Category Archives: About Us

Explains more in depth of what our company is about, our qualifications, and our mission.

SIP’s and Why We Love Them

Our first experience with using foam on the exterior of a structure, besides using it to insulate our poured concrete foundations, was during 2005, when we built our first Timberpeg, Post & Beam home.

Timberpeg Frame

Timberpeg Frame

We had the choice of implementing one of two different methods. The first method is what’s referred to as “wrap and strap”. This method relies on the use of multiple layers of 4’x8′  foil-faced, isocyanurate foam panels, 4’x8′ sheets of plywood and 1×4 pine strapping.
This method provides an excellent thermal boundary, while leaving the beauty of the timber-frame joinery fully exposed at the interior of the home.
The “wrap and strap” method helps to hold down materials costs, but due to the fact that it requires multiple trips around the structure, in order to install each layer, it requires more labor than the second method of using SIP panels to enclose the frame.

Wrap & Strap

Wrap & Strap Method

We choose the “wrap and strap” method, because of the material cost savings, but after taking those multiple “trips” around the house, we vowed to try the SIP option on our next Timberpeg post & beam project and we did just that.

Heart & Soul of Beauty & Strength

Heart & Soul of Beauty & Strength

SIP Roof Panels on Timberpeg Frame

SIP Roof Panels on Timberpeg Frame

Our experience has shown that the SIP panels speed the process and provide higher levels of air-tightness and strength.

It was obvious to us that SIP panels were the perfect way to create a strong, air-tight, robust thermal boundary for our Timberpeg projects, but we realized that some of our clients might not be interested in a timber frames structure to go along with the SIP’s.
We immediately became interested it bringing this building envelope system to our all of our clients. Folks that might not be interested in a beautiful post & beam frame, but wanted a home that was safe, durable and energy-efficient.

We did our homework and researched the different SIP panel companies. We were looking for a company that had the best system, had a great reputation for customer satisfaction and wasn’t too far from our home range.
We found Enercept to be the best of the  SIP panel companies.
Their commitment to quality and service is second to none. It is a real pleasure to work with people who share our values and our commitment to helping people save energy and our environment. At that time Enercept had been in business for over 25 years and had a great track record.

In our previous post, we talked about the challenges we face in educating consumers and SIP’s fall under the category of the unknowns.

According to  the Structural Insulated Panel Association, (SIPA)
SIP panels were invented at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in the mid 1930’s.
Some of the earliest examples of SIP construction can be found in the Usonian homes, designed by visionary architect and early adopter,  Frank Lloyd Wright.
It was one of Wright’s student’s, Alden B. Dow, son of Dow Chemical founder, that was the first to use foam between the panel skins.
That was in 1951. Now, you know.

SIP’s have been around for quite a while, but public awareness of this killer-app building envelope technology has gone almost unheard of… Until now.

First Panel for Energy Sipper

First Panel for Energy Sipper

Think about that last scolding hot coffee or chocolate that came in a styrofoam cup. You had 1/8 of an inch of foam, between your hand and the hot liquid.
Now, think about a wall system with 5-1/2″ or 7-1/2″ of foam in your walls and 9-1/2″ or 12″ of foam in your roof system. Are you catching on?
SIP homes are very energy-efficient. They are also very air-tight.
Did I mention quiet? SIP homes are also very quiet. The sound deadening properties of SIP panels are excellent.

Another benefit of building with SIP’s is the construction time line. We’re able to get projects under-roof in record time. The last two SIP homes that we built were in the 1800 square foot range and each was under-roof within 4 days.

SIP homes are also very strong, due to the nature of the construction of a SIP panel and the shear strength inherent with its design. SIP homes are 2-1/2 times stronger than typically built homes. There are many reports of SIP homes surviving earth quakes and tornadoes, worldwide.

As you can see, there are huge benefits to building with SIP’s.
We at Great Lakes Carpentry believe that using SIP panels for our building envelopes makes perfect. We consider them to be the wave of the future.
The small amount of extra costs to build using SIP’s is recovered very early on, after which our clients realize very meaningful savings on the costs to operate their homes, for the life of the home.

