Best Energy-Smart Home 2018: Neighborhood Net Zero
This builder-friendly spec house fills out a narrow lot in a contemporary community.
The original house on this site was built in 1946, and by the time I bought it in 2012, the house had become pretty run down. I’d had my eye on the site for several years, primarily because of the location. It’s within easy walking distance of schools, shopping, and restaurants, and it’s surrounded by public open space. Most of the other houses in the neighborhood were newer and in much better condition. It seemed ripe for a spec house.
Since this is a spec home, we attempted to design a house that would be flexible enough to meet the needs of a variety of potential owners, but we were also faced with some challenges. The 50-ft.-wide lot with required 6-ft. setbacks on each side definitely constrained what we were able to build, as did the limitation of being able to build to only 30% of the lot size, leaving us just over a 2000-sq.-ft. footprint to work with. I was actually happy for that constraint, as I personally prefer smaller houses, and my prior projects had been much larger.
The nearly flat lot was also new for us, as prior projects had been on much steeper sites. But we found a way to make the flat lot challenging, by deciding that the back of the house should open to the backyard at grade, with no steps. This led to the split-level design.
A mixed bag of materials
When building for energy efficiency, decisions about framing and insulation go hand in hand. And when building a spec home, size matters. It seems that most energy-efficient homes are wrapped in rigid foam these days, but we had a different approach.
We did install rigid insulation over the slab, over which we installed subfloor sheathing. We didn’t carry the…