Launch Slideshow

Striking Gold

Project: Private Residence, Orefield, Pa. Size: 4,768 square feet; 7,365 with basement. Cost: Undisclosed. Completed: July 2008. Certifications: NAHB-Gold. HERS rating: 54. Architect: Alan Mascord Design Assoc., Portland, Ore., and studio26 homes. General Contractor/Interior Designer: studio26 homes. Kitchen: Kitchens by WIPCO, Allentown, Pa.

Striking Gold

Project: Private Residence, Orefield, Pa. Size: 4,768 square feet; 7,365 with basement. Cost: Undisclosed. Completed: July 2008. Certifications: NAHB-Gold. HERS rating: 54. Architect: Alan Mascord Design Assoc., Portland, Ore., and studio26 homes. General Contractor/Interior Designer: studio26 homes. Kitchen: Kitchens by WIPCO, Allentown, Pa.

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    John Sterling Ruth Photography

    Project: Private Residence, Orefield, Pa.

    Size: 4,768 square feet; 7,365 with basement

    Cost: Undisclosed

    Completed: July 2008

    Certifications: NAHB-Gold

    HERS rating: 54

    Architect: Alan Mascord Design Assoc., Portland, Ore., and studio26 homes

    General Contractor/Interior Designer: studio26 homes

    Kitchen: Kitchens by WIPCO, Allentown, Pa.

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    Separated from smoke

    A sunroom/smoking room with a ceramic tile floor on the house's southwest side soaks up solar rays. It's sealed off from the rest of the house with gasketed exterior wood doors, insulation, and polyethylene sheeting, and is served by a separate Mitsubishi MUZ-A12NA variable-speed ductless mini-split system with R410A refrigerant and a Panasonic WhisperCeiling exhaust fan for adequate room ventilation. Mitsubishi: 800.433.4822. www.mrslim.com. Panasonic: 800.405.0652. www.panasonic.com.

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    Barry Halkin

    ERV and air cleaner

    Due to its ultra-tight construction, this home “breathes” through its Trane FreshEffects energy recovery ventilator, which continuously exchanges stale air with fresh air and transfers heat and moisture between incoming and outgoing air via a dual-chamber pipe. Before the incoming air is distributed through the home, a Trane CleanEffects air cleaner removes up to 99.98% of airborne allergens, according to the company. 903.581.3660. www.trane.com.

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    Windows

    The house’s 120 aluminum-clad-wood triple-pane windows and patio doors are Energy Star–rated Pella Designer Series with between-the-glass blinds, providing a U-value of 0.23 and an SHGC of 0.26. 800.374.4758. www.pella.com.

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    Barry Halkin

    Plumbing

    A PEX manifold system from Watts delivers heated water directly from tank to tap rather than filling the entire piping system with water, and PEX tubing resists corrosion and retains heat better than copper. The plumbing manifold, located in a central utility room, is a control center for hot and cold water that feeds flexible supply lines (red for hot, blue for cold) directly to individual fixtures. The cold-water manifold is fed from the main water supply line and the hot-water manifold is fed from the water heater. Two propane-fueled 0751 Series Noritz tankless water heaters work in tandem to supply hot water. Watts: 978.688.1811. www.watts.com. Noritz: 866.766.7489. www.noritz.com.

When the Bakers—father James and sons Scott and Brian—launched studio26 homes five years ago, green was still just a buzzword in Eastern Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. But the trio saw the deepening shift in consumer awareness and decided to make super-energy-efficient houses their calling card. For starters, their goal was to reduce energy use by at least 40% compared to other homes built to code.

The Bakers tapped the brain trust at Building America, a research program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. And to make sure their best practices keep hitting the benchmarks, every studio26 project is analyzed by Integrated Building and Construction Solutions (IBACOS), a Building America partner consortium that offers energy modeling. “They do takeoffs of our plans and specs and also work through a general HVAC design,” says Brian, studio26 homes’ vice president of marketing and design.

The latest result of that collaboration is a house in Orefield that earned a Gold rating under NAHB’s Model Green Home Building Guidelines. Its 542 points, earned primarily through indoor air quality and an airtight building envelope that minimizes thermal bridging, far exceeded the Gold minimum of 395 points.

In this case, the design team began with a significant asset on its side: The 1.2-acre parcel’s gentle, south-facing down slope provided the ideal conditions for passive solar heating and daylighting. To ensure sufficient sun exposure throughout the day, not only for passive solar gain but for a future PV installation, the Bakers rotated the house to within 20 degrees of due south. With the long axis running east-west and the rear facing south, all three levels are open to solar gain and are filled with natural light. The contemporary Craftsman style also plays into passive cooling with deep overhangs, porches, and a long Trex deck across the back that shades the walk-out basement.

Given Pennsylvania’s cold winters, super-insulating the walls was a top priority. The builders installed an Xi concrete-and-Styrofoam foundation system from Superior Walls made of 10¼-inch-thick, 10-foot-high sections pre-insulated to R-12.5.

And to increase the energy performance of the foundation walls, the crew installed R-21 formaldehyde-free Johns Manville fiberglass batts into the stud cavities, which raised the basement walls’ overall R-value to 33.5.

The builders tightened the 2x6 wood-framed envelope by adding 1-inch extruded polystyrene to the exterior. All the wood-framed walls were tightly insulated with blown-in, R-23 Johns Manville Spider Custom Insulation, installed at 1.8 pounds per square foot to fill gaps. Using these measures, studio26 was able to beat Building America targets for air leakage. A blower-door test showed 0.101 NACH (natural air exchanges per house), compared to the benchmark 0.131 NACH. A duct-blaster test resulted in 0.5% air leakage, an improvement over Building America’s 1% target.