LEED for Homes Point by Point – Energy & Atmosphere

Energy and Atmosphere: 21.5 points achieved out of 36 points available::

The overall goal of EA is to optimize energy performance of the building. We opted to follow the performance path which meant our world be rated according to the ENERGY STAR for home standards (the document can be found here). ENERGY STAR was simply the pre-requisite which everyone in LEED-H is required to meet; your points only begin to accumulate for exceptional energy performance. HERS stands for Home Energy Rating Standard and is based on a performance scale of 100. Based on a 100 point scale which is an average home, a home achieving HERS 85 is 15% more efficient. If you are familiar to the term NET ZERO, it is a similar scale, where NET ZERO means the home consumes zero percent more energy than it produces annually.

In our case, our preliminary HERS rating based on our building envelope leakage rate of less than 4%, our windows, our solar gain, our roof’s solar reflective index (SRI), our sprayfoam insulation, our geothermal HVAC system, and all of the design elements placed us at a HERS of 58, making our home 42% more efficient than an average home. This achieved us 19.5 points under EA 1. In addition we achieved 2 points for the efficient design of our hot water system which included compact plumbing runs achieved thorugh back-to-back bathrooms and a superheater added to our hot water tanks.

Posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

LEED for Homes Point by Point – Sustainable Sites

Normally today would be Abby’s Blog but we promised our point information daily for 7 days. Today we overview:

Sustainable Sites :: 14.5 points achieved out of 22 points available::

This was another area where there were a lot of points available and very achievable as long as you applied the thought and planning and site stewardship to your plan. We hired John Carter, a local licensed landscape architect who not only brought his talent but his expertise and guidance to our landscaping plan and overall site design. John’s plan took everything into account from protecting the site during construction to redeveloping the lot when we were done. The piece of property we purchased had sat neglected for nearly 30 years when we took ownership. The few plants on the lot were choked with invasive vines and overgrowth, and slowly dying of disease. The turf was nothing more than crabgrass, riddled with scrub and burdened by undernourished, compacted soil.

John’s landscape design plan was created to both beautify the property and accent the house while rehabilitating the lot back to a healthy, thriving condition. Taking into account the guidance of LEED-H, our plan mandated that our turf area was seeded with a blended grass mixture of native, drought-tolerant, disease resistant seed with a deep root system to ensure a hearty lawn that required minimum irrigation and no chemicals. Our goal included reducing our irrigation demand by at least 60% from our baseline water usage, we achieved 59%.

Our efforts included reducing local heat island affects which means that are hard surfaces (which were minimized to a 120 sq/ft permeable entry walk) were a light-colored, high-albedo natural stone that had a Mixed color of light gray, pale beige, white stone pavers and a Solar reflectance range of .35 – .45 based on variations in shade and color; the thermal emittance was .9 for a Solar Reflective Index range of 38-52 (we had to be higher than 29).

Our surface water management plan called for our lot to be 100% permeable. We accomplished this through extensive landscaping, stepping stone walkways and a really beautiful soft beige pea stone driveway.

We took numerous considerations for nontoxic pest control including sealing external cracks and joints, requiring no wood-to-concrete connections, and having a solid surface concrete foundation.

Our one acre lot afforded us zero points for compact development, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

Green Life Smart Life Opens – Our Launch Week Begins!

We submitted our LEED-H application one week ago today. The box we shipped to Conservation Services Group compiled our application and all of the supporting documentation. At the time of submission, we had 77.5 points in our preliminary rating and an additional 36 points available in our maybe section, for a total of 113.5 possible points on the table. With our thresholds we need 89.5 points for Gold and 104.5 points of Platinum.  With ID (Innovation & Design), EA (Energy & Atmosphere) and EQ (Indoor Environmental Quality) still the available points on the table, I am cautiously optimistic that we will achieve certification. But without a solar renewable energy system, I do not think we can lower our energy score enough to score enough points in EA beyond our projected 21 points in the category out of the possible 38 to reach Platinum.

Just to show you the reference chart we are working from this is the LEED breakdown before our additional point threshold:

Certification Level
LEED for Homes Certification Levels Number of LEED for Homes Points Required
Certified 45 – 59
Silver 60 – 74
Gold 75 – 89
Platinum 90 – 136
Total Available Points 136

We are excited to announce the official opening of our house for others to visit and see. Located in Narragansett, RI, the project features the state’s first smart meter with a home energy management and monitoring system, geothermal HVAC system, lighting control, whole-home entertainment technology, and other smart home innovations. GLSL will open its doors to the public on December 12, 2009 from 10 am to 5 pm for people to tour and learn about all of the products and technologies installed in the home.

We will announce our LEED-H rating on Thursday, December 10th and then blog for the next seven days about our points in each of the seven categories. So, come back tomorrow at 3 PM eastern time for our announcement about our rating!

Posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

Come tour our green building project on Dec. 12th

The road to getting this house build has no doubt been a long, bumpy one, but it has been a trip nevertheless. We are officially in the final stages of our LEED-H certification process. This week our final binder with our application and every piece of documentation possible went out to the fine people at Conservation Services Group (here is an apology in advance for whoever has to carry that massive box!). On the 20th we will have our final inspection, and we will be announcing our certification at our open house events in early December.

