The builder proposed to reduce the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code home with a HERS
Index of about 91 to around 40, before a Pv system is factored in. The team achieved that using a super-insulated shell design, triple-glazed windows and high-efficiency appliances.
margin were added to that number. I suggested
that the photovoltaic (Pv) systems could be
optional to bring down the first-time costs to
The next step was to redesign the homes to
take advantage of solar electric systems, which
are especially cost-effective with Massachusetts
incentives. That meant giving the homes an open
roof area facing within 30 degrees of true south
(in this part of the country, true south is about
14 degrees west of magnetic south).
Architect Benjamin nickerson of Woodstock, vt., along with Betsy Pettit and Hono-rata Wytrykowska of Building Science Corp. in
Somerville, Mass., created plans with gable ends
to the street (Greek revival, victorian and Farmhouse designs) to take advantage of sunlight from
the side. We created designs that could incorporate solar on the front or back of the homes
(colonial, saltbox, ranch and cottage designs), all
in keeping with the new England style.
Beacon Communities has a secret weapon:
Mercedes Fernando, a designer in touch with
what buyers want in homes these days. She took
a Farmhouse model plan we had built previously
and redesigned it with a bigger kitchen, more
south-facing glass, a nice master bathroom and a
walk-in master closet. She kept roughly the same
amount of glass and square footage as we had
previously. Leveraging the large volume of units
that Beacon produces, she was able to work with
suppliers to reduce costs. We upgraded the vinyl
bathroom floors to tile and the kitchen and bath
counters from plastic laminate to granite. Mer-
cedes accomplished all this while maintaining
the original budget.
reducing Baseline Energy usage
The plan I proposed was to reduce the
homes’ energy usage approximately 56 percent.
That brought the 2009 International Energy
Conservation Code home with a HErS Index
of about 91 to around 40, before a Pv system
is factored in.
We have been blessed by being a part of the
U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America
Program. A couple of years ago, Betsy Pettit and
some other ace members of the team at Building
Science Corp. ( www.buildingscience.com) led
a charrette to look over our first Zero Energy
2008 Farmhouse model and suggest improve-
ments. There were about 10 engineers and four
architects at the table — some of the industry’s
best and brightest. One suggestion was that we
try the navien instantaneous gas water heater.
It has a 98 percent efficiency rating and installed
cost of about $1,800. This approach would prove
to be much more cost-effective than using active
solar thermal or combined Pv-and-solar thermal
systems. It took about five hours to get through
about 25 slides with all of the charrette group’s