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Geoff Kegs
Posts: 30
Location: Northern lower Michigan
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My wife and I are struggling coming up with plans for going 100% permaculture lifestyle - and step 1 is housing - we want no mortgage, no energy bills, and an efficient, comfortable house design that is very low cost.

I have seemingly been across the internet (but in reality, probably scanned a teeny tiny of the % of available info) and have looked at a great deal of home designs.  Wofati, cordwood, ferrocement, geodesic, strawbale, Earth ship, Earth bags and DIY block walls & SHCS + PAHS were all interesting concepts, and some of them may prove useful in the construction of whatever place we build.

So far we have come up with at least 4 floor plans, all based on maximizing ergonomics and minimizing wasted space.  Now I want to call the building inspector to see what resources he may have - perhaps someone has built something similar in the area - I do not know.

What I do know is that building anything like this will be a carefully constructed challenge.

The climate here in N. lower Michigan includes some serious energy challenges from a permaculture standpoint.

Having recently made it to the zero energy designs website, (http://www.zeroenergydesign.com/), the company sells a 800+ page book that highlights energy efficiency techniques.

What I was curious of is if anyone here has their book and is it worth buying to design and build the type of house I want?



 
 
Jim Argeropoulos
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I've not read the book, but I've looked over their site and watched their videos. Given where you are, I'd be doubtful that you can get to zero energy. I'm in the UP, so I know the cloud cover you get in the winter. Bob Ramlow uses solar thermal in a similar climate in WI and he says with careful work you can get to 90% from renewable.

I'd start by reading Heating, Cooling, and Lighting by Lechner, it is in MelCat so you can probably get it from your library. That book will give you a lot of basics. You can leverage his basic principles with any of the other construction techniques you learn from other sources.

It sounds like a fun project. Keep us posted on what you are learning and building.
 
                      
Posts: 56
Location: MONTANA, Bozeman area; ZONE 4
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May I suggest you check out BIOHOME.COM

R-value of 90...


They have put a lot of effort into being independent, off the grid.  And low cost, it seems. ß
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Why is "zero energy" so hard to accomplish now?  Before F D Roosevelt (in an effort to supply work to the unemployed)  put in thousands of miles of light poles, less than 10% of farms in America had either gas or electric.  "The electification of rural America".

Other work projects of FDR at that time included planting hundreds of miles of black locust windbreaks/erosion control, and digging hundreds of miles of swales...he was trying to avoid another "ust Bowl".
 
Geoff Kegs
Posts: 30
Location: Northern lower Michigan
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Jim: Thanks for the advice.  It will be a challenge getting to zero energy in this climate, but I think it is still feasible with the right design.  We are planning on being 100% off the grid.  The largest expenses we expect are appliances and pv system.  I have land and we have built the house we are living in right now.

A little history about myself: I used to work as a residential home cost estimator at a lower Michigan lumberyard for around 6 years - so I know a great deal about conventional home construction.  

Our current house (we built 2002) is a conventional above ground house with an insulated block wall 8' basement employing geothermal/aquifer "pump and dump" based heat pump furnace, TJIs + 3/4" osb subfloors, 2x4 walls with R15 insulation, osb + tyvek + vinyl siding,  R38 in the attic, too many top of the line Andersen windows on the house to count, double covered porches front and back and a 17' vaulted cathedral ceiling in the great room.  It has a very large tub that we use every day.  It's 3 br 2 baths and makes for a very comfortable home for us - but after nearly 10 years of living in it, we have come to the conclusion that it is just WAY too big in every way for our needs.  There are a lot of downstaters who would die to buy this place as a cabin.  

SO, after these experiences, I know nearly all there is to know about how to build an inefficient house.    (of course this isn't the least efficient house there is, but hind sight being 20/20, I would have built WAY different than this.  At 1568 sq. ft. and having a very efficient - by conventional standards - hvac system, I'm paying less than the average American for utilities, but we no longer want less, we want none.

What we are after is in a nutshell: super-efficiency.

