No humidifier or dehumidifier is needed in the house, Baker says, thanks in part to the use of CertainTeed’s MemBrain, a “smart” vapor retarder stapled to the studs between the insulation and drywall. “When there’s a certain level of humidity in the wall, the pores of the vapor retarder will begin to open and allow vapor to emit into the house, where it can be flushed out and absorbed by the ventilation system,” he says.
Indoor air quality was clearly at the center of the mechanical equipment choices and techniques. The project earned indoor environmental quality points with the use of a Trane energy recovery ventilator that exchanges heat between stale air being exhausted and cooler fresh air being introduced to the system, a Trane CleanEffects whole-house air cleaner, and a separate HVAC system in the sun room on the house’s southwest corner, where one of the owners enjoys the occasional cigar.
The interior materials marry craftsmanship, cleanliness, and sustainability. MAB Enviro-Pure paints emit no VOCs, oak floors and birch cabinetry were sourced in Pennsylvania, and the appliances are Energy Star certified.
Finally, like each of studio26’s projects, the house is pre-wired for future addition of solar panels. It’s one more component of a smart, sophisticated home designed to reduce energy costs and provide a healthy, comfortable atmosphere.
Cheryl Weber is a freelance writer in Lancaster, Pa.
Roofing and Siding
CertainTeed Independence lifetime asphalt shingles earned green points for the home’s proximity to the manufacturing plant. James Hardie integrally colored fiber-cement siding offers durability while saving the need for on-site painting. CertainTeed: 800.233.8990. www.certainteed.com. James Hardie: 888.542.7343. www.jameshardie.com.
First- and second-floor walls are blanketed in formaldehyde-free Johns Manville Spider blown-in insulation, which provides an R-value of 23 in the 2x6 walls. Closed-cell spray-foam insulation by Tiger Foam seals up hard-to-reach corners, headers, sill plates, and band joists. Johns Manville: 800.654.3103. www.specjm.com. Tiger Foam: 800.664.0063. www.tigerfoam.com.
Given its location in a climate where moisture levels are significant for most of the year, the house has a CertainTeed MemBrain vapor barrier between the insulation and drywall. It’s engineered to let walls breathe by allowing water vapor to pass through when humidity levels reach 30% or more. 800.233.8990. www.certainteed.com.
Credit: Barry Halkin
PROFILE: James C. Baker, Brian M. Baker, Scott A. Baker
One benefit of a green startup is that there are no old standards to purge. When James Baker, president, and sons Brian, vice president of marketing and design, and Scott, vice president of operations, set up their design/build/develop company in 2004, they spent months assembling a core subcontractor team. “We said our houses will be different than any you’ve built before,” says Brian. “We turned away some [subs] who were talented but not open-minded enough for what we were trying to do.”
The builder’s test run—a team effort with IBACOS—was a Building America Demonstration Home that Brian built for his family. Pennsylvania’s first LEED-Silver home, it served not only as field training for the subcontractor team, but is also a model for prospective clients. Eighteen months of energy monitoring showed it to be 49% more efficient than a standard code-compliant house. With just the three partners on staff and a subcontractor team numbering about 50, studio26 is currently working on a 44-acre conservation community with a dozen dwellings.
In addition to applying the latest building-science practices, the company includes solar-ready wiring standard. “Our goal is to be the leader in Eastern Pennsylvania for green building and design, and eventually to get to net-zero energy,” Baker says. In 2007, the Pennsylvania Builder’s Association recognized their progress with a Building Innovation Award.