David Shepler’s Incredible Green Building
When David Shepler decided to build a home for his family, he followed his lifelong interest in green building to create a home that combined environmental friendliness with modern convenience. Not only did Shepler build a gorgeous, sunny, spacious gem of a home (replete with bubbling brook and forest), he also built a home that requires zero grid energy. In fact, the local energy supplier has to pay him money for the energy his house contributes to the grid.
The new generation zero energy home (ZEH) combines a number of renewable energy sources, recycled materials and cutting edge insulation techniques to create a house that provides all of its own energy. A ZEH (also known as a net-zero energy home) does cost more to build, but US homeowners can expect a $20 – 30 000 tax credit coupled with a $5,000 saving each year on oil, electricity and gas. Canadians can take advantage of a number of equitable tax incentives visit Natural Resources Canada.
The secret to creating a completely green house lies in insulation. The house must form a sealed envelope to ensure that no energy is lost through heating and cooling. This is achieved primarily through ICFs. Insulated concrete forms (ICFs) are blocks of thick Polystyrene connected by 100% recycled polypropylene webs. The insulated concrete forms are stacked like Lego, making construction fast and easy. The ICFs are reinforced with rebar (made with 99% recycled material.) Concrete is poured into the hollow centre of the ICFs creating a monolithic wall structure; these sturdy concrete form walls are stronger than walls constructed with other materials including cinder blocks. ICFs reduce sound by two thirds and provide such excellent insulation that the homeowner is able to save 30-50% on HVAC bills. The sturdy insulated concrete forms enabled Shepler to use innovative building ideas like the ‘floating’ staircase.
In addition to the ICF wall systems, triple pane argon filled windows allow sunlight in during cold months and reflect it during warm summer months. A solar power system and a ground source heat pump provide the home’s energy. The super insulation provided by the ICF wall system means that the house provides more energy than it consumes, despite the dramatic fluctuations in temperature of upstate New York. Shepler also uses efficient appliances and a combination of CFL and LED lighting.
Shepler laments the fact that financial institutions have not kept apace with developments in the industry, making it difficult to get funding for zero energy homes. If you are wondering how much this puppy will set you back, you’ll be surprised to know that zero energy homes cost only 10% more to construct. The ZEH is able to recover that cost in 7-12 years. Throw in the generous government tax reductions, savings on energy and income from the electrical company, and you have a home that makes both dollars and sense!