MMC11: biohome.com is not a valid URL.  I searched for "biohome" and found biohome.net, which is an off-the-grid geodome home system, unfortunately it does not meet building code:

Does this meet building codes?
No is the answer.
On that note. I can only work with home owner builders who are under NO building codes. The building department has no real way to gage a BIOHOME structure. We do not use nails , sheet rock, water flushing toilets, wells, or outside power hook ups. Nothing that a conventional building would use. So they would make it impossible for you to build using BIOHOME methods.
E.B.D.Sr.


In our state, attempting building without a permit with today's GIS technology and nosy neighbors, attempting to put a big white dome on the land would result in an almost immediate cease and desist order and/or injunction as it would stand out like a sore thumb and be reported probably even before it got put up.

John Polk: Being an agriculture and natural resources consultant by trade, I am quite aware of the CCC and how old farmsteads were run.  During that time, wages were less but so were fossil fuels.  Remember, the model A came into existence 20-30 years before F.D. Roosevelt was in office.  Most productive farms had tractors:

Here's an example of such a dust bowl period tractor:

 

Technologies were significantly different than today and in no way, shape or form were there more zero energy houses being constructed during that period of history than there is now.

Farmers and their families typically woke up cold in this climate unless the farmer woke up in the middle of the night to stack the fire.  Farm houses were not built tight, used poor levels of insulation, were larger in size than necessary and generally required a great deal of energy to build and use.  Energy was cheap back then, because fossil fuels seemed inexhaustible.  The government also didn't have a giant debt back then either.  The U.S. gov't could not afford to pay an unemployed workforce to assist with the economy at this point in time because energy is no longer cheap (plus they are already paying too large of workforce which is directly related to the debt).  That admirable post great depression USA is long gone, friend...dust in the wind...replaced with glyphosate and GMOs.  

I don't think most people want to go back to the 1940s style of farm life, or worse yet the 1800s style (e.g. horse and cart and cross saw).  I am going for a slightly more advanced style of living that makes use of newer technologies such as Photovoltaic and wind to electrical energy generation, and want to employ a home design that takes advantage of the sun's ability to warm the Earth.

From an agriculture standpoint, it will be 100% organic and as much as possible recycling of nutrients with a continuance of improving soil fertility through microbiology. - but for now, we need to get some stellar ideas about how to design the house and I am completely open to input that blends very old simple, clever techniques with high tech energy solutions to reach my primary goal of low cost home construction, very low maintenance costs and zero cost energy inputs.


 

 
Tyler Ludens
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John Polk wrote:
Why is "zero energy" so hard to accomplish now?  Before F D Roosevelt (in an effort to supply work to the unemployed)  put in thousands of miles of light poles, less than 10% of farms in America had either gas or electric.  "The electification of rural America".


Back in the day people were used to being uncomfortable - things we take somewhat for granted like air conditioning just didn't exist or were limited to places like movie theatres.  Somewhat earlier it was not uncommon to have to chip ice off the washbasin on a winter morning, as houses were unheated and uninsulated.  Now most people in the developed world are just not willing to be that uncomfortable. 
 
Geoff Kegs
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Location: Northern lower Michigan
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Thoughts:

This is primarily about applying the most clever conceptual thermodynamic design.

Any physicists out here?  

PAHS using external solar collectors with tube/radiators filled with calcium chloride hexahydrate to help increase heating the 20' extended umbrella/shell of sand?

Bermed Earthbags for efficient PAHS ground heat transfer on 3 sides inside frost-free grade envelope except South wall where straw bale wall construction uses double pane glass on the interior and exterior of the walls, or, in the area where an extended greenhouse will be on the South side, then just double pane glass on the exterior (inside the double wall UV stabilized polycarbonate greenhouse wall.  Also, straw bales outside of the frost-free grade envelope - top 4' of walls around structure, and 2 courses inside the South ends of the East and West walls ought to do it.

I haven't got the ceiling/roof worked out yet - but (obviously) it will be super-insulated as well, and I might consider designing it around this Zero energy design guy's idea of circular air conduction 2x insulative shell on N/S/B/T sides idea.  