One would think that cutting edge home building technology like this would be part of the conversation, when considering a new home. This is not the case.
We continue to encounter folks that don’t  have a clue about this great way to build. Our biggest hurdle lies in educating the customer.
In most cases, once we show our prospects this system, they have a eureka moment. They get it! Because it’s so obvious.
Who wouldn’t want to save 40% to 60% on their energy costs?

We refer to our most recent SIP home as “The Energy Sipper”, because of the fact that is sparingly “SIP’s” energy.
We used Alpen High Performance windows, as they are the perfect fit for this type of building envelope.
We are very proud of the fact that we achieved stellar performance levels for the home. We achieved Passive House air-tightness standards, which are the most stringent energy design criteria in the building industry and we achieved a HERS score (home energy rating system) of 37. The HERS rating is fast becoming the industry standard for calculating the efficiency of new homes. Similar to miles per gallon. We strive to reach the lowest number possible.
Net-zero energy homes are on the horizon and we’re anxious to get the opportunity to build our first in the near future.

The Energy Sipper

The Energy Sipper

Great Lakes Carpentry specializes in building what we refer to as “Future Proof” homes. SIP’s are a big part of our strategy.
As always, our goal is to help educate the public about the benefits to building energy-efficient new homes and remodeling projects.
If you find this post educational and you believe in building homes that are part of the solution and not the problem, forward this post to a fiend.
Together, we can help drive the paradigm shift to building responsibly.

We love to talk about energy efficiency and building science. If you have any questions or are interested in building a future-proof home, contact us today.
www.greatlakescarpentry.com

Focus on Energy/Focus on Education

The year of 2006 marked a milestone year of change for Great Lakes Carpentry. That was the year that we fully embraced the concept of building  sustainable, energy-efficient homes.

We were very proud and excited that we had made the leap from the old paradigm of home building, which primarily focuses on the visual aspects of the exterior and interior of the home and broadened our focus to include the performance aspects of the homes we build. We enrolled and tested our homes through the Wisconsin Energy Star New Homes Program and certified them “Green” through Wisconsin Environmental Initiative’s “Green Built Homes” program.

For us at Great Lakes Carpentry the paradigm shift made perfect sense. The “Green” movement was gaining traction and it seemed that everyone would be climbing on board. We anticipated that the “Green” home building field would become full, as our competitors rushed to join the movement.
I’m sad to say that in our area the “rush” to enter this market segment has yet to come.

That didn’t stop us. We jumped in, with both feet.
We studied Building Science and came to realize the benefits of taking a “holistic approach” to the design/build process and in implementing  “building science best practices” into all of the homes we build.
We immediately understood that energy efficiency is the cornerstone of green building practices. We focused on energy and honed our skills at making our building envelopes as well insulated and air-tight as we possibly could.

Our understanding fostered a sense of responsibility and we knew that there was no turning back. No longer could we recommend building run of the mill homes.
We couldn’t recommend using old technology , materials and methods that lead to wasted energy, poor indoor-air quality and degradation of the structure with a clear conscience.

Since 2006, we’ve earned our Certified Green Building Professional designation, through the National Association of Home Builder’s, National Green Building Standard program and we’ve become Trade Allies of Focus on Energy New Homes program. We’ve carved ourselves a niche, as the only Certified Green Building Professional designation holder, for miles around.
CGP Logo

We’ve evolved into a group of, “happy people, building sustainable, energy-efficient homes.” Our field and office staff have a purposeful step to their stride.
They hold their heads high and take pride in their extraordinary skill sets, the meaningful work that they do and in our commitment as a team to this “Mission with Purpose.”

Each new home offers the opportunity to hone our skills and to improve upon the performance data gathered while testing our previous projects.
Our team takes pleasure in rising to the challenge to do better at every opportunity.
We think that this is a win, win, win scenario.
The customer wins, by getting a home that is safe, durable, energy-efficient and  costs much less to operate than the typical home. Our environment wins, because we’ve reduced the amount of green-house gas generated for operating the home and our staff wins, because of the sense of accomplishment and pride taken from doing the right thing for our client and our environment.

