Article No: 257

2009-06-08 11:56:10
LIVING Healthy, LIVING Green
By: Beverly Stevenart

A 30-panel photovoltaic array, 6,000-watt system with an installed price tag of $38,635 became a gift at just under $13,000 after the Black Hills Energy’s  rebate. Photography by Steve Bigley of Advanced Photo 
With plenty of Colorado sunshine on our side, this working Zero Energy model home and new office will help to demonstrate for years to come, how we can live comfortably while having little effect on our environment. After decades of designing and building energy efficient homes and moving more times than I care to remember, it was time, time to build the last one for us, Dale and Beverly Stevenart, owners of Craftsman Homes and Design. It has always felt like the right thing to do, building homes that don’t waste energy and money.  Today though, there is a new urgency and renewed commitment to this end. And so began this project. 
Location, location, location. Our site in Pueblo West, Colo., is 10 minutes from our main office and some shopping; 20 minutes from the state park, bike trails, reservoir and marinas; perfect exposure for mountain views and solar advantages; and within the territory of Black Hills Energy. That last one played a huge role in our bottom line with one of the most generous solar PV rebate programs in the United States. A 30-panel photovoltaic array, 6000-watt system with an installed price tag of $38,635 became a gift at just under $13,000 after the Black Hills’ rebate.

The basic design was born from a spec plan that I had worked on for some time. We had built one that sold quickly despite the tough market. Customizing this plan for Dale and me was easy, considering the time already spent on a design that I was truly fond of.

Building Green was the primary objective and so our footprint is a modest 1,973-square-foot on each of the two levels. Each square foot was considered carefully to insure efficiency without compromise to flow and space. Each room has a clear, genuine purpose and is used on almost a daily basis.

Abundant windows to the south that capture panoramic mountain views are mostly shaded during the warmer months to help prevent overheating. Our engineer and architect were instrumental to insuring our success.

The walkout lower level was made possible by importing 900 tons of local fill dirt. A drainage issue on the lot was also resolved by the serious change of grade, while  concrete retaining walls add levels of landscape interest to the front elevation. 
The main level has vaulted and 10-foot ceilings. Energy Star low E NFRC-rated fiberglass windows and doors, an electronic non-pilot gas fireplace and no VOC paint to eliminate indoor air issues.
The PolySteel 4600 Series insulating concrete form (ICF) was used for the exterior walls of the home. The 6-inch core was filled with 4000 psi concrete mix with a 15 percent fly ash content.

Below grade, 60,000-pound rebar reinforcement was positioned every 2 feet horizontally and 2 feet vertically in addition to around all VBuck window and door openings.  Critical to the depth of excavation, was the ability to see over the 5-foot concrete courtyard walls that surround the back portion of the yard. The mountain tops had to be present while sitting in the lower level office and design center.

The 9-foot ceilings, combined with the walkout element, creates inviting living space that extends to the outdoors with a spacious patio area. The rugged brown imprinted concrete patio has 33-inch concrete walls, a floor drain and a 6-foot-wide stairway with four steps up to grade. 

The main level with vaulted  and 10-foot ceilings continued up with the PS4600 insulating concrete forms, same concrete mix, same strength rebar and placement with the exception of horizontally, which was now required at 4-foot increments.  Simpson ICF ledger connectors were used for both the interior rim ledger and the exterior deck rim ledger.
Raised heel trusses were placed atop the completed ICF walls to further insure the thermal envelope. Over the entire attic floor and continuing out over the exterior ICF wall, Insulstar, a NCFI sprayed in place polyurethane foam insulation, was first installed at a 2-inch-depth and then topped with 8 inches of blown-in fiberglass. This two-step application method has proven successful for us in achieving a tight and well-insulated lid. Any wiring, ductwork, venting, etc. that could ordinarily create a break in the thermal envelope are then well-sealed. Specially framed attic access doors were insulated with rigid foam board and weather-stripped.

With the current leading strategy of “Build it Tight and Ventilate Right” in mind, we proceeded to install an HRV system, central vacuum, vented range hood and electronic ignition non-pilot gas fireplace. In addition to these indoor air quality items, we also tinned all supply and return air ducts.  Standard in the industry today is to use an interior wall cavity, which can lead to indoor air quality issues in certain circumstances. No VOC paint was applied to interior walls, shelving and trim.
Energy Star lighting, appliances and low E NFRC-rated fiberglass windows add to the house’s energy efficiency.

Lumber was conserved by framing non-bearing interior wall studs at 24 inches on-center and no headers over interior non-bearing door walls. An engineered alternative floor joist system was used instead of large-dimension solid lumber. The exterior decking material contained 50 percent post-consumer and post-industrial recycled plastic.
Energy Star Low E NFRC rated fiberglass windows with a U-Factor of 0.34, along with Energy Star fiberglass doors throughout, complete the envelope while adding both beauty and style.

The exterior finish materials that best suit our dry high prairie surroundings are both locally produced: El Ray cement-based stucco and El Dorado architectural stone veneer. We capped it off with a 50-year, Class A fire-rated roof for a sustainable, carefree exterior.

Energy Star lighting, ceiling fans and appliances assist in minimizing our energy usage. Small square architectural feature windows, in addition to the abundant larger windows, allow natural light to fill the home and eliminate the need for artificial lighting. Water-sense toilets that conserve at least 20 percent over a standard 1.6-gallon toilet and a drip  irrigation system for the landscaping will enable us to use less water in our naturally dry climate. Five solar thermal panels mounted on the roof provide domestic hot water and also radiantly warm the floors throughout our home.
Simple conservation of energy is the most powerful and critical change that we can all make, from building a new sustainable home to the recycling of an aluminum can.

Our new model home has saved a staggering 112,000 pounds in CO2 emissions being released into our atmosphere since September of 2008. 

A McGraw-Hill Construction 2008 Market Report, “The Green Home Consumer,” found that 70 percent of home buyers are more or much-more inclined to buy a green home over a conventional home in a down housing market.

One home… 7 months… 112,000 pounds in CO2 emissions being saved. It’s difficult to find a win-win these days, but it feels like we are close with our new working model project that we call home.

Beverly Stevenart is co-owner with her husband, Dale, of Craftsman Homes & Design in Pueblo West, Colo. She can be reached by calling (719) 547-7783 or by e-mailing