If you have some time, be sure to check out our Galleries and see the whole process take shape.

So – you’ve been following us for the past year and we want to thank each and every one of you out there. If you live in the area, we are hosting an Open House on Saturday, December 12th starting at 10am. At the open house, you will be able to take a tour through the house and see firsthand how everything came together to create this green home. More details to come, but leave us a comment if you are interested in coming!

Spray foam Inspection and Thermal Bypass Testing for LEED-H

Insulation on the house was completed last week by the fabulous crew of Atlas Insulation. Ensuring that your home is properly insulated is a major factor to building a green home. U7.2.09 - Insulation (10)n-insulated or improperly insulated homes leak a home’s conditioned air outside, causing the homeowner to essentially pay to heat or cool the great outdoors.

There are a lot of factors and products that go into deciding the insulation of your home. You first must decide which insulation is right for your project and your budget, and makes sure that the R values meet building code requirements. The R value is a measure of thermal resistance used in the building and construction industry – the bigger the number the better the building insulation’s effectiveness. (see below for the Green Life Smart Life’s R values) There are several different insulations you can choose from, the most popular being blanket insulation and spray foam. We chose spray foam because of where we are located. Due to our high wind zone location we wanted to make sure the house felt as solid it was built. We didn’t want wind seeping through cracks and making the house feel drafty and we didn’t want that echo that you can get in open spaces. 

We installed a mix of open and closed cell spray foam for the walls and ceilings of the home. In certain areas of the home, mainly where there are open soffits between the interior and exterior, spray foam isn’t applicable because it has nothing to bond to. For those few areas, we used a rolled insulation made entirely of recycled jeans that acted as the stop for the spray foam.

When installing the insulation, LEED-H requires that the home’s insulation meets or exceeds several grade specifications (listed below) of the ENERGY STAR requirements before it is even eligible to gain LEED points.

  • Grade I – Meet the requirements of Grade II (below), but allow only very small gaps, and compression or incomplete fill amounts to 2% or less
  • Grade II – Moderate to frequent installation defects, gaps around wiring, electric outlets, etc. and incomplete fill amounts to 10% or less. Gaps running clear through the insulation amount to no more than 2% of the total surface area covered by the insulation. Wall insulation is enclosed on all six sides and in substantial contact with the sheathing material on at least one side (interior or exterior) of the cavity.

Once each grade requirement is met, to earn an additional 2 points, LEED requires that the home’s insulation:

  • Exceeds the R value requirements listed in Chapter 4 of the 2004 International Energy Conservation Code by at least 5%. Alternative wall and insulation systems, such as structural insulated panels and insulated concrete forms, must demonstrate a comparable R-value, but thermal mass or infiltration effects cannot be included in the R value calculation
  • Install insulation to meet the Grade I specifications set by the National Home Energy Rating Standards (above). Insulation must be verified by an energy rater or Green Rater conducting a predrywall thermal bypass inspection.

We also added the extra effort of making sure we eliminated as many thermal breaks as possible. So if you look up at our roof we cover all of the rafters so you can’t see any wood break, this provides the roof a solid thermal barrier for maximum R values. We achieved R-51 in our roof; R-30 is the standard. The rest of our R values are listed below. The energy rater requires that they see the insulation at 80% and then again at 100% before the drywall is applied. We had our verification last week and we did extremely well. The verifier said that our insulation installation was “impressive”. Score one for us!

Be sure to check out our Spray Foam Gallery for some great shots of the insulation being installed.

Spray Foam Insulation from Green Life Smart Life on Vimeo.

Here are the R values for the house:

  • Flat Ceiling: 12″ R51 Half Pound Density Spray Foam Insulation
  • Garage Ceiling: 8 1/2″ R36 Half Pound Density Spray Foam Insulation
  • Exterior Walls: 5 1/2″ R23 Half Pound Density Spray Foam Insulation
  • Stairwell: 6″ R25 Half Pound High Density Spray Foam
  • Stairwell: 3 1/2″ R15 Half Pound High Density Spray Foam
  • Wall Upstairs between house and Roof of Garage: 3 1/2″ R15 Half Pound Density Open Cell Spray Foam Insulation
  • Garage/House Wall: 5 1/2″ R23 Half Pound Density Spray Foam Insulation
  • Garage Walls: 5 1/2″ R23 Half Pound Density Spray Foam Insulation
  • Blockers: 5 1/2″ R23 Half Pound Density Spray Foam Insulation
  • Overhang: 12″ R51 Half Pound Density Spray Foam Insulation
  • Basement Closet Walls: 3 1/2″ R15 Half Pound Density Spray Foam Insulation
  • Wine Room Walls: 3 1/2″ R15 Half Pound Density Spray Foam Insulation
  • Basement Foyer Ceiling: 4 1/2″ R19 Half Pound Density Spray Foam Insulation
  • Basement Closet Ceiling: 4 1/2″ R19 Half Pound Density Spray Foam Insulation
  • Media Room Ceiling: 3 1/2″ R15 Half Pound Density Open Cell Spray Foam Insulation (for sound barrier)
  • Laundry Wall: 3 1/2″ R15 Half Pound Density Open Cell Spray Foam Insulation (for sound barrier)
  • Fill Blockers In Wine Room: 3 1/2″ R15 Half Pound Density Open Cell Spray Foam Insulation
  • Wine Room Ceiling: 4 1/2″ R19 Half Pound Density Spray Foam Insulation
  • Basement Ceiling: 4 1/2″ R19 Half Pound Density Spray Foam Insulation
  • Fire stopping: Fill All Vertical Mechanical Penetrations in All Floors
  • 21’x2’x14″ Area inside the house in the back of the overhang 1/2lb spray foam R59
  • Seal around all doors and windows with low expanding cell foam.

