TC Legend Typical House

TC Legend Typical House

Ted & Jake did some virtual conference speaking last summer.

The subject was how to build an affordable Net Zero home. The Built Green footage is here: ­­­­­Videos | TC Legend Homes,  and the NW Eco Build footage should be along shortly.

The principles are simple. Here are the notes:

Design

Simple, rectangular footprint, Conforming to the formula for the Pacific Northwest the rectangular footprint is; 1.6 units long on south wall, 1 unit deep east and west walls. No wiggles or bump-outs as they increase cost and reduce energy efficiency. The long side faces south to harvest winter passive solar heat. Short east and west sides are minimized to reduce exposure to hot, low angle sun.

Formula for glazing. To avoid overheating during summer, large east and west facing widows are avoided. South-side glazing is heavily preferred as there we can shade the hot, high summertime sun with eaves and shades, yet allow the low wintertime solar heat to enter.

Daylighting. Rooms needing great daylight: kitchen, dining room, etc. are located on the south side behind the plentiful south windows.

The low-light-requirement rooms: mechanical rooms, bathrooms, staircases etc. are to the north.

Correctly sized clerestory windows can bring daylight deep within the interior of the house.

Pitched roof. A huge south roof, pitching to the south collects solar power from roof-mounted PV panels. Often the south roof is asymmetrically large, to create space for the maximum number of PV panels, achieving Net Positive and powering an electric car. This is a new aesthetic – Environmental Modernism!

Right sized rooms: Interior spaces and rooms that are exactly big enough to thrive within, but no bigger. Well placed exterior doors access the outside when you need more space.

Energy modeling. Modeling the building during the design process ensures it’s on-track to meet Net Zero, and allows precise evaluation of the cost/ energy advantages of the various construction components, including the HRV.

We use the WSU component performance worksheet. It’s a free excel spreadsheet, specific to WA state.

Detail: Post & beam structure.  Fine-finished structural posts and beams enrich the interior at low cost, and allow easy remodel as no interior walls are loadbearing.

Detail: Slab-on grade. Fine finishing the concrete slab-on-grade floor gives a modern, durable interior at low cost. Not compulsory though, the slab can be covered with engineered floating floors.

Site selection

Flat lot: Lower construction costs by avoiding steep lots with expensive retaining walls, excavation, soils trucking and geotechnical involvement.

Utilities: Power, water, sanitary drainage/ septic, driveways. Utilities can cost over $80K to install on remote rural lots. The ideal lot has all the utilities stubbed-out in the street or on-site.

Solar exposure: An ideal site would have a clear sky to the south, down to the horizon so the building can harvest low, wintertime passive solar heat. If there were deciduous trees to the east and west, those trees could shade the east and west walls / windows in summertime but allow valuable winter light to penetrate once the leaves have all fallen off!

Critical Areas: Water in all forms is heavily protected in Washington State. The presence of wetlands, streams, lakes and ocean all add to the complexity and cost to build.

Construction

SIPs panel construction: Highly insulated R29 walls, R49 roof are fast to build and are inherently very air-tight. The thick roof panels span far and make vaulted roof space as standard.

ICF formed stemwalls: Insulating the stem-walls adds R24 below grade, preventing the building from leaking heat at the slab edge.

4” under-slab foam: R20 foam below the slab as standard.

Triple Pane windows: Standard.

Mechanical

Heat recovery ventilator (HRV): Delivering fresh air is essential in super-sealed modern buildings. HRV ventilators recover over 90% of outgoing heat, whist providing constant fresh exterior air, filtered to HEPA standards with particulates removed.

Heat pump. Electric air-to-air (Fujitsu), or air-to-water (Chilltrix) heatpumps are highly efficient and provide cold air conditioning in addition to heating.

Concrete floor: The slab-on grade is inside the energy shell (above the 4” R20 foam) and serves as a thermal heatsink; storing the house’s warmth, or cool, within the concrete. Protecting the heatpump from short-cycling and preventing temperature swings, even during a multi-day power-outage.

Energy star appliances: As standard.

Solar panels: As standard to achieve net zero, or net positive if an electric car will be driven.

How $200/ square foot?

The economics are made possible because the house is explicitly designed to achieve net zero and to cost $200/sf. The shell, mechanicals and living quality are best-of-breed, the finishes are durable, solid materials, and modest.

