Tag Archives: Passive House

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

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.

Looking Through the Glass

Winter is just around the corner, and I’m sure at some point you have told your kids, “we are not paying to heat the outside, so keep the window closed!” Unfortunately, 25-30% of heat loss goes right out of a typical brand name window which means you could be paying to heat the outside even if your windows and doors are shut tight!

Serious Windows = Alpen High Performance Products

In a previous post we talked all about the benefits of Serious Windows, however, there has been some changes in the company.  A press release  indicated Serious Windows was recently purchased by Alpen HPP, LLC.  The great thing about the transition is that only the name has changed, all the information is still the same and you are still getting a great energy efficient window. Alpen High Performance Products will continue to manufacture the same highly energy efficient fiberglass window and architectural glass products for residential and commercial applications

Advantages to Fiberglass Windows

What makes Alpen’s windows so energy efficient is the fact that they are made of fiberglass.  Fiberglass windows are more energy efficient, durable, stronger, aesthetically appealing and environmentally friendly compared to typical wood, aluminum or vinyl window. Fiberglass is also made with silica sand, an abundant natural resource that is readily available almost everywhere.  A few of the most important benefits include:

  1. High condensation resistance which helps keep humidity within a proper range and limits the growth of mold and mildew.
  2. Performs well in humidity extremes and hot and cold environments.
  3. Tight seals maintain the resistance to air leakage and water penetration.
  4. Does not rot or warp.
  5. Easy to install

Fiberglass windows are a smart choice for green building for several reasons. First, they have high R-Values and low U-factors which will save energy for decades. When shopping for windows, you want one with a high R-Value and a low U-factor. Other window companies rarely mention the R-Value of their windows, and when they do, they use the R-Value taken at the center of the glass, which is the most efficient part of the window.  Alpen advertises the full frame R-Value of their windows.

Second, Alpen’s windows uses suspended film technology. Suspended film windows are much more energy efficient then the typical dual pane windows. Suspended film combines both thin film and glass-based coatings to create a lightweight, multi-chamber insulating glass unity that reflects heat and harmful UV radiation while maximizing light transmission and superior insulating performance.

Tuned Glazing Package

Alpen glass technologies offers the ability to provide a “Tuned Glazing” window package which are suspended film windows equipped with coatings technology that uses the sun to its advantage depending on the orientation of the home. For example, a window that has a low solar heat gain can be put on the south facing wall of the home. This will help heat the home in the winter months. This can also improve the use of natural daylight and views. High solar heat gain windows would be beneficial on other elevations of the home, especially the west, because they are more energy efficient overall and help keep heat out of the home during the summer months.

Alpen’s windows has a full lifetime warranty for as long as you own and reside in your home, which is one of the strongest warranties in the industry.

Great Lakes Carpentry specializes in high performance home building. We strive to build super-insulated building envelopes and Alpen windows are the perfect window in helping us achieve these goals.

To learn more about Alpen High Performance Products or energy efficient home building contact us at info@greatlakescarpentry.com. Also, check out Great Lakes Carpentry else where on the web: Facebook, Twitter, and our Website.

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.