Want a healthy home? Install a Central Vacuum!

With the H-P Products central vacuum system being installed today, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to shed some light on the power of a central vacuum system.  

Americans spend 80% of their time indoors, and in these tough economic times, that number is set to rise. With so much time being spent inside, maintaining a healthy home is imperative. What is the most effective way to do this? By installing a central vacuum system.

Have you ever thought that the “just vacuumed smell” you get when you turn your upright off signified that your home was clean? Think again. That smell is actually dust and dirt particles that are left circulating in the air. Those particles can stay in the air for up to one hour after vacuuming, often triggering allergy symptoms or even asthma attacks. With a central vacuum 100% of dirt and debris is removed from the home…100%.

The EPA lists Indoor Air Quality as the fourth largest environmental threat in our country. Since we spend most of our time indoors, isn’t this something we need to concentrate on improving? Studies have proven that installing a central vacuum system can reduce allergy suffers symptoms by an amazing 61%. Designed to remove all dirt and debris from a house, central vacuum systems leaves nothing but a healthy indoor environment. All vacuumed material is carried through a series of tubing in the walls to a canister, usually located in the basement or crawl space, away from the home’s living environment and can harness up to five times the suction power of a traditional upright. That is sure to get your home super clean and ensure the health of you and your family is not compromised by harmful indoor air quality.

Despite popular belief, central vacuum systems, like VACUFLO® and Dirt Devil®, by H-P Products, are cost effective, and relatively quick to install. An average home can be installed in about one day for a whole lot less than a homeowner will spend on traditional upright vacuums in their lifetime. Plus, having a central vacuum can increase your home’s value.

Because central vacuums have been tested and proven that they can significantly improve indoor air quality, an installation can garner points in both the LEED and NAHB Green programs.

Check back later today for pictures and video of the rough in of the H-P Products VACUFLO install!

Posted by: Lauren

Why Custom Installers Should Embrace Green

For years, custom electronics installers as a group cared about little more than creating mind-blowing home entertainment and automation experiences for their clients, and why shouldn’t they have? It was a sustainable, busy, profitable and, frequently, fun business model. So you can forgive them for not going ga-ga over green from the outset; energy efficiency was the last thing on most of their minds.

During the bulk of this decade, custom installers had little reason or time to change their ways. They were already dealing with what many of them would characterize as an unwelcome convergence of their beloved A/V with IT/IP/PC/networking technology, so they were otherwise preoccupied with the changing world of consumer electronics. Plus, in the golden, gilded age of bling, their well-heeled clients wanted excess – the bigger, the better — and who were they to argue? Energy consumption simply wasn’t an issue for their clients, and installers were too busy satisfying those clients’ outsized desires to be contrary.

My, how times have changed. Today, even the wealthiest of wealthy are being more discriminate about their spending. More people at all levels of the economic spectrum are thinking about energy efficiency and environmental responsibility than ever before, and some of the biggest proponents of green come from the upper echelons of the economic scale. Let’s face it: Green is trendy, cool and viewed as the right thing to do in moneyed circles these days. Many of these same good people are also the typical custom installation customer. As such, it would behoove custom installations to think green and learn what it takes to be green, and to offer green.

Here are some of the many reasons custom installers should start to think green:

Energy efficiency: The world at large looks at consumer electronics products as energy hogs, but custom installers can turn the tables on that perception by installing products with the ENERGY STAR – as we mentioned recently, there’s even a multi-room audio system that has earned the ENERGY STAR now — and by using power conditioners to regulate energy usage and reduce energy waste.

Energy management: This emerging product/service category is undoubtedly going to be the next big trend in residential technology. Custom installers should get in on the ground floor while they can (that is, before the big retailers and service providers eventually figure out how to deliver it on a massive scale).

Marketing/PR: Green presents a chance to rebrand your company and rethink the entire way you do business. If the business has become stale, this is a great way to let in some fresh air. And from a PR standpoint, you not only have something new to talk about but also you have a fresh way to present yourself to the marketplace, including to the local media.

Custom installers don’t have to change the way they do business overnight, but they should definitely let green inform their thinking going forward. 

For a slightly more cynical take on this subject, check out this article I wrote in 2007.

Posted by: Joe P