Any ideas on super cheap ways to build roofs that lack maintenance for a very long time and can take a fairly heavy snow load?  Roof will be above grade.  I am thinking about a 6/12 pitch and minimal area.  I am thinking ferro cement, and may even go circular with the roof design - not sure yet.

All of your ideas were and still are appreciated - more please!  





There are a LOT of piece of information out there on how to do this.
Seemingly, there is no once source of information on how to build with extreme efficiency.
M
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 22494
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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I wanna remind folks:  if you use the word "you" in your posts, that sets off my "delete this post" meter.

It's important that folks present their position without suggesting that other folks on permies are anything less than perfect.

 
Geoff Kegs
Posts: 30
Location: Northern lower Michigan
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paul wheaton wrote:

It's important that folks present their position without suggesting that other folks on permies are anything less than perfect.


Cooling in the South is a luxury because it is solely comfort based.

Heating in the North is not a luxury because it prevents water in pipes from freezing, pipes from bursting, and residences from flooding.

Should ONE be so unlucky as to be caught in the winter in Northern lower Michigan and attempt to chip the ice out of a wash basin on a winter morning, ONE would likely find that it has frozen solid through and learn that it's not as forgiving as other places with a longer reasonable climate.

 

 
Tyler Ludens
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Cooling is not a always a luxury, it is a necessity under some conditions; it is not solely comfort-based. Air conditioning may be a luxury.

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5529a2.htm

http://www.usatoday.com/weather/news/2003-09-25-france-heat_x.htm

 
R Hasting
Posts: 183
Location: Mineola, Texas
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Cooling a luxury?  Hardly!

Ok, so what about earth tubes.
use a couple 50 yd 4" pipes, buried six feet.
http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Cooling/passive_cooling.htm#Other
search for earth tubes in that page.

It will bring your incoming air up to ambient earth temp (probably 55-60 F where you live) and you can provide the rest with a RMH. But even if you RMH fails (how can it fail?  I don't know your temp will still be well above freezing and well above "cold enough to be really uncomfortable"

Richard
 
Tyler Ludens
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Kegs wrote:

Seemingly, there is no once source of information on how to build with extreme efficiency.



This might come close:  http://www.builditsolar.com/index.htm
 
Geoff Kegs
Posts: 30
Location: Northern lower Michigan
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HastingR: Thank you.

I have read some about Earth tubes and will research that some more.

I like the RMH and may wind up installing one - depending on what code allows for and potential venting options.  I know it will have to be modified right off since code requires a fresh air inlet for all wood burning stoves & fireplaces - which just makes sense from an architectural standpoint.

The average temperature in my location is 43 degrees Fahrenheit.  In this location, ambient Earth temp under ff grade is 55 degrees Fahrenheit (I have monitored this for some time here).  I expect it to be within a degree at the new building site, which is 15 minutes to the North.  Due to local topography, the new site gets quite a bit more snow - don't have the figures for it since it is due to a micro climate and unmonitored AFIK.

I would expect any reasonable heating system would be able to allow the interior of the home to moderate at 71 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year and that would be my target for the interior of the house.  If it's a few degrees +/-, that's fine.

If/when I leave the house for the winter, I would expect it to never freeze so long as the glazing and doors are intact.

JIM: I checked that book and there are no copies available for download right now from here (on the mel cat) - I'll check back later - thanks for that info - looks like a useful book.







hastingr wrote:
Cooling a luxury?  Hardly!

Ok, so what about earth tubes.
use a couple 50 yd 4" pipes, buried six feet.
http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Cooling/passive_cooling.htm#Other
search for earth tubes in that page.

It will bring your incoming air up to ambient earth temp (probably 55-60 F where you live) and you can provide the rest with a RMH. But even if you RMH fails (how can it fail?  I don't know your temp will still be well above freezing and well above "cold enough to be really uncomfortable"

Richard
 
Geoff Kegs
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Location: Northern lower Michigan
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H Ludi Tyler Thank you.  Bookmarked and going to check it out now.