We focus on energy and how to reduce the amount of energy required to operate the homes we build and we focus on educating  our staff, our trade partners and our vendors, so that we can work as a team to produce what we like to call, “Future Proof Homes.”

Focus on Energy  New Homes Program

Focus on Energy
New Homes Program

If you’d like to learn more about our Focus on Energy and Education, visit our website. www.greatlakescarpentry.com

Believe it our not. This was the easy part.
Our biggest challenge lies in education consumers.

Stay tuned.
We’ll talk more about this challenge in our next post.

Tools of the Trade IV

In our last post, we talked about using the Duct Blaster, for testing the duct work in our high-performance homes.

Duct Blaster

Duct Blaster

In this post, we’ll focus on the importance of providing proper mechanical ventilation in all homes and how we use “Tools of the Trade” to test the performance of ventilation systems in the new homes we build and in our remodeling work.

The Balometer is one of the “Tools of the Trade” that we use to test the performance of the mechanical ventilation equipment that we install in our high-performance homes.
tsi-alnor-ebt731-balometer-capture-hood

Balometer® instrument directly reads average air flow rate, either intake or outflow, at ceiling, wall or floor diffusers.

In use, air to be measured is directed past a manifold which senses flow at multiple points spread across a carefully sized area. The manifold is designed so that the air volume is sensed at either supply or return diffusers with equal accuracy.

In our quest to build increasingly tighter homes, we came to realize how critical it is that we take an active role in managing moisture vapor in our homes.

Heat recovery ventilators (HRV), bath fans and range hoods are key components used to help manage indoor-air quality by expelling moist, stale air.
Moisture is the cause of over 90% of building and building material failures. (ASHRAE)

Through our study of building science, we’ve come to realize that in the cold climate where we build, a one inch hole in the building envelope will attract 30 quarts of moisture during the course of one heating season.
When I first heard of this phenomena, I was shocked and thought that this couldn’t be true, but when you consider the fact that each occupant contributes 4 pints of moisture, per day, through breathing and perspiration, you start to get a clue.
When you take into account the moisture that your pets, plants and non-vented combustion appliances add to the equation, you get a sense of how this can have an impact.
Now, consider the additional 4 pints of moisture that each occupant contributes each day, by cooking and bathing and you can see how it’s easy to reach the 30 quart mark for a heating season.

Simply installing properly sized mechanical ventilation equipment isn’t good enough.

Balometer

Testing Bath Fan Flow Rate

We use the Balometer to test and verify the performance of each system installed.

We’ve seen far too many bath fans, in particular, that did not perform as specified. The builder may not have understood how to calculate the drop in flow rate that some ducting options contribute to. The distance from the fan and where exhaust exits the structure might not have been taken into consideration. The installer might have missed the fact that there was a screw holding the damper shut for shipping purposes and neglected to remove it.
The duct work could have too many turns or was crushed during the course of insulation work being performed. There are many factors that contribute to the performance of mechanical exhaust equipment.

At Great Lakes Carpentry, we don’t simply install any type of mechanical ventilation equipment and walk away.
We take mechanical exhaust ventilation into consideration during the design phase. We plan our path and calculate distance to where exhaust will terminate. We consider size of room, length and configuration of duct run and duct material and size, in order to properly size the exhaust equipment.

Testing Trumps Talk.

With so many ways for an installation to go wrong, testing is crucial.
By using “Tools of the Trade” to verify that all mechanical exhaust ventilation is properly installed and functioning as it should, we provide our clients with  added value and peace of mind in knowing that everything is operating and functioning as it should.

The final link in the chain is perhaps the weakest.
Too often, we’ve heard of complaints from homeowners about moisture problems in the bathroom and have come to find that the occupants aren’t turning the fans on when they enter the bathroom.We’ve worked to resolve this problem by providing our client’s with a homeowners operating manual.
We educate our clients on the necessity of using exhaust ventilation and in some instances we’ll install a delayed timer switch or linked the fan with the light switch, so it comes on by default when the light is switched on.

