Tag Archives: Focus on Energy New Homes Program

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 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.

Not Your Little House On The Prairie

A lot of times the thought of a log cabin conjures images of a primitive rustic log home nestled in the woods complete with a wood burning stove and outhouse. However, log homes have come a long way from their meager beginnings.

Another Energy Star Log Home

Energy Star Rated Log Home

Great Lakes Carpentry boasts beautiful homes offering all the traditional comforts of home while protecting the environment as well. From custom designed homes unique to your sense to style and desires to remodels improving the comfort and energy efficiency of your already existing home, as a Certified Green Professional (CGP), Great Lakes Carpentry integrates energy and cost saving elements into your new home or remodel without driving up the cost of construction.

This is a finished Strongwood log home, built in Northern Wis.

Front Porch Elevation

A company cannot become a CGP by merely adding sustainable concepts to a house. In order to be certified, a company must:

1. Complete a curriculum of two required courses
2. Have a minimum of two years of building industry experience
3. Submit an application
4. Adhere to the CGP Code of Ethics

Because technology is constantly changing, education is an important key to being up to date on current trends and emerging techniques. In order to maintain our Certified Green Professional certification, we must complete 12 hours of continuing education every three years.Logo_CGP_2C

Great Lakes Carpentry pioneered building Wisconsin’s first Energy Star Rated and Green-Built Certified Full Log Homes. We strive to provide you with the most energy efficient and athletically pleasing log cabin offered. We know you’ll love your new Great Lakes Carpentry built log home. Welcome home!

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.

HERS is to Home as MPG is to Car

You may or may not have heard of a rating index for homes called a HERS score. That stands for Home Energy Rating System, and was developed in 2006 by RESNET. Just like a car has miles per gallon, which can help you determine how efficient your car is, a HERS rating can tell you how efficient your home is running. The lower the number your home has, the more energy efficient it is.

One of the first requirements a car must have these days, is good gas mileage. When buying a home, one of the requirements should be a good HERS score. Homes that can prove they have a good HERS score make the home more valuable. A HERS rating can also allow the home buyer to anticipate how much energy its going to take to heat and cool the home.

Typical existing homes score between 130 and 140 on the HERS index, which is not that great. A standard new home scores 100, and an Energy Star Rated home scores a 85 on the index. A home that scores zero on the index is considered a net-zero home.

Our most recent project that we refer to as “The Energy Sipper” achieved a HERS score of 37, while achieving “Passive House” air-tightness standard.

If you would like a more technical explanation of the HERS index, click here.

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Passive House

History

Super energy efficient homes are not a thing of the future, but rather a blast from the past.  The Passive House standard was developed in Germany by a physicist Wolfgang Feist in 1996. His inspiration came from the super insulated homes that were being build in the 1970s in the United States and Canada. Now, upwards of 20,000 Passive Houses have been built in Europe while the U.S has built less than two dozen.  A few reasons why this idea did not catch on 40 years ago was because the technology for high performance windows, doors, and ventilation systems were not quite there yet. Politics is also another factor, and still is an important factor when talking about energy efficient building practices. If politicians don’t understand or believe energy efficient building standards are important than its hard to make any progress in the building industry.

Main Goal

The goal of a Passive House is to maximize solar gain. This is achieved through a virtually airtight building envelope, mechanical ventilation, triple-pane windows, and eliminating thermal bridging. The three requirements that a Passive House needs to meet include: Air Infiltration, Btu consumption, and Energy usage.  If these requirements are not met or there is a slight mistake, the home will not acheive the title of Passive House.

Main Advantages

Passive House performance based building standard can result in a home that consumes as little as 10% of the total heating and cooling energy.

Doesn’t fall into the trap that electricity production is better done on the roof.

A Passive House is planned even before the contractor breaks ground. Contractors and the home owner know exactly how much energy the home is going to consume once it is built, and how much it is going to cost of operate.

One of our most recent projects (pictured above) which we refer to as the “Energy Sipper” achieved Passive House air-tightness standard and a HERS score of 37. To learn more about how we can help you get into a super-energy efficient home visit the  Great Lakes Carpentry website. Like us on Facebook, also follow us on Twitter!

If you missed our article last week Net Zero: The Next Frontier check it out. You can also compare and contrast the differences between Passive House and a Net- Zero energy home by visiting Green Building Adviser. If you would like more information about Passive House, check out this PDF.