Green House: Rural Saline home will cost $200 a year to heat and cool
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Out of the rubble is rising a new house that not only pays tribute to the farmstead tradition with its covered porch and simple design, but is so energy efficient that it will cost only $200 a year to heat and cool. That’s what many homeowners pay in a single winter month for heat.
With its solid block construction, geothermal heating and cooling system, solar panel system, innovative water distribution network and next generation windows, the house is the most energy-efficient structure architect Michael R. Klement, principal of Architectural Resource, and Doug Selby of Meadowlark Builders, have collaborated on.
Klement calls it the Phoenix House. The house is under construction and should be completed in late March or early April.
The Phoenix House will be part of the free “Behind the Drywall” tours of green houses conducted by Architectural Resource and Meadowlark Builders.
The tours focus on platinum-rated houses under LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a green building rating system of the U.S. Green Building Council. Platinum is the highest level of the rating system, which measures the sustainability of the building site, energy efficiency of the structure, sustainability of building materials, indoor air quality, innovative technologies and more.
While outside temperatures earlier this week hovered around 30 degrees, inside the unfinished house was a comfortable 62 degrees. The thermostat was set at 55 degrees.
The warmth came from the the sun, the large bank of southern windows and the tight envelope that surrounds the house.
The house is not only green, it pays homage to what stood before it: Elements from the destroyed farmhouse will be used, including the oak structural beams that will be milled and used for flooring, the staircase, trim and the fireplace mantel, Selby said.
There was too much damage to repair the house, Klement said, but some elements could be salvaged and the style could be honored.
“We could emulate what was lost with the basic style of the house, a vernacular farmhouse style,” he said.
While honoring the style, there will also be improvements in addition to being green. It will follow what Klement calls “design for life,” and will include features such as wider hallways that allow for easier mobility as the homeowners age. And it follows the “Not So Big” philosophy of creating the feel of space without adding unneeded square feet.
The main floor living area - the kitchen, living space, dining area, bathroom and entryway - has only 950 square feet but the open floor plan, lack of walls and visual lines all make it feel bigger, Klement said. “Less is better. It means less energy, less materials uses, and less resources.”
“In green thinking, you focus on energy conservation measures before you look at energy production measures,” Klement said.
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Windows are also key. With rows of south facing windows - and fewer windows on the other walls - the sun’s warmth helps to heat the house during cold months.
“It’s like making a deposit in the bank in the day and withdrawing during the night,” Klement said.
In the summer, the breeze that enters the southern windows will move in a diagonal line across the house and up a two-story atrium (hot air rises!) and out the windows.
While energy-efficient windows have become de rigueur, Selby calls these “super windows.” They have both argon and zenon gas between the panes and have a coating that makes them more efficient.
The ultimate goal, Selby said, is to create a zero energy house. While the Phoenix house will use more energy than it creates, it will be 80 percent more efficient than the typical American hone, he said.
Solar panels will be used to create energy to power the house. But they won’t be installed on the roof, the traditional spot for solar panels. Instead, there are fixed solar awnings over the southern windows, harvesting the heat in winter and shading the house in summer.
“The awnings will have double-duty,” Selby said.
An innovative water distribution system directly connects each faucet to a water line, saving 18,000 gallons of water a year for a family of four. A super-efficient hot water tank will be even more energy-smart than an on-demand tank, Selby said, losing only 5 degrees of heat over a 24-hour period.