State building codes are legal minimums. Performance standards are mediocre and there is no testing required.

Great Lakes Carpentry is building next generation, homes for the future, now.
Now that you have a choice, the question becomes; Do you want your home to be built to minimums, with no accountability from your builder and no clue as to how efficient your building envelope, combustion appliances and ventilation equipment performs,  or would you prefer to build to higher standards of performance and accountability? The choice is yours.

If you’d like to learn more about home performance testing, exhaust ventilation, high-performance home building or building science, contact us. We love to talk about this stuff!

Please stay tuned for our next post, where we’ll talk about the Psychometric Calculator, how we use it to determine the dew point and how that relates to you and your home.

Great Lakes Carpentry is “Building Today for a Greener Tomorrow”

Tools of the Trade Part III

Our previous post focused on the infrared thermal imaging scanner that we use to detect air infiltration into new and existing homes.

Infrared Scanner

Infrared Scanner

In this post we’ll focus on another of the diagnostic tools of the trade that we use to verify supply and return-air efficiencies in forced-air heating/cooling systems.

We use the Minneapolis Duct Blaster to perform a “Total Leakage Test” of the duct system.

Duct Blaster

Duct Blaster

The Duct Blaster is a device that uses pressure testing to find the amount and location of air leakage in a duct system.
To do the test, we seal all outlets except for one on the return side of the system. This is the side that returns stale air to the furnace to be reconditioned. The Duct Blaster is connected to this return-air opening and then turned on to blow air into the ducts. The air goes through the return ducts to the air handler and then through the supply ducts. If the duct system is very tight, it doesn’t take much airflow through the fan to pressurize the ducts. If you have a big leak, like a disconnected plenum or duct, it will be next to impossible to pressurize the ducts adequately.  This would be like trying to pump air into a tire that has a big hole in it.

The process yields quantitative results because testing requires two pressure measurements: one inside the ducts and the other inside the fan. The first allows the tester to compare results from different systems by always pressurizing to the same level. The second measures the airflow in the fan when that level is reached. As mentioned above, tight ducts means low airflow, and leaky ducts require lots of airflow.

Pressurizing only the ducts determines the total leakage. That includes the air that escapes into the conditioned space and the air that leaks to the outside of the building envelope (i.e., the attic or crawl space). The latter is the most important part because you derive no benefit from it. To separate it from the total leakage, we pressurize the house to the same level as the ducts by using the Blower Door. Then, when the Duct Blaster brings the ducts up to the required pressure, none will leak to the inside of the house because it’s at the same pressure as the ducts. The fan only has to blow enough air in to make up for the leakage to the outside, and that’s the amount that’s important.

This is a picture of the blower door ready for use.

This is a picture of the blower door ready for use.

In a tight air distribution system, the leakage to the outside (in cubic feet per minute, or cfm) will be 5% or less of the square footage of the home. Most new installations start at about 15% to 20%, and go downhill from there. At those rates, a third of the heating and cooling bills could be a direct result of duct leakage.

After performing a Duct Blaster test to determine the amount and locations of air and duct leakage, we seal up the leaks that we find. Upon completion the house and/or duct system will perform better, and your heating and cooing bill will be lower.

You can follow this link to a you tube video part 1 of 4 videos.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sk-A08zsguE

As they say at Focus on Energy, “Testing Trumps Talk” and we couldn’t agree more.
By testing and  verifying the tightness of the building envelope and the duct systems in our high-performance homes, we are able to identify any deficiencies and take corrective measures.

Lower operating costs, greater comfort, safety, durability and higher resale values are just a few of the benefits realized by implementing building science principles and best practices into the homes that we build.

By testing, inspecting, and documenting the quality of work, we bring a higher level of added value and peace of mind for our clients.

