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We are always trying to keep our clients up-to-date with interesting things about custom timberframe homes, as well as Log & Timber Home Shows in Canada and the United States.

Net Zero Homes

You might have heard of a Net Zero home in the news or read about it in a magazine.  So, what is it?  A Net Zero home means that a house produces as much energy as it consumes. Energy consumption within a building is rated using the HERS index (Home Energy Rating System.) Reaching a 0 rating means the home is completely self-sustaining. A typical house has a HERS rating of 100-130.

 

A Net Zero house minimizes energy use within a house and any energy that it needs, it produces through renewable energy systems like solar panels.  Therefore, the house is not dependent on getting its energy from an outside producer.  It is self-sufficient.  Sound pretty nice? Well, below are some ways that you can incorporate some of the Net Zero concepts into your home:

 

Footprint:  Utilizing a modest building footprint and not over-building for your needs may be a first good step.  The larger and more spread out a building is, the more energy it will consume.

 

Climate Responsiveness:  Employ passive design techniques such as south-facing windows that promote natural heating and daylighting. Also, limiting east/west exposure in hot climates helps to reduce cooling loads.

 

Quality Construction:   Incorporating good building practices such as correct flashing, sealing, framing, effective insulation, etc. to achieve a super-tight envelope is important. Quality of the construction should be integral to the design and really helps to minimize envelope loads.

 

Systems Sizing:  Integrating and sizing systems efficiently including heating, cooling, ventilation and dehumidification can really help to optimize the building’s performance.

 

Renewable Energy:  Homes need to utilize on-site renewable/alternative energy to generate power and heat. Solar panels, fuel cells, micro-turbines, etc. can be used to make and store energy to meet critical energy loads.

 

These are just a few of the more important avenues to reach a home that is completely self-sufficient and considered Net Zero.  By studying these important concepts we can produce a house that is much less energy reliant and contains a much smaller carbon footprint.

 

Designing for Alpine Climates

This is my final blog covering the four broad climate types we find in North America.  To close the conversation, I would like to discuss Alpine zones.

 

The main characteristics of the alpine climate include:

 

  • Low humidity, high diurnal temperature range
  • Four distinct seasons, winter exceeds human comfort range
  • Cold to very cold winters
  • Warm, dry summers
  • Highly variable spring and autumn conditions

 

Homes in alpine environments have the highest thermal comfort energy use of any climate zone. The general objectives for buildings in the alpine zone is to reduce heat loss, provide protection against cold winds and provide alternate heating sources. Because the need for cooling is low, design strategies can mainly focus on heating energy use.

 

Here are some design ideas:

 

-Sunlight is key.  Try not building on sites without good access to sunlight.

-Minimize east/west axis with good southern exposure

-Site new homes with adequate sunlight and protection from cold winter winds

-Plant coniferous trees on north, east and west sides of buildings to protect from winds

-Locate living areas on south for sun exposure and bedroom and service areas on north

-Consider multi-level designs that allows sunlight into all rooms while maintaining a

compact form

-Provide airlocks to entries

-Minimize and shade east and west facing glass in the summer

-Use windows for ventilation and night-time cooling in the summer

 

It’s difficult to harness the solar radiation from the sun without compromising the insulation effects of the building form. In the Alpine climate, it’s definitely a balancing act.

 

This concludes my series on design for specific climates.  I hope that this has made you aware of various design principles that you can utilize within the design of your new home to better fit your specific environment.  

Parade of Homes in Summit County, Colorado

What an amazing Parade of Homes in Summit County, Colorado this past weekend. After 2 days of beautiful weather and inspiration the "Unofficial Canadian Judge" Jeff Bowes, gives first and second place to Allen Guerra Architects for their two projects in Breckenridge.

 

One in the Highlands subdivision, and the second seen here, is a home skillfully placed on Penn Lode Drive in Shock Hill, featuring castle architecture, heavy timber, and modern elements… an absolute show stopper! Congratulations to Suzanne and her team”

 

Designing Homes for Hot Arid Climates

 

In my last blog I discussed how the various climates that we find in North America can influence design and how the four broad climate types we find calls for varying design techniques. The first climate that I want to discuss is the Hot Arid Climate.

 

The main characteristics for a hot arid climate include:

 

-Hot dry summer and a cold dry winter

-Very little rainfall and vegetation coverage

-High temperature difference between day and night

-Very low humidity

-Desert areas include wind and dust

 

The main idea in a hot arid zone is to reduce uncomfortable conditions created by the extremes of heat and dryness. Houses must remain cool in the hot summers and warm in the cold winters.  During the summer, sun is the enemy. It is important to provide maximum shading of direct solar radiation during the day and flush out any stored heat during the cooler nights.

 

Here are some design ideas to accomplish comfort:

 

-Place windows to take advantage of cooling breezes in summer

-Have very small well shaded windows on the eastern and western walls

-Include extensive area of wall and windows on the north side

-Shade windows from summer sun but expose winter sun to interior of house

-Use compact floor plan with less external wall area to minimize eastern and western walls

-Maximize nighttime cooling with high level windows or vents to let out the hot air and draw in cooler air

-Utilize shaded courtyards with water features that draw the cool moist air into the house

-Use vegetation to increase shading

-Paint interior and exterior walls light colors

-For warming at night, capture and store solar energy in solid material such as a concrete floor or brick walls to release at night

 

By utilizing these design considerations, a more comfortable living environment can be achieved with less mechanical means and thus much less energy use.  And ultimately you will arrive at a much preferred and more comfortable home.

 

Understanding the Importance of Roof Pitches

 

You are working with your architect on designing your new home and he or she starts talking to you about roof pitches.  Do you want a 4:12 roof or an 8:12 roof? How about a 9:12 roof instead of a 10:12? What is a roof pitch?  I’m so confused! 

 

Definition:

Well, the pitch of your roof is the angle at which the surfaces slope. The roof pitch is written in a ratio of inches. It is the number of inches of rise for every 12 inches of horizontal distance. For example, a roof with a 4:12 pitch rises 4 inches for every 12 inches of horizontal roof run.  To visualize this, picture the roof pitch as a right triangle.  The angled side is the roof, the vertical leg is the rise and the horizontal leg is the flat roof run.

 

Standards:

Are there certain pitch standards to abide by when designing your roof?  Not really.  Many builders consider a low-pitched roof to be anywhere from a 2:12 to a 4:12 slope.  Then, a 4:12 to a 9:12 is typically a medium pitch range and anything from a 9:12 and above is considered a steep-pitched roof.  The most common residential roof slopes range from a 4:12 to a 9:12.

 

Considerations:

Typically, the steeper your roof pitch, the more expensive it is to have installed.  Builders usually need special equipment to build steep-pitched roofs and there is also additional risks for workers.  However, a steeper roof removes water, ice and snow more quickly than its shallow counterparts and usually means a longer lasting life for your roof. 

 

Design:

So, what is the correct slope to use on your new home?  In my opinion, utilizing a couple different slopes (one lower-pitched and one higher-pitched) adds interest to the overall composition.  However, you have to be careful not to use too many different slopes in one design.  If you do, the look of the house becomes jumbled and it becomes more difficult to build (and expensive.) 

 

It’s really up to you and your architect and what looks good for your particular design.  The options are endless!

 

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