House spotlights affordable 'green' technology

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Tue., Aug. 2, 2011
Killingly High School construction technology teacher Bonnie Beland, student Samantha Robinson and project manager Andy Gil discuss plans for the 2011 Builders' Association of Eastern Connecticut House of the Year. Contributed photo. - Contributed Photo

There may be tan siding on the house going up at 623 Voluntown Road, but the structure is “green” through and through.

The house currently under construction is designed to consume less than half of the energy of the average house in the currently-approved building code, said Renee Main, executive officer for the Builders’ Association of Eastern Connecticut. The BAEC is constructing this year’s “House of the Year” to spotlight environmentally-sustainable practices and products.

“People say ‘green costs green,’ but that’s not necessarily true,” said Main. “Working families need affordable green housing and [we’re] out to prove it can be done.”

The 1,598-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom split-level house, on a 1.4-acre lot, will sell for $219,000 when it’s completed. House of the Year Building Committee Chair Andrew Gil, of Mystic River Building Company Inc., designed the house and is serving as project manager on a volunteer basis.

Gil said he envisioned the house as a “bridge” between sustainable but high-priced “McMansions” and the entry-level home. In fact, he said he designed it after his own house, “with significant improvements.”

“To me, what matters is that people like me can afford a house that’s built right and is sustainable,” he said. Gil said that in a typical house, insulation is set between wood studs, which act as a thermal bridge, allowing cold air into the interior walls and the insulation layer. In contrast, the Griswold house is constructed with an unbroken 7-inch layer of insulation sandwiched between interior and exterior rows of studding.

“It completely eliminates that thermal bridge and dramatically lowers the cost to heat that space,” he said. The tight insulation allows for a much smaller heating system than in a typical new construction, Gil said. The heating and cooling system is controlled by a hyper heat technology air source heat pump, which circulates air in two zones with natural venting. Hot water is provided by a hybrid air source water heater, which also uses less energy since it’s in an insulated basement. Gil estimates that the annual cost for heating, cooling and hot water in the house will be $800.

Other energy-saving features include low-maintenance siding and porch rails and renewable bamboo and cork flooring. Energy-efficient appliances and lighting contribute to the house’s Home Energy Rating Standard (HERS) index of 46, meaning that it will use 46 percent of the energy of a typical house that meets current building codes, said Main. Plans for the house earned a 5-plus star rating for energy use, the highest rating possible.

The structure has earned certification for sustainability from the U.S. Department of Energy Builders’ Challenge, Energy Star for New Homes and the National Association of Home Builders.

Also contributing to the plans for the house were Chad Whitcomb of the Greensulators, Inc.; Paul Stone of Lombardi Inside/Out; Nort Wheeler of Mystic River Building Company; and Tim Applegate of New London County Landscaping. When it’s completed, the house will be open to the public to acquaint visitors with the new technologies used in its construction. The BAEC “should lead the pack” and educate builders about affordable sustainability, Gil said.

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