There is an economical point (~1200sf) where the house has to become two story to remain in this cost bracket.

Small houses below 1500sf cost closer to $250/ sf as the basic elements (heating, kitchen, bathroom, etc.) all still have to be present and are not reduced as the floorplan reduces.

$200/ sf is possible (for a NetZero house with solar installed) with a 2,000sf house.

If you want a small (e.g. 800sf) NetZero house for $200/ sf: Think about duplexing with your friends, triplex, multiplex! Co-housing……..

zero energy plans

2018 Year in Review

2018 Year in Review

Here at TC Legend Homes, we are excited to ring in the New Year! We kept busy in 2018, but we were not as active as we would have liked in keeping our “fans” updated on our recent projects. So, while we’re committing ourselves to doing better in the future, this post is an attempt at bringing everyone up to speed on some of the happenings of 2018 in a (relatively) short summary:

Homes:

  • One home completion (started in 2017) in Seattle.

  • Four complete home builds; two in Bellingham, one in Redmond, and one in North Bend.

  • Construction initiation on two ADUs; one in Sumas, and one in Bellingham.

  • All projects were Built Green 5-Star Certified, EPA Indoor airPLUS certified, and met DOE standards as Zero-Energy Ready Homes.

Events:

  • Ted presented at the Built Green Conference 2018 in Seattle. He shared the podium with homeowners Andri Kofmehl and Veena Prasad. Their topic, Bridging Innovation and Affordability: How to Build the Greenest House Possible Without Compromising on Aesthetics or Breaking the Bank, featured our 2017 Emerald Star home. More details on this can be found at this link to our portfolio.

  • Craig and Thad did a little San Diego couch surfing to attend a Builder’s Round Table, composed entirely of 2018 Department of Energy Housing Innovation Award Winners, where we learned a little about the future of high-performance building.

  • We participated in the Whatcom County Showcase of Homes, featuring the second home shown above – a great example of an affordable net-positive home in Bellingham. You can also read more about it in our portfolio.

  • Ted and Thad spoke at the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild’s annual Green Building Slam about how building net-positive can actually make it easier to afford more home while preserving quality of life.

  • We “expanded” our business operations into a SIPs Tiny Office (above).

  • Ted wrapped up his speaking engagements in December, at the Sustainable Connections Green Building Slam, with a talk about why we need to embrace sustainable building – because Our Kids are Going to Need a Place to Live.

Accolades:

Eliminating Utilities: Building residences with zero utility bills at hard-to-beat prices has the potential to change how homes are powered.

Eliminating Utilities: Building residences with zero utility bills at hard-to-beat prices has the potential to change how homes are powered.

The Planet Magazine, a quarterly publication of Western Washington University, just published an excellent article about our role in what we hope will be a zero-energy revolution in homebuilding. Thanks to student reporter Alyssa Sanchez for her thoughtful exploration of passive solar design, mechanical equipment, and the other elements that go into net-zero design. 

 Photo by: Kesia Lee

Ted W. Clifton, dressed in a paint-stained T-shirt and sporting a long beard, enters the Power House, a home that is the first of its kind in Whatcom County. The home is brightly lit by the last of the afternoon rays beaming through the large, south-facing windows. The azure-blue cement floors trap the solar heat, keeping the house at a comfortable 21 degrees Celsius. At first glance, this house might appear like any other on the street, but this home may make utility bills a thing of the past.

Take a Virtual Tour of Our Zero-Energy Homes

Take a Virtual Tour of Our Zero-Energy Homes

Through its Zero Energy Ready Homes initiative, the U.S. Department of Energy has been busy documenting homes that live, work, and last better. They’ve put together a great web resource with such homes all over the country. TC Legend Homes is well represented, with four such “homes of the future” in the Marine climate zone, three of which were Housing Innovation Award winners.

Check out the full tour or click on the links below to take a virtual tour of homes that are so energy efficient a renewable energy system can offset all or most of their annual energy consumption. These award-winning homes are independently certified to meet DOE Zero Energy Ready Home guidelines. Zero Energy Ready Home is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings initiative. Better Buildings aims to make commercial, industrial, public, and residential buildings 20 percent more energy efficient over the next decade.

Department of Energy Case Studies

Ballard Zero-Energy Home
Cedarwood Zero-Energy Home
Montlake Modern
Bellingham Power House