It all starts with the envelope. We fill the exterior 2×6 walls of the +Plus House with a combination of high R-value closed cell and open cell foam insulation to create a tightly sealed space, like a ziploc bag. To make sure there are no gaps in the envelope, licensed inspector teams from RESNET and USGBC conduct a series of blower door tests by pressurizing the home and identifying leaks to be sealed. The high efficiency of our envelope is expressed in our low rating on RESNET’s HERS Index. A typical Pilsen home has a HERS rating around 100 out of 150, while our first +Plus House scored a rating of just 28! This will save the +Plus House owner around $1,152 a year in heating and cooling costs and insure that the healthy indoor atmosphere of the home remains pristine.
The foundation of the +Plus House is surrounded by a layer of XPS foam to form a thermal block between the concrete and the ground. Other houses can experience up to 50% of their heat loss through the basement as the cold ground around the foundation saps the home’s heat and introduces moisture to the house. We’ve made it easy to maintain the +Plus House at a uniform temperature and dew point.
+Plus Houses are among the first to use the cutting-edge AirRenew drywall. AirRenew contributes to a healthy indoor environment by absorbing the noxious chemicals from off-gassing, like formaldehyde and other VOCs, and converting them to a safe inert compound. The drywall essentially “eats” the harmful chemicals from the air before we breathe them in. This is a new application of AirRenew, as this drywall has previously been used almost exclusively in hospitals.
This drywall further preserves the integrity of the home by resisting fire, moisture, and mold at higher rates than standard drywall. We’re also happy to note that AirRenew is produced in multiple plants here in the US with commitments to responsibly source their components and dispose of their byproducts.
Most contractors don’t take the time to measure a home’s efficiency or its airflow patterns, like we do. When it comes to choosing a furnace they don’t know the details of the space so they play it safe by installing an oversized system with excessive energy consumption. We know that our +Plus Houses don’t need large furnaces thanks to their superior envelope and foundation. Additionally, we learn exactly the degree of efficiency of each home through working with our licensed third party inspector to test our envelope and design our ductwork and vents to LEED specifications. Thanks to our rigorous process, we can pick exactly the right-sized furnace for each +Plus House.
We equip each +Plus House with an EnergyStar certified variable speed furnace from Ducane’s. This is a “smart” furnace, continuously sensing changes in temperature and humidity and responding accordingly. The variable speed fan motor is always running subtly: this allows it to constantly filter the air, to respond immediately to minute changes in the indoor atmosphere, and to run more quietly and efficiently than a two-speed furnace.
As of fall 2017 the +Plus Houses will be the first homes to use Ozinga’s award winning CarbonCure technology, which sequesters CO2 in the concrete. Ozinga captures carbon gas from an ethanol plant in Wisconsin, converts it into solid calcium carbonate, and injects it into the concrete mix. The CO2 acts in part as a “filler” so that more concrete can be made from smaller amounts of ingredients, thereby minimizing twofold the carbon footprint of this concrete, as well as creating a more durable product. The amount of concrete used in a +Plus House contains enough sequestered CO2 to offset the effects of driving 8,300 miles in a car.
Each +Plus House is built with a conduit running to the roof to support a solar array, should you choose to install one. The system will have a central inverter, allowing for detailed monitoring online or via smartphone app. The typical +Plus House roof can accommodate a 6.5 Kw array of 19 photovoltaic panels. Over a year this array would provide 10.297 Mwh of electricity, which is roughly 80% of the amount that occupants of a +Plus House would be expected to consume. For scale, in 2014 the average annual electrical consumption for a U.S. utility customer was 10.932 Mwh, though the average person lives in a home much less efficient than a +Plus House. The solar package is expected to pay for itself in energy savings in just eight years. In addition to the drastic utility savings, installing a solar array will earn you 35% back on your federal income taxes in the first year – roughly $8,000. Not to mention that sourcing this amount of energy sustainably would reduce your carbon footprint by an amount equivalent to driving a car 14,000 miles.
Most homes never have a soil gas problem but just in case, we included a ventilation path from under the foundation that will release any potential gases above the roof. This way, any radon that may exist below the home can escape without actually entering the home. Additionally, an electrical box is installed in the roof in case you wish to add a fan to the vent at a later date.
For more information, fill out the form below or contact Phil Buoscio at 312-953-6725.