Green Home Oregon
Walt Quade, Designer
This 1800 sf home (plus 470 sf garage) features an atrium, earth-sheltering, and earth berming. Iit has a nice open floor plan. It was oringinally built in 2005 in Portland, Oregon as the personal residence of the designer, Walt Quade, so it has undergone extensive proof-of-concept experience. He claims that the temperature inside never changes more than three or four degrees no matter what its like outside. When it gets really cold outside you can turn on the radiant floor heating system, set it at 65 and with a warm sweater, it's just like summer inside. The air is quiet and warm, no blowers or noise, the floors radiate a comforting warmth. From the air the house looks like the rest of the rural countryside, the roof and yard blending together with only the garage roof visible. Walt's objective was to stay comfortable as economically as possible while making as little impact on the environment as possible, and his house has made this happen!
The final design on this house had a large granite covered work island in the kitchen instead of the peninsula pictured above. It worked much better to open up the space so there are even less obstructions between the kitchen, dining room and the living room. The wood stove is strategically located close to the center of the living area so that with a ceiling fan it is more than adequate to heat the entire house. As you might notice, the atrium is visable through large windows from the kitchen and dining room and through glass sliding doors from the living room and the master bedroom. The only stairs in the entire house are in the atrium up to the garage. The larger of the two water heaters in the garage is for the radiant floor heating system. The blower is to move fresh air into the house from outside, to re-circulate and filter air within the house.
The thermal efficiency of the house is dependent on the house being partially buried, so a sloping lot is very advantageous. The city of Portland considers the front of the house to be the West Elevation but with a corner door, the owners consider the South Elevation to be the front. This orientation allows for the maximum passive use of solar light and heat energy. The four atrium skylights (2'x10" each) are tilted to maximize the winter sun and are propped open during the summer for ventilation throughout the house.
Extensive use of TJI roof rafters (12" Pro 150's) allowed for the load factors involved with the 1600 sq.ft. eco-roof system. Manufactured roof trusses were used for the garage so the entire roof was quick and inexpensive to construct. High density, closed cell insulation was used on the outside of the concrete walls and under the floor slabs to maximize the thermal mass available to absorb and maintain heat and cool inside the house.
Walt originally wanted to build a completely underground house, but the eco-roof provides most of the benefits of going underground with about half the expense or troubles. The eco-roof has been maintenance free except for weed pulling a couple times a year and it adds significantly to the insulation in the ceiling as well as all the other great ecological benefits.
With help from an experienced carpenter he was able to do almost everything that was necessary to build this house. The things that he hired out were; surveyors, structural engineers, excavation, foundation, insulation, sheetrock and the 50mm covering on the roof. Walt encourages everyone to do as much work as they can in the construction of their own house. "The learning curve is a little steep on the front end but with most of today's building products, its easy to do your own work once you figure it out. It helps to watch or work with electrical, HVAC and plumbing professionals or get a little help from your knowledgeable friends, but once you get going the rewards are tremendous. Most importantly is the feeling of attachment and appreciation for the house that you live in, less important is your ability to intimately know how it works and be able to fix anything that goes wrong. Its so calming to know that no matter what happens with your house, you can deal with the situation."
TGI rafters (floor, ceiling and roof) are straight, light, relatively inexpensive, and are made from plywood and OSB (manufactured wood) which has a lighter impact on our environment. This house uses 12 inch TGI ceiling rafters on 12 inch or 16 inch center to handle the extra load of the eco-roof.
The initial thought of radiant floor heating sounded like a lot of trouble and expense but in the long run it has paid off many times over. A 6 inch wire mesh was used in the slabs for the house and garage and the PEX was easily twist tied to the mesh on 12 inch centers. It took only a day and a half for two men to install all the pipe. The pump system and controls are much less expensive than a conventional forced air system and the only other expense was an 80 gallon, gas hot water heater.
A small 120 volt hot water heater was put in the corner of the kitchen because the sink and dishwasher are about 30 feet from the hot water heater in the garage. It has turned out to be one of those delightful conveniences that you never thought you needed. Hot water almost instantly saving a bunch on water and the time it takes to get to the faucet.
The high density, closed cell, rigid insulation under the floor slab and on the outside of the concrete walls has already saved hundred of dollars in heating as well as conditioning the air inside the house so that it changes only about a degree or two in the summer and even less in the winter when the radiant heating system is on. The wood stove has saved a bunch on heating bills as well as keeping wood scraps out of the land fill.
About the landscaping Walt says, "The idea of scraping all trees and vegetation off of a lot, building and then re-planting seems to me to be a waste of resources unless absolutely necessary. I was very careful to leave all the trees that I could and it has been wonderful to have full, mature trees shading our house and front porch from day one. Also the grape vines, canna lilies, climbing roses and other tall plants on the south side of the house help shield us from the hot summer sun and then die back in the winter to give us all the winter light that is available."
Walt concludes, " This project has been a wonderful experience and has turned out even better than I had imagined. Now it's your turn, and I hope you will take the opportunity to travel your own road to the house of your dreams. The true joy is in the process, not so much the destination."
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