H Ludi Tyler wrote:
This might come close:  http://www.builditsolar.com/index.htm
 
Jim Argeropoulos
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I've lots of comments, but they will have to wait for when I'm not typing on my phone.

First focus on tier 1 ideas: heat retention, rejection, and avoidance. Then go to tier 2: passive systems. Finally tier 3: mechanical equipment

The biggest gains come in tier 1 And they often cost the least to implement

 
Jim Argeropoulos
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First a bit about me so you can judge my information.
I've remodeled every home I've owned, doing plumbing, electical, walls, roofing and so on. I've built nothing from scratch. Over the last 10-15 years I've read, listened, watched everything I can get my hands on in the alternative and high efficiency realm. So I have a lot of head knowledge.

Earth Tubes: I love the idea. rob roy built it in one of his homes and said he wouldn't do it again. I talked to David Wright, author of Natual Solar Architecture, about how to deal with humidity in the air, I live in a somewhat humid summer climate, and he said to slope the tubes down to a drywell before bringing them into the house. This would dehumidify the air, but I'm still not sure if there would be any issues with bad stuff growing in tubes. Numerous people have said to avoid PVC for intake anything. I'm inclined to agree. David Wright's suggestion was to use glazed clay pipe, but from what I can tell, it's not cheap. I'd say its a questionable choice for anyplace with humid summers. I'd probably take the time to build it in and have a way to cut it off from your air supply. I classify this as a tier 2 idea

Earth Coupling: The information I've seen says if your average stable ground temperature is below 60F, it will be more of a detriment to you in the heating season, than benefit in cooling in the summer. Myself, I'd insulate. On a related note, it's pretty well established that horizontal insulation going out from your structure is more effective than vertical insulation going down. I put this in the tier 1 ideas

Earth berming: Yeah, I'm all for it. Tier 1

Lighting: Windows for lighting should be high in the wall and use inner and or outer light shelves. Windows for view and heat gain should be lower in the wall. Tier 2

West windows: These are the odd ducks. In a hot cllimate they are to be minimized because they are hard to shade and they cause a lot of solar gain. Because of being a heat avoidance idea they fall into the Tier 1 idea

Long lasting roof: I think your choices are high reflectance metal or a living roof. I'm in the living roof camp. This falls in the heat avoidance area so its a tier 1 idea

Passive annualized solar gain: I really like the idea, but I'm skeptical because of some of the counter reading I've done. I'd try it for a camp, but I don't know if I'm ready to try it for a house. It really comes down to "will the earth really be a battery that stores heat long enough" I don't know. I've seen arguments both ways. It fits well with WOFATI and that's the place I'd want to try it for sure. Partly tier 1 and partly tier 2

Ventilation: You definitely want good ventilation. Controlled is better than uncontrolled becuase you know what your air quality is. I'm a fan of displacement ventilation where your inputs are low and the outputs are high.

Cooling Towers: I like the idea. It works well with displacement ventilation and earth tubes. Tier 2,

High thermal mass: I like it. You can go too far and have too much mass too. This would make your home harder to heat. Tier 2

Well I could probably go on...

In the end: Build something that is beautifuly and enjoyable. Then people will want to maintain it and keep it going. Some ideas require you to "sail" your house. They are interesting, but only you the builder would like it, so...
 
Troy Rhodes
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I live in S. Michigan.  Used to live in Ontario, which is very similar.

In ontario, I built a nice little superinsulated house, 24' x 50' with a full basement and 10' ceilings.  The slab was insulated with 4" of high density styrofoam, the basement walls were insulated inside and out, the rim joist was insulated.  The main floor walls were double stud, 24" oc, one foot thick not counting the brick veneer, and filled with fiberglass.  r-50 if you ignore the wood losses.  The house had most of the glass on the south wall, which was the long wall. But not at all what most would call "a lot" of glass.  The attic had 16+ inches of cellulose blown in, around r-60.

Good vapor barrier and good house wrap.

It worked pretty much as I anticipated.  It did not have a "furnace" per se.  All my heat loss calculations suggested I needed 40-50,000 BTU's per hour on a cold sunless day to stay comfy.  Furnaces generally don't come that small.