The Duct Blaster is another diagnostic tool of the trade that helps us in delivering the added value that is built-in to our high-performance homes and remodel projects.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can provide added value to your new home or remodel, please visit our website and contact us.
http://www.greatlakescarpentry.com

In our next post, we’ll talk about mechanical ventilation, exhaust equipment and the diagnostic tools of the trade that we use to verify performance and efficiency of this critical component of the high-performance homes we build.

Great Lakes Carpentry is “Building Today for a Greener Tomorrow.”

 

Tools of the Trade Part II

In our previous “Tools of the Trade”post we focused on the “Blower Door.”
The blower door is the device that we use to simulate a 20 mph wind coming at the home from all directions, simultaneously.

This is a picture of the blower door ready for use.

This is a picture of the blower door ready for use.

We talked about the blower door being a peripheral of the laptop computer that is used, the software and the pressure and flow gauge that help us in gathering the data that tells us how air-tight the home is.
We showed you one of the low-tech tools used to locate specific areas of air-infiltration, the smoke stick.

This week we want to show you the high-tech version of this “Tool of the Trade” that we use to locate specific areas of air-infiltration, the Infrared Scanner/Camera.

Infrared Scanner/Camera

Infrared Scanner/Camera

In the hands of someone that’s been trained in the science of infrared imaging (Thermography), such as our Home Performance Professional, this is a very powerful tool of the trade.

Once we’ve depressurized the home to 50 pascal by running the blower door, we use the IR scanner to locate any air-infiltration, by scanning all of the “usual suspects” for air-infiltration.
We scan all exterior walls, window and doors, roof assemblies and where the roof assembly meets the exterior wall.

Scanning for Air-Infiltration

Scanning for Air-Infiltration

We are able to take pictures of the images that the IR scanner produces and attach the images to the reports that we generate for review by our carpentry crew, our insulation trade contractors and by our clients.

When we enroll an existing home in the Home Performance with Energy Star program, we refer to this testing process as a “Whole-House Energy Assessment”
We use this information to determine deficiencies in the existing homes that we test, so we can define the scope of our work for taking corrective measures.
We refer to this initial test as “Testing In.”
The homeowner is provided with the performance data compiled during the initial test and with a “Prescriptive Path to Remedy” any existing deficiencies.

Once the owner of an existing home approves the scope of work necessary to correct deficiencies, we perform the corrective work and then we “Test Out.”
By doing so, we provide the homeowner with improved performance data and documentation that they’ve done due diligence in improving the efficiency and performance of their home.
This leads to more than a lower energy bills, greater comfort and a healthier indoor environment. It leads to higher re-sale values.

We use these same tools of the trade and methods to test our new homes as well.
Here in Northern Wisconsin, we enroll the new homes that we build in the “Focus on Energy New Homes Program.
The performance data that we gather by testing verifies that we’ve met and in most cases, exceeded program standards for certification.
As the folks at Focus on Energy say, “Testing Trumps Talk.”
We don’t expect our clients to simply take our word on how efficient their homes are.
We put science to work and third independent testing services to verify the efficiency of the homes that we build.
At Great Lakes Carpentry, we believe that by building to higher performance levels and testing our projects, we provide. much more than just added value.  We provide peace of mind by using science to prove that what we’ve done was done right.

What we’ve shown so far are just a few of the “Tools of the Trade” that we use for testing our high-performance new homes and energy remodeling work that we perform.

We’ll showcase some of the other tools of the trade in our next post.

Raising the Bar

When we built the very first full-log home in the State of Wisconsin to be Wisconsin Energy Star Rated and Green-Built Certified, we were very proud of ourselves.
As far as we knew, no other builder in Wisconsin had even attempted to meet these performance standards for a full-log home at that time.
Great Lakes Carpentry, Inc. provided project management and executed all carpentry aspects of the project, in partnership with our now defunct sister company, Timberlog Works, LLC.
We “raised the bar” for performance and efficiency of full-log homes and we expected the field to become crowded with other full-log home builders, striving to achieve the same, if not higher levels of efficiency. Sadly, it didn’t.

We began this project in 2006.

