Breaking Ground - LEED Platinum Home Progress Report

October 18, 2010


Construction has begun.

Or I should say demolition. The team started demolition on October 11.  The deadline for construction is July 7, 2011. Nine months from contract signing.

So far they have started to take down the two one story ‘ells’ on the house. These are to be removed to make room for the new addition. They are proceeding with demolition very carefully and slowly. It is really rather amazing. Because of the dedication of these contractors to the cause of salvaging all they can from landfill and because of the reinforcement of that ideal from both LEED and the client, they are going all out.

They are meticulously removing each piece of siding and lathe from the house. They are removing nails by hand and stacking all of that wood neatly for reuse later. Some of the shingles will have to be tossed but much will be used for shims. All of the old lathe will be reused as the air spacers (furring strips) to go between the sheathing and the new siding. It is stockpiled in a clean dry place for later use. The lumber from the house is also salvaged and will be used whereever it can be for making concrete forms, as blocking, or any other place where it does not need to be pretty or perfect.         



What do I mean by energy efficiency vs. health. Well, experientially, as an architect who is heavily involved in the building of a house I pay attention to what is current practice in the world of building. (Some architects only ‘design’ - without too much concern for how a thing is constructed. I happen to be one of the ones who design with a very integrated approach- taking in all aspects of constructability and an awareness of structure and systems as we go.) I have been attending ‘green building conferences’ for 12 years. In all of those years I can easily say that the vast majority of papers given and discussions had have been about the energy efficiency of buildings. The envelope design, the mechanical systems, heat gain and loss, cooling loads, window technology, geothermal systems and solar, embodied energy in production and transportation, return on investments, etc.

Another aspect of green building is of course the sustainability factor. You can read about this in almost any magazine you pick up- it is everything from bamboo floors, no voc paints, locally sourced stone, fsc certified wood, water barrels, natural fiber carpets, etc etc. The public is more aware of these things because they are more interesting to talk about and easier to do. The public also is aware of things like cfl light bulbs and low flow shower heads, etc. These are all of the things people talk about at cocktail parties. The ‘u’ value of your wall assembly is not so easy to toss around.

Both energy efficiency and sustainability offer opportunities for improving the overall ‘health’ of a house and its occupants. The better a wall is built the less likely it will be to have mold and mildews. The more properly sized and integrated an HVAC system is the better the indoor air quality will be. No VOC paints and formaldehyde free millwork will limit air pollutants, getting rid of petroleum based products wherever possible (lie foams and vinyls) will not only greatly improve the health of the people who manufacture and install these products but it is proposed that is will also reduce the risk of asthma and other adverse effects in the long term occupants of a building.

So, many builders of production houses will build a VOC laden, foam insulated vinyl box that not only has very little aesthetic appeal but would also probably fail a lot of health tests. They usually put in a super high efficiency forced air system that turns the air over a lot and the comb of that with a really well insulated, well-sealed wall can go a long way in making up for that but it really ignores a lot of the deeper aspects of long term health for occupants. Our clients did not want their long term health to be ignored.



LEED addresses energy efficiency, sustainability and health in its point system. It could be said that even LEED leans toward energy efficiency and sustainability and leans less toward health but if you simply understand that if you build a house correctly, many health benefits will be integral in the house already you see that the health aspects are actually addressed. To truly make an optimally healthy house however you have to try harder. You have to figure out a way to build a very efficient wall without using foam for example. You have to work harder to find low VOC glues and adhesives. You have to think about indoor air quality when the power is out for a week. You have to think about every single thing that is going into the house. It’s a lot harder to make an efficient, sustainable house that is also very, very healthy.