We had two small direct vent propane devices, one a small wall furnace about the size of a suitcase, and one was a fireplace with sealed combustion.  Almost 80% efficient.  I usually ran the fireplace only since it had a true thermostat.

During the day, with sun, neither device would run much at all and the main floor would be wonderful.  T-shirt and shorts comfortable.

The propane company wanted to know if they should come out every month to fill the bottle, and I said once a year would be fine.  They laughed first.  I laughed last.

So, that's not zero energy, but it would get you pretty close.  A pv array for a modest efficient electrical system, and a woodstove with a coppice grove out back to heat the house, and you'd be very close indeed.

I have recently finished, in Michigan, my 30' x 70' shop using similar techniques, but no basement and all cellulose.  I am convinced fiberglass doesn't work as well as cellulose, and it's not as renewable.  I don't need to heat it to 70F, and it's easy to heat with a tiny oil stove that runs on biodiesel since I have that stuff anyway.

It's the superinsulation levels that makes this possible in the kind of climate you describe. 

The other big advantage to this superinsulation technique, is there's nothing too exotic as far as your code person is concerned.

I did all the work myself on both structures.

Feel free to ask questions,

troy


 
Tyler Ludens
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Jim Argeropoulos wrote:
First focus on tier 1 ideas: heat retention, rejection, and avoidance. Then go to tier 2: passive systems. Finally tier 3: mechanical equipment

The biggest gains come in tier 1 And they often cost the least to implement


This post has been extremely helpful to me in prioritizing.  Thank you so much! 
 
Geoff Kegs
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Location: Northern lower Michigan
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Jim A: Thanks for your comments!

It makes perfect sense about lower insulation not being as effective as the side insulation due to the idea that warm air moves upward and of course convection is more prominent above the grade, but there is some conduction that happens in the basement - I am certain that is the case here.  

Right now I am trying to heat the ground below with the air just above it - which I know is not entirely dry - with a heat pump - and that is some of the waste of heating this home.  I am 100% certain insulation under that slab would have paid for itself during the nearly 10 years we have lived here.  One of our lessons here about efficiency is concerning windows.  We love the outdoors and because of that, we overglazed.  We have good windows, but good windows are what, the equivalent of R3?    ops:

I am still stuck on the roof part for the new design - steel = $$ and living roof = structural support for heavy loads which is of course $$$.  Even if I consider ferro cement or a geodome roof under consideration, which might save $ in construction costs, either involves paying a consulting civil engineer to put his stamp on it for the bldg. inspector., which will be at least $$.  I could make it a shed roof to decrease roofing costs which I have considered, but any reasonable pitch to offset snow loads puts the South side quite high, increasing air volume which would decrease efficiency dramatically.  This is another area I need to consider some.

Passive solar storage---> I have just thought of a new (to me) way of working with this.  The idea involves heat storage UNDER the foundation, not on the sides or parallel to the structure as is most often discussed.  Think of an insulated basement full of dry sand insulated from 8' down to above grade to a N/S block wall vented slab with external solar collectors running a closed loop buried coil at about 6' below grade.  Like I said, I have a great deal of issues to work out on this idea - and don't know if its been done or not, but my idea is to apply the concepts of accumulated solar energy storage, but avoid the moisture control issues of living in essentially, a walk-out basement with Southern exposure.  I am probably going to be learning a lot about Passive heat storage volume calculations shortly.

For humidity and fresh air options in the unreasonable season, I will be using some sort of heat recovery ventilator - probably not a commercial model, but rather a non-electric system of some sort.  Again, another piece of the puzzle to work out - and there are a lot of them: Convection, conduction, radiation, storage timing, and of course the monotonous code requirements - some of which a variance may be necessary since much of code still assumes a growing economy from fossil fuels, which is a questionable forecast, at best.

Aesthetics and comfort of course is important, but our primary goal is an attempt at using -0- energy for heating and off-the-grid sustainable power for all else.  Can it be done up here?  I don't know, but I'm very likely going to attempt it sooner rather than later.  

