Green Homes start with Green Building Envelopes
Obviously, one of the most important features of an energy efficient home is what’s called the building envelope. This includes the ceiling, walls, and foundation that act as an envelope to seal in warm or cool air. The less air that leaks out, the less energy is required to continually heat or cool the air or water to maintain the desired temperature.
Luckily, there are many innovative and cost effective solutions that increase the heat retention of the building envelope.
Insulated Concrete Forms in the Basement
New Ground homes are built on a foundation made from insulated concrete forms or ICFs. Much of a home’s heat is lost through the basement walls because they are rarely insulated on both the interior and exterior. With ICF’s, the wall’s R-Value reaches R-22 which achieves significantly better climate retention than conventional fiberglass insulation in 2×6 exterior walls.
ICFs are constructed of interconnected foam boards that snap together much like Legos®. The ICFs form the interior and exterior of the foundation. After snapping together the forms, re-bar is put in between for increased strength and then cement is poured in. Voila – your foundation is insulated. Once covered with siding on the exterior and drywall on the interior, no one will know the difference, except you when you pay your energy bills.
We insulate our homes with spray foam insulation. It is non-toxic which improves indoor air quality and your health. There are several different types available, some are petro based but others, though more expensive, are made from renewable materials like soy. Either way, they are a greener option than conventional insulation for their insulating properties and lack of harmful PBDE’s, HFC’s and other off-gassing toxins. Because spray foam has very few if any gaps even after years of use, it maintains its high insulating qualities and also provides the added benefit of noise control for a quieter home.
Energy Efficient Windows
Since a typical home loses much of its energy through the windows, it is obviously a very important element for energy savings. Not only your choice of windows but also the number, size, and placement of them can affect the home’s energy use. We use only low-E argon windows to keep energy from escaping but we also believe in being careful with window placement. Even highly energy efficient windows are weak points in the building envelope and allow more energy loss than walls. Windows should be placed strategically to allow the most natural light in the places you want it and not wasted in places they aren’t really needed or desired.