Basha Kill Acres Home in New York State
Small but sustainable family home built with ICF.
By Vanessa Salvia
Troy Hodas, a husband, father and builder, is a HERS rater and Certified Passive House Consultant in Wurtsboro, New York.. Most of his work is Energy Star related. “I sit down with the builder and discuss program requirements for whether they’re going to build a passive home or an Energy Star-rated home and what the minimum standards are. Throughout the process I do inspections at key points and at the end I do final testing.”
Because of his experience, when it came time to build the family home—his wife delivered their son during the build—he knew he wanted a very energy efficient home. “We wanted it to be comfortable, durable and good indoor air quality,” he says. “That was our driving points besides reducing our overhead and building a smaller home in general.”
He had heard of ICFs before the build, but had never used them. He began researching ICFs and realized they would meet his requirements for superb insulation and low maintenance.
His single family, two-story, 1,980-square-foot home with finished basement abuts the Basha Kill Wildlife Preserve, so the family named the home Basha Kill Acres. The home was constructed with Logix Platinum Series R-28 plus D-Rv R-8 insert panels, providing R-36 walls. Logix Pro Buck was also used in all window and door openings for complete thermal stability within the home.
“Passive houses are super insulated with R-40 or R-60 walls, and to achieve that there are different strategies,” Hodas remarked. “Either double stud walls or a conventional wall system with a truss on the outside and filling that with cellulose. I looked at those options and it seemed for the time and effort and uncertainty of how that wall was going to perform moisture-wise, I just felt more comfortable going with a solid concrete wall. It’s super insulated on both sides. You have the thermal mass. You’re never going to have rodents coming in or bugs or anything like that.
And on top of that designed based on the specs, it can withstand 180 to 200 mile per hour winds. It’s going to be there forever, it’s super durable, resilient, storms or uncertainty in weather won’t matter. It just seemed like the smartest choice.”
Hodas began his career as a builder back in 2005. He built homes through 2009, then focused on HERS ratings and real estate. He built a conventional wood frame home last year for a friend, then when it came time to build his own home, he did what he thought best. Even though the walls are 13 1/2 inches thick, the home has a nice use of open space and higher ceilings to make it feel more open and light. Counting the basement, the home is 2,304 square feet.
Hodas used R-70 cellulose in the ceiling and R-20 rigid insulation under the slab. Windows were triple-pain glass from Europe that covered the envelope. He chose a point source mini unit 9,000 BTU hyper unit to meet heating and cooling demand for the whole house and an UltimateAir 200 ventilation unit.
Before the solar panels were installed, the HERS rating was 30. After, it was 4. A home built to the 2015 international energy code hovers around HERS 55. “The solar can be misleading though, because you can put enough solar on it that you can get a negative HERS but really the house is terrible,” he explains. “But that first HERS score of 30 shows how well the house is designed.”
With their 6.7-kilowatt solar system, they are already returning energy to the grid. In April 2017, the family used only 10 kilowatts more energy than what they created. “That was having the solar panels installed for not even the whole month, and I get credits most months,” he says. “I document every day and write down the numbers on the meters.”
The road their home is on is known for power outages. On one 28-degree day the power went out. “I was curious about how the house would perform,” Hodas recalls. “The temperature in the house was 68.8 and after five hours it literally only dropped .4 degrees, so it was very minimal. At first it actually gained heat because of the sunny day and then dropped only .4 degrees.”
He took on the build himself, even though he had not used ICFs before, and had some friends help. He knew someone who had used Logix and after researching different brands, he liked their product. “It was pretty straightforward,” he says, “but you had to make sure you were aware of the details.”
Hodas chose a simple rectangular design to reduce complexity and cost. The more rectangle the home is, the more efficient it is. They started digging the foundation in the beginning of August 2016 and started stacking the Logix ICFs at the end of that same month. The family moved in in January 2017, including their baby who was born August 13.
Although Hodas didn’t go for passive certification, he followed the principals he knew very well. “I’ve been involved with a few passive projects and people get so focused on the certification that sometimes they don’t pay attention to common sense,” he notes. “I didn’t want to get caught in that. I think the passive standard is great but for me I took it to where I thought as the best place. To go further I would have had to wrap the windows with insulation and do a few other things but for the time, effort and money it just wasn’t worth it. In the end it speaks for itself given the time, the cost and the comfort. We’re pretty happy.”
Location: Wurtsburo, New York, adjacent to the Basha Kill Wildlife Preserve
Size: Main house 1,941 square feet plus 363 square feet of basement
ICF system: Logix Platinum Series R-28 plus D-Rv R-8 insert panels, Logix Pro Buck in window and door openings
Developer/Owner: Troy Hodas, as Spruce Mountain
Architect: Thomas Fiola, Central Valley, New York
Engineer: Paul Mele, CITY, STATE?
General Contractor: Spruce Mountain
ICF Installer: Spruce Mountain
Construction time: 64 days
Estimated cost of Logix Installation: $31,000 or $41,000 with concrete
Estimated man-hours for ICF Installation: 305
This article originally appeared in our August/September 2017 issue.