High Performance Log

High Performance Log

The pride and sense of purpose that this project fostered was phenomenal.
We realized that we could do so much more than build beautiful full-log and timber frame homes. We found that we could bring much more added value to our clients by implementing building science principles and best practices into the design and build phases of our new home projects and in doing so, we were helping our clients to realize meaningful savings on their energy costs, providing them with durable structures that have a healthy indoor environment, all while helping to reduce their carbon footprint.
This really “raised the bar” on our mission and purpose.

It was during this period that we discovered and adopted the Kaizen philosophy of continuous incremental improvement and applied these concepts to our home building operation.
Thanks, to Dr. W. Edwards Deming, the Japanese adopted this philosophy during the post World War II era of re-construction and the Japanese used it to become highly competitive in the auto and electronics industries.

We’ve been in competition with ourselves ever since. Striving to make each house more air-tight and energy-efficient than the previous.
By enrolling our homes in the Focus on Energy New Homes Program, we use science to test each of our projects, in order to discover any deficiencies and to define the level of air-tightness and efficiency we’ve achieved.  This gives us a baseline and benchmark for making the next project more efficient than the previous.

To date, we’ve certified more full-log homes than any other builder in our State and we’re proud of this accomplishment.

Another Energy Star Log Home

Another Energy Star Log Home

Attention to detail and spray foam insulation had a lot to do with our log home success.
During this same period we started building Timberpeg timber frame homes and for our first outing we used multiple layers of high-performance foam sheathing on the exterior and quickly determined that using Structural Insulate Panels (SIP’s) was a better approach.

Heart of Timber Frame

Heart of Timber Frame

Timber Frame InteriorLog Sided Exterior

Timber Frame Interior
Log Sided Exterior

We’ve tested and certified all of our timber frame homes to date and in the process came to the conclusion that we needed to offer this type of performance to those that might not be in the market for a full-log or timber frame home.

We did our home work and discovered what we believe to be the best SIP panels on the market. As independent dealers and factory trained installation specialists for Enercept SIP’s, we offer some of the strongest, most durable, air-tight and energy-efficient homes on the market.
We consider SIP’s to be the building envelope system of the future.
We refer to our most recent SIP home project as “The Energy Sipper”, because it does exactly that. It sparingly sips energy.

The Energy Sipper

The Energy Sipper

We’ve “raised the bar” considerably, with this project by achieving Passive House air-tightness standard and a HERS score of 37.

Energy Sipper MPG

Energy Sipper MPG

This is the chart that we received from Focus on Energy, depicting the level of efficiency we achieved for the Energy Sipper, in comparison with an existing home and a typical new home.. This is similar to MPG for your vehicle.
We consider a SIP structure to be super-insulated, but there is a flaw in this concept. Typical dual pane windows offer no more than a R-3 of insulating value.
Typical brand name windows account for 25%-30% of the heat loss in homes.
We thought it foolish to build a super-insulated structure, only to install windows that would hemorrhage heat loss at ever opening, so…. it was time to “raise the bar”.

We became Alpen High Performance Products window dealers during 2009 (formerly Serious Windows).
We installed Alpen 725 Series Fiberglass windows in the Energy Sipper and they were a huge contributor to the level of performance for this home.
On average, the Alpen windows have a full-frame R-Value of R-5.9, with a U-Factor of 0.17. We’re talking about something other window manufacturers don’t mention.
They want to talk about the U-Factors only and when R-values are mentioned, they are calculated at the center of glass (COG), because this is the most efficient area of any window.
The 725 Series windows we installed in the Energy Sipper are rated at R-9.1 with U-Factors of 0.11 at the center of glass (COG).
These windows help to close the gap for building envelope efficiency, not to mention adding to the comfort level for occupants and in reducing the likely hood of window condensation, a big problem for many homeowners in cold climates, such as ours.

We believe that our mission of saving our clients money on their energy costs, while helping them to reduce their carbon emissions is one of real purpose.
Our field and office staff have a purposeful step to their stride and look forward to the opportunity of taking home building to the next level.

