Our Recent "Affordable Green" Project

View from the south east. The glass blocks on the right designate the master bath, four large windows warm the master bedroom, also visible are the home office and the corner windows over the kitchen sink and the outdoor dining area. Getting started on the landscaping just now.

View from the south west, four solar panels on the roof warm the domestic hot water as well as the radiant floor. Kids have their own space upstairs with a home-school class room and laundry on the second floor. The studio on the left can evolve to serve the family in many ways as they grow. The small extension on the end is a garden shed with room for trash, recycling and storage of garden equipment and bicycles. The trashcans outside the master bath are part of the move-in.

The view from the Northwest. The studio has it's own exterior door and bathroom to allow it to evolve into a home office after the kids are off to college (right now it is part of the home schooling for the three kids).

Ready for landscaping. The owners color selection really made the house settle into the site. We'll be installing twenty 5' x 3' rain garden chambers (made here in town from recycled shopping bags they cost $25 each) and the deer fencing tomorrow, stained concrete pavers will create a walkway and patio by week's end.

The south patio trellis. Twin wall polycarbonate green house glazing diffuses the light coming into the dining room to cut down on glare and provide an outdoor living space. The mesh is an agricultural fencing product called "goat panel" made from galvanized pencil rod. At twelve by sixteen, the roof took three $50 panels.

The view from the living room. Affordable and family friendly, but the light fixtures and cabinets are the same as we would use in our much more expensive homes. Beth makes the spaces flow together in her design, the glass door at the end opens into the home office that separates the living area from the master suite. As they age in place we have connections for a future first floor laundry in the home office, just in case.

The kitchen, with site-built copper hood is echoed in the copper back splash and foot rail to make cooking a social event. The raised counter top is oak rather than concrete to be more welcoming to elbows and homework. The cabinets are from Ikea, affordable and very well made.

Aging in place design, drawers under the kitchen sink pop out if needed to create a wheel chair accessible kitchen solution. The sink trap is recessed in the back of the cabinet and the supplies are raised to just below the bottom of the sink. If a person using a walker or wheel chair visits for the weekend, the change only takes a couple of minutes each way.

Copper pipe makes an elegant and rugged safety railing. The trick is that the concealed anchors tighten from the front to create tension against the drywall.

We were able to get a slightly imperfect dragon sink at an amazing price — really sets off the thickness on the concrete top.

The master bath, a private refuge well away from the kids and living space.

Matt and Chris are really enjoying working on creating affordable green solutions. We hit a HERS 55 on this and scored an NAHB gold on our green verification application.

Asphalt on the footings serves as a capillary break to keep moisture out of the concrete in the stem walls. We drill our steel pins into the green concrete as we set the forms.

The passive radon system under the slab helps keep this house green and healthy.

Waterproofing the under-slab area. The peel and stick waterproofing extends out onto the footings so we can collect any water than gets down there and keep it from getting under the concrete and undermining its support. The gravel gets a vapor barrier and two layers of 1" foam before the rebar, radiant piping, steel expansion joints and stained concrete.

A belt and suspenders approach. After we put the Tyvek on and tape the windows and seal the house up, we put tar paper on to create a drainage plane in front of the Tyvek. "Use the best water proofing you can afford and then don't let it get wet"

The siding is local Poplar board and batten. The first step is to set the boards so they can dry and shrink before we put the first coat of paint on them.

After the first layer of siding is on, it gets a coat of paint so when tthe battens shrink they won't expose raw wood. Mulch helps keep the mud off the stained concrete floor.

The Zoned Bypass HVAC system. All the return air vents are tied together and routed through an extended media filter (MERV 11) at the top of the air handler. The ducts in front are the supplies to the house and have electric zone dampers, the one behind is the bypass duct and has a weighted damper that opens slightly when one of the zone dampers closes allowing part of the outgoing air to mix with the return air and improve the dehydration performance of the system in the summer and the warmth of the supply air in the winter.

It only looks complicated, the solar-radiant floor heating system with a 92% efficient Quietside condensing demand water heater and a four panel drain back solar thermal system w/ 140 gallons of storage and central scald protection. The entire floor is panned with rubber membrane and drains into a 2" shower drain assembly.

The mechanical closet door hides all the complexity and holds in the heat and noise.

Huge trusses give plenty of room for the complex Zoned Bypass HVAC ductwork and structured plumbing system to co-exist.

Michael screwed up the plumbing here and Matt was gracious enough to take over and get it right.

The first step on the concrete counter tops is cutting the steel to fit the forms.

The second step is prepping the forms to minimize the grinding after the concrete is removed and flipped onto the cabinets.

Once the concrete is pulled from the forms we wet-grind it lightly, fill any voids and wax before setting it on the tops and attaching the sinks.

Rain garden retaining wall. Buried under the wall is an 80' long underground storage chamber filled by the roof gutters with a separate ten foot section for the fig trees at the far end of the house. The sinuous cast retaining wall will hold the salad and herb garden. The bank above will be blueberries, asian pears, and cherries protected by a 175' long x 7' tall deer fence.

One of the least enjoyable jobs is hauling all the cardboard and beverage bottles to the recycling center, so the boys let the boss do it.

Our good friend Rachel from Southern Energy Management does quality control on the duct system, giving us a report card to help us identify areas we can improve now as well as in the future. She helped us find an under-performing bath vent on this project as well as gave feed back for adjusting the HVAC vents. We received a five star HERS 55 rating and NAHB green certification at the Gold level. We also installed a whole house energy eMonitoring system from Powerhouse Dynamics that reports daily on circuit by circuit energy usage for fine tuning the homes energy systems.

The house in the snow, front garden has just been planted with blueberries and the deer fence in in progress. Energy Monitor is installed and reporting back good energy performance as hoped.


  1. KD4YLQ said...
    What a joy to look at the pictures and read about your recent project! Once again, you are elevating design and construction techniques with practical experience and good old common sense to a new high. I am on duty in the Marshall Islands, but look forward to following your website while away from my home in Chapel Hill. Best of luck and Kudos!
    Jim Widgren KD4YLQ
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Chandler Design-Build Creative Construction

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