Also: wanted to add that I just got back from the library.  I checked out 5 books:

Got Sun? Go Solar by Ewing & Pratt.
The Straw Bale House by Steen, Steen & Bainbridge w/Eisenberg
The Passive Solar House by Kachadorian
The Superinsulated Home Book by Nisson & Dutt
Sun/Earth Buffering and Superinsulation by Booth, Booth & Boyles

I hope to have this info digested and notes summarized in a few weeks.  I am bound to learn something from every one of them and every one of you, so up front right here and now I just want to say thanks to all participating and of course to Mr. Paul who is keeping it real.  

solarguy (Troy):

Today   I am very much favoring going super-insulated using a load bearing 2-string straw bale system (R~55) on all 4 sides and essentially atop what is a frost-free insulated slab.  I still have a lot to work out, but I am going for 100% passive solar heating efficiency.

I admit that I have not seen this showcased yet in any design in the entire state, so my challenge is laid out in front of me.  

I think we have pretty much settled on a house plan layout that is <700 sq. ft. interior dimensions.  

I expect that all the windows I will put in, I will do so by installing on both the inside and outside of the bale wall (e.g. *2* double pane windows in each location with the inside window being slightly larger than the exterior window on the South side.  I already have a bunch of windows I got for free that I can use for this so we should be golden (or nearly) there.  

There will be a double wall UV stabilized polycarbonate greenhouse incorporated into the design of this house on part of the South side of the house - which will probably incorporate a 3-way vestibule - in the case of windows that are on the inside of that barrier (interior of hay bale house side, no need to put in the second window, as that envelope will suffice for slowing the heat loss of the interior window.  If I find it doesn't, on go additional windows.  In the case of one code required egress window outside of the greenhouse, I will work out other details for that.

I agree that cellulose trumps fiberglass.  Depending on what code requires, and/or what is practical to build within our budget constraints (which is quite small), we may incorporate cellulose for roof insulation.  I wish we would have used that here, but I will let another owner update that for this house if they so wish.   This home would be best occupied by a family of 4 or more for full occupancy of the house.

Heating with a biodiesel stove = that is awesome!

I will comment more once I have spoken to the building inspector and get a heads up on what I can or cannot do in the location where I plan on building.  I may be building this year (probably) or next, or later if something really unusual happens - you never know - whenever this happens, I will definitely post pics of the info on here when I actually get going on it.

 
Jim Argeropoulos
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Kachadorian's book is pretty good. I like that his ideas are pretty simple to implement.
I know I've read the last two you list as well, I just don't recall any high points from them.

I'd also recommend the second part in A Pattern Language and Ianto Evan's book for really good building design ideas. Not "construction" but how to create a house that feels right. Proportions, layout, and asthetics. Really do take the time to read those books, you will be glad you did.

I also like Amory Lovins Ideas on integrated design http://sic.conversationsnetwork.org/shows/detail3265.html http://sic.conversationsnetwork.org/shows/detail3266.html
Amory is one of those super smart guys. However, I also find him frustrating. I've listened to more than one of his talks and he's a sound bite guy. You hear the same stories over and over, and never enough details. He's worth listening to. He's a "high tech solution" person, so sometimes you have to take his ideas and adapt them.

If you want to hear about good procedure in the traditional buildings take some time to listen to Dr. Joe Lstiburek and Dr. John Straube in the 13 part series http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/building-science/perfect-wall-roof-and-slab-building-science-podcast These guys are really good. But they don't delve much into the natural building materials.

I also am not a fiberglass alone fan. Maybe in combination with another material, but I'd probably another material first.
 
Troy Rhodes
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I was sorely tempted to do a straw bale, passive solar, superinsulated house here in michigan, but eventually decided to retrofit a hideously inefficient old 2 story farmhouse.  So that will end up double wall and cellulose, with new windows and lots of movable window insulation tricks.  Ask me about the movable insulation when you get time to think about that.

The short version is to buy reflectix, mount a big dowel at the top of the window well, run the reflectix in a simple track (1x2 with a wide saw kerf in it) and make your own roll up insulating shade for pennies on the dollar of commercial versions.  If one layer of reflectix isn't enough, build two.