Follow us, as we continue to “raise the bar.”
We look forward to the opportunity of building our first Net-Zero Energy home and to achieving our first Passive House Certification.
All it will take is people with a sense of social and environmental responsibility and the awareness that this is simply the right thing to do, for all of us, for our planet and for generations to come.

If you’re interested in “raising the bar” and building a high-performance full-log, timber frame or SIP home in Northern Wisconsin, contact us at www.greatlakescarpentry.com

Shared Values

As we work to publish our last blog post for the year 2012, we’re compelled to not only look forward but to look back.
We believe that it’s important to look back and acknowledge those organizations that have helped to enrich and enlighten us, by providing forward thinking, continuing education opportunities and by putting forth what we consider to be, shared values.

We’ve given honorable mention and talked about the National Green Building Standard, Focus on Energy and Building Science Corporation in previous blog posts, but we don’t want to let this year pass without giving a shout-out to Energy and Environmental Building Alliance, or as some refer, EEBA.

Back in December of 2009, we traveled  from our home in Northern Wisconsin, to the Chicago area, in order to attend what we considered to be a cutting edge training session, conducted by EEBA.
The course title; “Houses That Work”.
This training session was invaluable, as it helped to strengthen our understanding of building science and how to implement these disciplines and best practices into our high-performance home building operations.
This training session is still being offered in regions throughout the U.S. and a “Houses That Work” DVD is available as well.

I urge you visit the EEBA site, if you plan to build a new home or remodel an existing home, as you’ll find the wealth of knowledge available there to be invaluable.
Follow this link to the “About” page on their site.
Their commitment to continuing education and a philosophy of responsible building practices are values that we hold dear, while we share in their vision of a world where everyone can live in a healthy, safe, durable, energy-efficient home.

If you share in our values and are interested in building or remodeling to a higher energy design standard, contact us today.
We’re Great Lakes Carpentry and we’re Building Today for a Greener Tomorrow!

Energy Efficient Mortagages

All of us at Great Lakes Carpentry are excited and encouraged to see that high performance homes are starting to get the recognition they deserve, from a growing number of lenders.

Have you heard the term “Energy Efficient Mortgage“? (EEM)

The Department of Housing and Urban Development now offers an Energy Efficient Mortgage for qualified home buyers.
HUD realizes that the money saved on each month’s utility bill can be put toward affording a more comfortable, energy-efficient home.

Last year, as a member of the Focus on Energy New Homes Program, we received a press release, regarding an Unprecedented New Home Financing Model;
North Shore Bank of Wisconsin will now offer home mortgage loans at low rates for Wisconsin residents who build a new home that is enrolled in the Focus on Energy New Homes Program.
“North Shore Bank recognizes the financial savings that energy efficiency brings,” said Rovinski. “That’s why we created a special package to allow higher debt to income ratios for those who have Focus on Energy certified homes. We want this program to succeed and for our customers to love their new efficient homes.”
North Shore Bank is demonstrating its leadership on this important front by accepting low down payment options and not selling the loans. In addition, it also has over 45 office locations throughout Wisconsin, helping increase exposure to the Focus on Energy New Homes Program. North Shore Bank’s value-added services offer the convenience and motivation for home-buyers to build a Focus on Energy New Home.

Focus on Energy New Homes Program Advantages;
Focus on Energy New Homes are at least 10 percent more energy-efficient than homes built to Wisconsin’s Uniform Dwelling Code. Moreover, buyers of a Focus on Energy New Home can expect the following: Peace of mind—At every stage, Focus on Energy works with builders to help new homes meet the highest standards for energy efficiency. Lower energy bills—Home-buyers receive a homeowners manual to help them maximize the energy-efficient features of a Focus on Energy New Home. Proof positive—A third-party energy consultant certifies all Focus on Energy New Homes to verify they meet strict standards for energy efficiency, air tightness, insulation, ventilation, and safety. Resale differentiator—Focus on Energy New Home owners who sold their homes reported that energy efficiency was a differentiator for their prospective buyers.
“If you’re in the market to build a new home, an energy-efficient home is a smart investment. You’ll save money, enjoy better air quality, and have a more durable home,” said Carter Dedolph, Focus on Energy Senior Programs Manager. “And, now Focus on Energy New Homes are even more appealing because of loan rates that are less than the national average.”

