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What Shade of Green Are You?

July 28th, 2017

It seems like a funny question, but what we’re asking is: how environmentally friendly do you want your new home to be? With the array of new technology and differing building options available, deciding how “green” you want to be will affect several key factors in your new home. Deciding what your personal green goals are at the start can ensure your home performs the way you envision. Here are five aspects to help you determine just how green your new home should be:

  1. How green is your builder or contractor?
    There are many types of builders available in our area. Some are the “tried and true” kind who have built good homes for many years, but may be reluctant to explore some of the new environmentally friendly options available. Other builders are committed to a rating system or style of building that can save lots of energy, but comes with lifestyle trade-offs and possible increased costs. At Big Twig Homes, we like to take a position somewhere in the middle — relying on good construction craftsmanship while embracing energy efficiency and other green strategies where they make sense.
  2. What are your goals for your home’s green features?
    Each family is unique and has differing goals for the green aspects they want in their new homes. Some family members have respiratory problems, and want to have their home built with low VOC products to elevate indoor air quality. Other home owners are hoping to have some control over fluctuating energy costs by fixing energy investments with solar or geothermal systems. Still others want to have a comfortable home that will maintain its value and provide a healthy return when it’s time to sell. All these goals can be met with a range of green approaches.
  3. Saving energy is just one facet of a “green” approach to home construction.
    Of the many options to building green, energy efficiency is an important component. On the green building spectrum, there are many other factors that can contribute to a home’s impact on the environment. Many folks focus on improving the overall performance of their homes as systems. A home performance perspective will look at the basics— insulation, windows, doors, heating and cooling— plus ensuring the home’s exterior envelope is well sealed, proper home ventilation is installed. Even greener approaches will consider the proximity of the home’s location to amenities, the fuel expended to bring materials to the site, sustainability of materials and construction waste disposal to minimize the total impact on the environment.
  4. What level of cost versus benefit are you comfortable with?
    Like many life decisions, we often need to examine the costs versus the end benefits that any green feature provides. For example, a net zero house that produces enough energy to operate independently is achieved often with an increased investment in super-efficient windows, added insulation, and design changes that may work for some families but not for others. However, simple upgrades like added insulation or considering solar panels on your roof may provide a quick return and incentives that make the investment worthwhile.
  5. Documenting your new home’s energy rating can increase its value.
    There are a whole alphabet soup of options for measuring your home’s efficiency and environmental impact. Some focus on energy efficiency, while others look at a whole array of factors that can vary in home construction. We like to think that one smart investment is to hire an energy rater to work with us from design though to the final details. RESNET is a national organization that helps homeowners understand their home’s efficiency by training certified energy raters. These trained pros can advise on option to improve your home’s efficiency with small changes that have a big impact. You can find an energy rater in your area by using this tool on RESNET.com. Some studies have shown that having a good RESNET score can increase your home’s value by as much as 8%. Plus, energy efficiency tax incentives and rebates can put money back in your pocket.

No matter how green you want your home to be, we’re ready to walk you through the options and determine which green approaches meet your needs and your budget. Give us a call today at 207-576-5500.

Wood, Gas and Pellet Stoves: New Alternatives

February 14th, 2012

From Katahdin Cedar Log Homes – Source Link
The instability of heating oil and electricity costs in terms of heating a home have encouraged many log home owners to consider supplemental or alternative heating sources. Wood stoves, gas stoves and pellet stoves have been undergoing innovative design upgrades, offering log home owners many more options with tremendous convenience.

Gas Stove
For style, warmth and ease of use, Hearthstone’s Stowe model gas-fired stoveoffers an attractive supplemental heat source. The Stowe is available soon in fashionable off-white bisque enamel (see photo left), along with three other more traditional colors. The stove offers a heat refractory system that maximizes the radiant heat from the stove. Another neat practical feature is the Pro-Flame electronic ignition, which shuts off when not in use, and a built-in battery back-up which allows operation when the power is out.
Pellet Stove
Pellet stoves have come a long way since their emergence on the marketplace a few years ago. Pellets are much easier to locate and quality pellets provide a clean burn with little ash residue. Some of the drawbacks to pellet stoves have been addressed in Hearthstone’s Heritage Pellet stove (right), including a large 160-square inch viewing glass to increase the visual appeal. Hearthstone has also quieted the operating fan for a less intrusive heat source. (Pellet stoves do require electricity for operation, though.) The Heritage offers some good looks with either grey soapstone or sable-colored sandstone options with brown or black enamel trim.

Top-loading Wood Stove
Anyone who’s owned a woodstove understands the benefits of a top-loading stove like Jotul’s Rangeley model in cast iron or steel sides. The Rangeley offers a high efficiency rating and produces enough heat to heat a 2000-square-foot area. The lid also has been designed as a fully functional cook plate.

Classic Looks & Modern Technology
Jotul has also reintroduced its most popular classic style Black Bear Stove. The stove has been updated to provide 75% efficiency but provides a nostalgic look. The front plate carries the Norwegian inscription that translates to “I built me a flame late one night. When day is done, God will my flame never die out.” The Black Bear is an attractive and space saving stove for a more rustic setting.

Wood-Fired Cookstove
For the purist who enjoys modern sensibilities, Hearthstone has introduced a modern wood-fired cookstove, the Deva 100 (below). The design offers ease of operation, and holds up to 32 pounds of wood as long as 17inches. For the ambitious chef, the oven is spacious enough to cook a 20-pound turkey and has a center-mounted thermostat for easy visibility and precise temperature control. Available in a classic black enamel.

Passive House: Selecting an Architect

February 14th, 2012

From Katahdin Cedar Log Homes Article Source

Over the past few issues we’ve reviewed the three elements that combine to create a Passive House: the envelope, windows and doors, and air ventilation. Now how do you make it all come together? An architect experienced in Passive House design is one way to pull all the elements together to allow for the dramatic low energy consumption benefits of a Passive House.

Though well established in Europe, Passive House is only recently developing a following in the United States. Our resource for Passive House information, Alan Gibson of GO Logic in Belfast, Maine, has some recommendations for homeowners seeking an architect able to implement Passive House technology in their log home. Gibson recommends:

  • Find a PHIUS Certified Passive House Consultant. Visit the Passive House Institute US website for their listings of certified consultants. The list can be sorted by location, and the complete contact information is available by just clicking on the consultant’s name. Consultants have received training in understanding and utilizing the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) software, which identifies the parameters for passive home construction and design.
  • Find an architect who has designed a passive house. There are more and more architects who have designed passive houses, without becoming certified through PHIUS. Trained architects are able to utilize the PHPP software, which identifies the parameters for passive home construction and design. Inquire about previous passive house projects designed and completed, along with anything close to the standard. Ask a prospective architect if he or she completed the training, and if they are comfortable modeling the house using the PHPP software.
  • Prepare a list of questions. If the architect has not used PHPP or built a passive house, but would be interested in exploring a passive house design, ask about strategies he or she would employ for passive heating requirements (solar gain, insulation, windows, ventilation). Also ask for an estimate of the construction cost that would be required for them to design a home to meet the Passive House standard.

At Katahdin, our design team works with many architects to integrate custom designs into plans that are feasible within the parameters of log home construction. Should you decide to design a home with passive house technology, we can work with your architect or consultant to make it a reality!