Here's a fairly informative pdf that shows the double roller thing:

http://learningstore.uwex.edu/assets/pdfs/B3064.pdf

One of the reasons I did it this way, was to prove it's possible, even in a hostile/cold/cloudy environment, AND a rehab of an old drafty building.  If I can it here, with this house, anybody can do it anywhere, with any house, almost.

In a way, I envy you for being able to start from scratch.  Way less work than my approach.

I will be watching with great interest.

Finest regards,

troy
 
Tyler Ludens
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solarguy, anything you can post about your retrofit project will be helpful, as I'm wanting to retrofit our cheap-o two storey frame house to be more energy efficient or "zero energy." (as if!  )
 
Jim Argeropoulos
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
solarguy, anything you can post about your retrofit project will be helpful, as I'm wanting to retrofit our cheap-o two storey frame house to be more energy efficient or "zero energy." (as if! )

If you do a deep energy retrofit, pay attention to where the condensation point is inside your wall, and the air quality.
If the condensation point is in the wrong spot, you'll create a mold generator.
If you seal up the house enough, you'll need to make up with a controlled input.

The two biggest heat loss points in most homes are the roof followed by the foundation. It probably makes sense to do an energy audit before you start.

I've calculated the cost in the past and decided it came pretty close to that of new. I'd rather build a new home. Given that choice I've started looking for infill lots and play with design ideas for that. I've still not done anything more than dream.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Our big thing here is trying to deal with the extreme heat, so sealing the house doesn't seem like  a good idea.  We don't use AC except in one room (office/workroom).  Winters are relatively mild and we're able to heat with wood.  Better windows and/or a little more insulation over glass might be good.  Mostly we're wanting to increase airflow in the summer.
 
Troy Rhodes
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Whole house fans can be pretty effective.  If you were in a hot/dry climate, swamp coolers help a lot.  But your not.  That would just pile more humidity into your house.

HTH,

troy
 
                      
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Underground housing has been around for a long time and with some careful planing to eliminated some of the inherent problems, can make it a very energy efficient and low maintenance solution. Also, other forms of air conditioning were used in the past and were very energy efficient but somehow went by the way side. I had a restaurant that was built in the early 1900's. The heating was steam. Cooling came later (ammonia AC). The walk in coolers and freezer where powered again by ammonia and electricity. The units worked for 50 years before any serious maintenance was required. However, we paid a fortune to get rig of the piping and ammonia tanks and was required to convert them to the more costly alternatives.

So lets look at the recent forms of efficient heating and cooling. We have heat pumps and Geothermal ones that cost very little to operate. However, they're very costly to have installed. There are a ton of solar solutions for AC, heating and electricity generation. However, they have a lot of caveats.

So to the point, there are some very promising solutions to efficient housing. Many state that we need to downsize the amount of square footage in our homes. Use of passive solar has come into it's own and can be designed into many housing structures. Utilizing many of these newer systems make be the key. I find that PAHS has some merit but it has some problems. I'm not much for the earth pipes cooling solution (mold and humidity).

So for me I'm looking for something that can utilize cheaper existing heating and cooling solutions. Also, the home must be easily maintained. I keep coming back to the Monolithic domes. This just my solution and there are many that have other thoughts on this matter.

Just my 2 cents .....
 
June May
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This book is great.....the author covers soo much information not just zero energy design, that is why the book is so long. He talks about the history and evolution of how we use energy and build homes. He talks about how alot of houses that claim to be green are really not. He talks just about everything from politics, to technology, our pending energy crisis and more. I can tell he is very passionate and knowledgeable in this field. He built a zero energy house in the 70s and lived in it. Even though the book is extremely long..about 800pages...I liked reading it because it talked about topics that interested me. It did provide lots of information also on zero energy design. However...even after reading this book I think most people would still need his help or an experts help to ensure the house is built the way he describes it. However it provides so much valuable information and tips and ideas ...I definetly reccommend it.
 
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