As more people demand that their new homes and remodel projects be built to higher energy efficiency design standards, more and more lenders will realize that they will need to offer this type of home loan, in order to be competitive.

Those of us at Great Lakes Carpentry firmly believe that the demand for high-performance new homes and remodeling projects, along with financial products that take energy efficiency into account, will grow to the point that both will be looked upon as the “New Normal” for the home building and lending industries.

To learn more about building a high-performance home or remodeling project, contact Great Lakes Carpentry.

The Holistic Approach to Home Building

Understanding the science behind building a home is what the holistic approach is all about. Green builders understand that a home works as a system.  One part of the home cannot operate correctly without working in unison with another. Changes to one component can dramatically change how other components perform. Hiring a contractor that understand these concepts, like Great Lakes Carpentry, has many benefits ranging from durability, to safety, healthy indoor-air quality, to energy saving.

The kind of air we breathe in every day directly affects our health. Controlling the air quality inside the home is a key component to the holistic building approach. Having exhaust fans in  rooms where there is more moisture, such as the bathroom, will hinder mold growth which can pollute the air.  Also, having range hood ventilation in the kitchen is important to controlling combustion gases, moisture, cooking odors and the air quality in the home. Drawing the right amount of air out of the home is important to air quality.  If too much is drawn out, back drafting can occur which might pull hazardous flames and combustion gas back into the home. Good indoor air quality will make your living environment more comfortable and healthy for your family.

Understanding that the home works as a system will help reduce your energy costs.  Having a contractor who instills the holistic approach can help ensure all your appliances work together to save you money. Since your appliances will be working efficiently, they will also last longer.

Try as we might, there are things we cannot control such as the weather. Applying the holistic approach to home building can make your home more durable and less susceptible to weathering. It is important to take into consideration what climate zone you are in when building your home.  If you live in a very warm climate zone, you want to use the outside temperature to your advantage when heating your home. Like wise, if you live in a very cold climate zone, you may want more insulation and use the sun to your advantage to save on heating costs.  Make sure your contractor is aware of these details when buying products such as insulation and windows for your home.

Great Lakes Carpentry always applies the holistic approach when building  new or remodeling a home. Building a new home is a huge investment. We want to make sure your home is built right the first time and will last you for generations to come.

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The Skills Gap and Continuing Education

Advancements in technology have changed the building industry and will continue the change it, which is why it is important to keep up with industry trends. Builders have a responsibility to expand and spread their knowledge to younger generations and get young people interested in the building industry.  Right now, our society is experiencing a skills gap, especially in labor intensive fields as plumbing, electric, and yes, even the building trades.

You may know Mike Rowe from the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs.” Aside from getting dirty and doing jobs that “make civilized life possible for the rest of us,” he developed the mikeroweWORKS Foundation to address the skills gap problem. Here is a short clip of Mike Rowe himself explaining the crisis.

So, what does this mean for Great Lakes Carpentry?  We try the best we can to stay up to date with changes in the building industry, help educate other builders, and our children about the building industry.

In a previous post, we touched on what it means to be a Certified Green Building Professional.  Under that certification, you must complete 12 hours of continuing education every 3 years from building industry- related educational activities.  For example, I just attended an educational building session here in the Northwoods last week.  The seminar was about building science best practices and was held at Northland Pines High School in Eagle River Wis.  The seminar was hosted by the Headwaters Builders Association, where I currently serve as President, and sponsored by Focus on Energy, New Homes Program.

Aside from being part of the Headwaters Builders Association, I serve on the Carpentry Advisory Committee at Nicolet Technical College.  The goal the committee is to provide direction to the educational trades department by getting input from professionals in the building trades industry.

If you are a contractor I hope you are doing your part in order to promote continuing education in the building trades. If not, I encourage you to do your part, get involved in the nearest building association to you.

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