Monday, June 29, 2009

Some of you were able to tour our 2009 Michigan Energy Fair Show Home in Kingsley Michigan this last weekend, for those of you that were not. One of the favorite feature of this home was the Tulikivi Masonry Unit Heater Fireplace from Positive Chimney & Fire Place Located in Cadillac, Michigan. TULIKIVI (TWO-lee-KEE-vee). In Finnish, it literally means "fire stone". In English, it translates into one of the world's most beautiful and efficient ways to heat your house.

Fireplaces are important in every home especially to those who are located in cold places like Michigan. However, burning wood inside your home is not eco friendly enough and not an efficient way to save fuel. To address this issue, Finnish company Tulikivi has created the soapstone fireplace that is truly beautiful and fuel-efficient that produces some of the cleanest, most energy-efficient wood-burning fireplaces in the world. Adding to the “green” appeal of a Tulikivi fireplace is its healthy radiant heat output and use of a local, renewable, carbon neutral fuel – wood. These soapstone fireplaces are a traditional heating method in Finland, but are now winning converts here at a time when prices for oil and natural gas continue to soar. Typical wood-burning fireplaces send the majority of their heat up the chimney; not so with a Tulikivi. The soapstone soaks up the fire’s heat as it burns, stores it and then gently and steadily releases it after the fire is out. Tulikivi is recognized by the Finnish Allergy and Asthma Federation as a heating option for those households where asthma or allergies are a key concern, due to the extremely low particle emission of its latest collection of fireplaces (introduced in North America earlier this year). Tulikivi fireplaces supersede the strictest air quality standards in the world and help's our "Granite Hill Project" earn points towards its projected LEED for Homes "Gold" certification. It’s nice to know that you can now have a fireplace that is not only fashionable and elegant, but also an earth friendly one.

Several people that attended this years Energy Fair told me it was worth the trip to this home just to check out his Tulikivi soapstone fireplace.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Many thing have happened since our last update. You can read the articles I wrote below about our trip to the Andersen Window factory, our "Watercress Project" completion or our 2009 Michigan Energy Fair show house and the exciting news about the "Vineyard Project" HERS score and it becoming a projected LEED for Homes "Platinum" project just to name a few thing since our last update!

As of this month we are happy to have 15 active projects in our office for design. The picture in this article is from the site of the latest project under design which will be built on Long Lake in Traverse City, Michigan. We have just completed the designs for a interesting projected LEED for Homes "Gold" project called the "The Hybrid II Project" in Pittsford, Michigan that Adam Bearup of Hybrid Homes will be building along with the projected LEED for Homes "Platinum" "Turtle's Hope Project" that he has currently under construction. These projects should be fun to watch as Adam turns our designs in to reality. At the end of May we were hired for a new Zero Energy Home (ZEH) project in Beulah, Michigan and are currently interviewing for several other interesting projects throughout the state. Thats all for now.

Hope to see some of you at the 2009 Michigan Energy Fair were in Booth #8.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Exciting news from Mike Holcomb of AES (Our LEED for Homes rater) and Adam Bearup of Hybrid Homes our "Vineyard Project" just received a HERS score of 34. This is the lowest score Mike Holcomb has every tested as a rater and possibly the lowest score in the State of Michigan. This extremely low HERS score means that our "Vineyard Project" is now projected at the "Platinum" Level under the LEED for Homes program. Both Adam and I are very excited about this news.

What is a HERS, or Home Energy Rating System score? Well it is basically a rating of how energy efficient a home is based on a number of things, including a blower door test, the HVAC system, energy usage, and so on. The HERS rating is what is used to qualify a home for the Energy Star Rating. The rating is based off of a standard new home built to code that was rated originally tested and used as the test case with the score of 100. A typical older home has a HERS index of 125-150. Most homes that qualify for Energy Star homes must have a HERS rating of 85. That means that those homes are 15% more energy efficient than the test house. This is really good and a step in the right direction. Most of our homes have been scoring in the 50's, which is where we would expect the to fall. That HERS score would qualifies our homes as 5 star+ in the Energy Star rating system. The "Vineyard Project" came in at 34 (lower the better) making it 66% more efficient than a new home built to code.

Based on their Home Energy Rating System (HERS) scores, the average home certified under LEED for Homes since its launch in February 2008 is predicted to use an estimated 30-60% less energy than a comparable home built to International Energy Conservation Code. Based on the average HERS ratings for each level of LEED certification, these homes could potentially see energy reductions of:
  • Certified: Up to 30%.

  • Silver: Approximately 30%.

  • Gold: Approximately 48%.

  • Platinum: 50-60%.

As many know, Adam and I are firm believer in Kaizan ( A Japanese philosophy Adam introduced me too), or continuous improvement. We are continually studying the design & construction of our homes to make improvements to them so they are as energy efficient as possible within their budgets. So even though a HERS rating of 34 is the best we have achieved so far our goal are to continually improve upon that score with the ultimate goal of a HERS score of 0. You can read Adam's take on it at his blog.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Today is the birthday of Frank LLoyd Wright. Widely regarded as America's most influential architect, Frank Lloyd Wright left behind a rich legacy of homes and buildings, and created a distinctly American style of architecture that continues to influence architects to this day. He was born June 8, 1867 and pasted a way in April 9, 1959. His work has influence my life since I was a young teenager. I have been and still am inspire by his work. Some of my favorite works of his are Fallingwater, Meyer May House and all the Prairie Style and Usonian houses . Wright's philosophy in architecture promoted harmony between the building, its inhabitants and nature. His homes became part of their surroundings. He minimized their presence and maximized their practicality. He revolutionized modern architecture with the essentials of ecological design and green building. Also today was the birthday of another organic architect pioneer Bruce Goff who would of been 105rd. Today we should all honor both of these pioneers of the green movement. Other birthday this month are, mine Eric Hughes (June 9Th), My Son Joshua (June 29Th) a future pioneer in green movement.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Its time again for the Michigan Energy Fair! Come visit the fair June 26th - 28th in Onekama, Michigan and see the latest in green building technologies. We are proud to have our projected LEED for Homes "Gold" project called the "Granite Hill Project" in Kingsley Michigan (Just outside of Traverse City) Be the 2009 Michigan Energy Fair Show House its also the first LEED for Homes project in Grand Traverse County. Many of you toured our 2007 & 2008 Energy Fair Show House in Onekama which was West Michigan's first LEED for Homes "Platinum" project and won numerous local and national awards.

Stop by our booth (booth #8) and see what we have be up to since last year and get a look at some our latest projects. We are able to show multiple projects using the latest in Sustainable/Green building technologies such as ICF's (Insulated Concrete Form), SIP Panel (Structural Insulated Panels), Advanced Framing, Straw Clay Construction, Passive Solar Design, Solar Hot, Photovoltaic, Wind Generation, Geo-Thermal, Zero-Energy Homes (ZEH) along with the use of the Lifetime Design ( Aging-in-place or Barrier Free Design) and the Not So Big House Design Principles.