, public, institutional and residential projects.
California Academy of Sciences photo: Tom Fox
As a part of the Landscape Architecture firm for the new California Academy of Sciences Building in San Francisco, SWA Group, I wanted to share one of lesser known successes of the 2.5 acre Vegetated/Living Roof. This success is the creation of a native landscape habitat within the Golden Gate Park, located three stories above the ground plane. The Academy’s roof is planted with native plants which separates the native plantings from the non-native plantings of the park below. Since the installation of native species, the roof has begun to naturalize with native insects, bird habitats, and non-planted plants that have migrated to their preferred location on the roof. Researchers have been finding that there are more native insect species on the roof than in the surrounding park below, and that this may be attributed to the use of native plant material on the roof, according to researchers. The roof has created a native refuge that will allow the seven hill topped roof to continue grow and evolve into a native California hillside.
Along with the creation of the native habitat, the roof structure is also collecting water that falls on the roof, including the water irrigation runoff in addition to precipitation. The roof’s water run off is directed to a recharge chamber located under the building that then recharges the aquifers within Golden Gate Park. These aquifers also supply the park with its own irrigation water, which irrigates the entire park including the Academy Building. So rainfall and supplemental irrigation that the roof’s plants cannot use, and would otherwise go into a storm drain, now go into the recharging of the natural aquifers and can be used again to keep the roof alive. The roof acts as a successful and symbiotic living part of its environment that functions as a part of its own healthy habitat by providing animal and plant habitats while also aiding in the site’s hydrological process of aquifer recharge. The roof of this great building is proving truly to be a Living System.
SWA Group Project Team: John Loomis, Laurence Reed, and Zachary Davis
Photography by Tom Fox
Bird's-eye view photo: Tom Fox
Viewing platform on living roof photo: Tom Fox
Living roof detail photo: Tom Fox
On top of living roof, looking at DeYoung Museum photo: Tom Fox
Travis Theobald is an Associate at SWA Group, a world renown landscape architecture, planning, and urban design firm.
As designers and implementers of designn, we know that integrated design theoretically makes sense. However, when it comes to installing renewable energy systems, it is more and more critical that we actually put theory into action. So I’d like to go through a couple of real world examples of what can happen (or not happen) when we don’t work together as a team from the outset of a project.
As a LEED for Homes representative, GreenPoint rater and HERS rater, I have the opportunity to work with a project from the outset of design through construction. Of course, we know that things change along the way from design to during construction and how well a project gets coordinated has become a bigger “hat” than one person can wear. As someone who is intimately familiar with rebate programs and incentives for Solar Electric systems and energy efficiency, part of my role is to verify the performance of the Photovoltaic system AND the energy efficiency of the home. This is a requirement for the New Solar Homes Partnership rebate progra.. http://www.gosolarcalifornia.org/
What I’d like to run through is a situation where the homeowner decided near the end of construction to put a Solar electric system on his house (rather than at the beginning) and beacuse the Solar company and the General Contractor were not “used to working with each other” this caused a lot of headaches for all the parties involved. To qualify for the New Solar Homes Partnership rebate, the house must exceed energy code requirements by 15% or better. Sometimes this is relatively easy to do by upgrading mechanical equipment or windows but more and more, we will need to add performance based testing credits such as duct testing for duct leakage or quality insulation inspection to meet this higher threshold especially when the 2008 energy code goes into effect August 1st. http://www.energy.ca.gov/title24/index.html
In our example house, when the permits werer applied for, it just barely exceeded the energy compliance margin needed for a permit. This has been a very typical approach when applying for a building permit. But most Green building and rebate programs require a home to exceed the energy code by 15% or better. So for our example house, a number of options were run by the general contractor and solar contractor to get the house to the 15% threshold. This is where a more experienced energy consultant who better understands energy options with their associated costs and acutal efficiency is necessary. They must also be a Certified Energy Plans Examiner to qualify for the New Solar Homes Partnership program.
Because of the size of the home, this house had two forced air units. The mechanical contractor said one of the furnaces could be upgraded to a 92% AFUE but not both because the venting of one of the units would be complicated. The homeowner was also told he could save some money going from an on-demand water heater to a more standard 50 gal. storage type water heater to save on first costs. The insulation was already installed as were the windows so no changes could by made there. Because both furnaces could not be upgraded to a 92% and the water heater was “down graded,” a duct test for duct leakage was needed to make up for the change. This information was run by the mechanical contractor who felt confident that his duct system would pass the test but also admitted that he had never had any of his systems tested before. So when it came time to test the duct system, it didn’t end up passing. By that time, the water heater and furnaces were installed, thus making a change back to the on-demand water heater expensive. Now, we have a mechanical contractor who is a bit embarrassed but says to the general contractor that he was not requested to bid the job to pass a “tight duct” test. So the general contractor asks him to put together a bid for the additional work to seal the system which then the homeowner odjects to because he doesn’t understand why the system isn’t passing and doesn’t see why he should have to pay more to “fix” a new system. As you can begin to see, things start to get ugly with no one wanting to take responsibility and the homeowner getting more confused and frustrated with the whole process.
So now let’s look at a project where you have the architect, homeowner, general contractor, solar contractor, energy consultant and HERS rater involved during the design of the home. First, the homeowner knows he or she is interested in building as close to a zero energy home as possible but doesn’t really know what that will mean in terms of construction costs, equipment and space considerations. So the architect works with the energy consultant to explore different mechanical systems that could work with a solar electric system and exceed the code by 15%. We explore a radiant system using a heatpump to water exchange system, a fan coil system and a more standard ducted system using a heatpump system. All this information is passed by the general contractor who also runs this by his mechanical sub-contractor for cost and ease of installation. The ducted split heatpump system is agreed upon by the owner, since they decide they want both heating and air conditioning. The General Contractor brings in the Solar contractor to get an idea of system size and cost as well as where to locate panels and quipment and passes this information to the architect. Because the house is designed with energy efficiency in mind, it exceeds the energy code by 36% which qualifies it for a $2000 energy efficiency rebate (Tier 2) form PG&E. It also passes the IECC code by 50%, which qualifies it for another $2000 Federal Tax Credit. This is in addition to the NSHP rebate for the solar system plus the 30% Federal tax credit on the remaining balance of the system. So not only does the homeowner get these additional incentives, they are actually designing a home to be more energy efficient in the first place which is a mindset we all need to adopt.
As the architect or designer working with a homeowner, here are some guidelines to better integrate renewable energy into your project:
Assess the homeowner’s level of interest in going “green.” Do they drive a Prius? Or if they know about potential rebates and incentives, would that interest them in Solar? Let them know that there are potential rebates and tax credits available to them and that they should consider these options early in the design process. As the designer, you also need to design in a portion of the roof area to accomodate solar panels as well as the weight of the panels.
If you can get the input of a general contractor who has experience with green building and energy efficiency as well as a solar contractor during the design process, this will insure the successful integration of your design with renewable energy. This may also elp the homeowner decide who they want to work with when they get under construction.
Work with your energy consultant as early in the design process as possible. All Green building and Utility rebate programs require energy efficiency as a top priority. Give your consultant the most realistic options that will ensure your design will be as energy efficient as possible.
Sharon Block is a LEED AP who specializes in LEED for Homes, Green Point rated for New and Existing homes, as well as California Multi-family New Homes Program. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.blockenergygreen.com