All Around Efficient
Pairing a proven net-zero strategy with conscious material choices.
Synopsis: Architect Steve Baczek writes about a net-zero home he designed that is constructed with sustainable materials. This particular house, in Hamilton, Mass., achieves such high performance through its durable envelope, tight wall assembly, high-efficiency mechanicals, and a 14.6kw photovoltaic system on its low-slope roof.
I see two paths to being green. (I don’t like that term, but lack of a better one forces me to use it.) Path 1 is designing a typical code-built house and then applying a degree of recycled materials and site-generated energy in an attempt to make up for building-performance inadequacies. Path 2, my preference, is to integrate performance strategies with scrutinized building practices to develop a house where all the decisions are in harmony with each other. While energy efficiency is always a concern, conceptually I don’t solve for it. I concentrate on durability, comfort, and health, making sure to align them with environmental responsibility, particularly in terms of material choices — and then energy efficiency comes along for the ride. The result is a comfortable, healthy home that is durable enough to last a long time, that will remain a high-performance home for decades, and that will have a minimal impact on the environment.
I recently had a great opportunity to design a home in this way with Don and Amy Bowen. If you ask them to describe their lifestyle, you’ll hear words such as simple, environmentally thoughtful, minimalist, uncluttered, and free — which is to say free from a burdened conscience, the trappings of high energy bills, and arduous home maintenance. They live this way in part to have the time and money to pursue their favorite leisure-time activities, but mostly because they are passionate about the fight against climate change.
With that philosophy in mind, Don and Amy came to me. Their…