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Archive for Sunday, October 14, 2007

A tour in sustainable, eco-friendly, money-saving design

October 14, 2007

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People interested in energy-efficient and earth-friendly homes tour the residence of Matt Smith and Heather Amthauer, 1417 Prospect, as part of the Home Energy Conservation Fair and the Sustainable Homes Tour.

People interested in energy-efficient and earth-friendly homes tour the residence of Matt Smith and Heather Amthauer, 1417 Prospect, as part of the Home Energy Conservation Fair and the Sustainable Homes Tour.

When Matt Smith and Heather Amthauer were house shopping and came across a three-bedroom, split-level home made largely of concrete, they knew they had found the one.

On Saturday, more than 60 people traipsed through their east Lawrence home to check out why it was such a find.

As a way to conserve energy, the house has 4 inches of concrete on both the inside and outside walls. In between is a 4-inch layer of Styrofoam. It's known as a concrete-sandwich wall.

That building technology, along with well-insulated doors and windows and high-efficiency appliances, have the couple saving a fourth to a third on their energy bill. The house also was strategically placed on the lot to maximize sunlight.

"I love it," Smith said. "You get the best of all possible worlds. I feel good about living in it."

The home was one of six on Saturday's Sustainable Homes Tour. The chance to get to peek inside others' homes to see how they save on their energy bill was part of the annual Home Energy Conservation Fair. The fair, at Free State High School, included exhibits, speakers, food and alternative-fuel vehicles.

Those along for the home tour were a mixture of students, architects, builders and homeowners looking for ideas.

"A lot of people are interested in simply green issues and they want to see what is happening on the front in terms of building," said Daniel Poull, who was guiding the tour and is chairman of the Sustainability Advisory Board.

Justin Kreikemeier, an architecture student at Kansas University, said he was on the tour to learn more about green building.

Smith and Amthauer's home is one of two that builder John Craft constructed and architect Joe King designed.

"We feel good about this method and want to do more of them," Craft said.

Although the house costs between 10 to 20 percent more than what a comparable wood-frame home would, Craft said the price difference is quickly made up through savings on energy bills and maintenance.

Other homes on the tour included a Habitat for Humanity house and a straw- bale art studio.

Comments

bluerose 6 years, 11 months ago

another event i would have loved to attend (even in the rain) IF I HAD KNOWN IT WAS GOING ON! why do you bury these interesting events, LJW? and not bring them them out until after the fact? it is so frustrating not to have a reliable calendar with listings of events beyond who is playing what bar.

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carmie 6 years, 11 months ago

I agree with bluerose. For years I have taken the blame that I do not read the paper more closely, yet, I feel it is the lack of communication. I heard nothing on KPR (local radio) about this tour. I read nothing in the paper. This is globally a hot topic. I just heard a thing about Japanese recycling their bath water---using it to rinse out paint brushes.. etc. So, why is not a progressive town like Lawrence NOT in the forefront of this issue. Instead of bellyaching about the wetlands, why not do something that is more globally impacting.....saving our natural resources? OKOK the wetlands are a natural resource but that is not my point. Sustainability is the "IN" word: it should be on the front page of the newspaper everyday.

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Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

The lions share of builders in this community are not LEED certified which at some point will be a detriment to their future. http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CategoryID=19

The new library is slated for LEED Design IF that ever takes place. A builder will likely need to come from KCMO,Denver etc etc where builders are moving forward. Energy cost savings on these buildings keeps operating costs aka overhead wayyy down.

Many Lawrence Architects are well versed.

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Lifelong_Lawrencian 6 years, 11 months ago

I also agree with bluerose. I would have attended had I known about it. Though it might have been as much the fault of the promoter as of LJW.

Though I did not attend, it does not seem that the home featured was very green.

"...split-level home made largely of concrete..."

Concrete is a very un-green material, in that it requires so much energy to produce, not to mention the fact that it is so expensive.

"Although the house costs between 10 to 20 percent more than what a comparable wood-frame home would, Craft said the price difference is quickly made up through savings on energy bills and maintenance."

"...saving a fourth to a third on their energy bill."

I find it hard to believe that saving 25-33% on the energy bill, along with saving on maintenance, can translate into long term savings if one is spending 10-20% more for the home to start with.

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Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

As a way to conserve energy, the house has 4 inches of concrete on both the inside and outside walls. In between is a 4-inch layer of Styrofoam. It's known as a concrete-sandwich wall.

That building technology, along with well-insulated doors and windows and high-efficiency appliances, have the couple saving a fourth to a third on their energy bill. The house also was strategically placed on the lot to maximize sunlight.

The new materials are proving themselves.

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Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

The surprisingly hopeful answer lies in living memory. In the 1940s, Americans simultaneously battled fascism overseas and waste at home. My parents, their neighbors, and millions of others left cars at home to ride bikes to work, tore up their front yards to plant cabbage, recycled toothpaste tubes and cooking grease, volunteered at daycare centers and USOs, shared their houses and dinners with strangers, and conscientiously attempted to reduce unnecessary consumption and waste. The World War II home front was the most important and broadly participatory green experiment in U.S. history. Lessing Rosenwald, the chief of the Bureau of Industrial Conservation, called on Americans "to change from an economy of waste--and this country has been notorious for waste--to an economy of conservation." A majority of civilians, some reluctantly but many others enthusiastically, answered the call.

http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200707/ecology.asp

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

Actually, Lifelong Lawrencian has a good point. By the time you factor in the rather large amounts of "embodied" energy in concrete, the true payback in energy savings will be a rather long time in coming.

But standard construction has rather high embodied energy, too, and requires more energy in ongoing maintenance and uses more energy in heating and cooling. So in the long term, compared to standard construction, this house is fairly green.

That said, as the energy required to create and transport concrete becomes less and less subsidized (and more and more expensive,) the less economically viable this technique will become.

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Richard Heckler 6 years, 11 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous)

How about rehab/converting existing structures to as green as possible?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

"How about rehab/converting existing structures to as green as possible?"

That's the best idea of all, generally speaking. In the current market, because of subsidized energy costs and externalized costs of environmental degradation, the costs of common building materials are artificially low. That means that it is often "cheaper" to build something new than to make major repairs to an existing structure, which tends to be more labor intensive. But as energy costs rise, so will material costs, especially relative to labor. As that happens, renovation of existing structures will become a more cost effective way to go.

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