Precast concrete is a panelized (or prebuilt) system for poured concrete that has become an alternative building technique in residential construction. The system provides benefits to the architect, builder and consumer. Precast concrete panel systems combine the energy-saving thermal mass qualities of concrete with the ease and assembly speed of a panelized building system. They install quickly, will not warp or rot, and are termite and fire resistant.
New high performance building systems are rapidly gaining popularity in residential construction. Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) are one of several new unconventional building systems that reportedly improve energy efficiency and resistance to natural disasters. SIPs are formed under factory controlled conditions by encasing an insulated foam core between two structural facings, typically panels of oriented strand board (OSB).
Among the available high performance building systems on the market today, Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) are rapidly leading the way in high performance building systems as the fastest growing alternative for above grade walls. According to the NAHB Research Center, the use of ICFs in the construction of new single family homes grew 750% between 2002 and 2010-- representing 12,000 new homes built that year.
Being the ‘frugal’ homeowner of a historic house, I’m always looking for ways to save money on my energy bills and to be more environmentally responsible. With that in mind, I thought I’d share my top five inexpensive ways to ‘green’ an existing home:
This was probably the easiest and quickest task. I installed weather-stripping at the casing of all my exterior doors and along the bottom of the doors. My single pane windows, being almost 100 years old, did not sit firmly and tightly at the bottom of the lower sash at the sill. And, being a wood to wood connection at the sash to sill and where the sashes overlap, air easily infiltrated. In fact, at some of the windows, if it was breezy outside it could blow out a candle on the inside… I installed simple foam weather-stripping under the bottom of the lower sash and along the back side of the top of the lower sash the seal the joint between the two sashes. Actually, I made my two teen-age sons do it, which will tell you how easy and quick it was…
They say it’s the little things that count. Don’t underestimate the value of properly sealing openings, even the smallest of ones. Air migrates through the smallest of cracks, so it’s really important to pay attention to this detail.
In some houses, and certainly in mine, improperly installed or sealed ductwork is a major contributor to energy loss. Especially when the ductwork is run in the attic and/or basement through unconditioned space, you can lose up to 50% of the efficiency of the system. In my case, the sheathing on the outside on some of the 20 year old ductwork had split and cracked, exposed the insulation of the tube. I’ve systematically replaced each run of the flexible ductwork with the newer and more energy efficient foil ductwork. My biggest find though was in the duct tape that I had originally used to seal the flex to the main trunk and to the duct boots (at the ceiling and floor registers.)
What are easy ways to retrofit an existing home to include green features?
Owning a 1920’s Craftsman Four Square, my energy bills had been taking me to the bank. Literally. The insulation was sloppily installed – and I take full credit for that – since I did it myself when I first bought the home over 20 years ago. I also installed the ductwork back then, with – egads – lots of duct tape. And you could actually feel the breeze sitting next to one of my single pane windows.
I recently had the pleasure of serving as a guest critic this last semester for a sustainable and affordable housing studio at the School of Architecture at North Carolina State University. Taught by Professor Tom Barrie, the students first research the design and technologies of several recently built projects. The final semester project was to design an affordable and sustainable home for the local Wake County Habitat for Humanity.
At TightLines, we love hearing from people who call one of our house plans home. Laurie Ficker recently built her first home in Maine and chose the Winslow I as a house that fits her needs and her budget. Laurie documented the process of constructing, finishing, and furnishing her TightLines home on her blog, so to see more click here! And, as always, we would love to hear from other TightLines homeowners!