Sustainable Building Concepts

building science

Building Science

Building Science.  The involvement of physics into a building’s design and construction that allow it to be durable and last the test of time.   In order to build a quality home, physics must be a guiding law because you can not flight this natural phenomenon.  Evolutionary homes are modeled with hygrothermal modeling tools in order to know how a proposed wall, roof, or floor assembly will work in a specific climate and microclimate. These tools allow us to assess our building assemblies for moisture risks in the vapor form to ensure walls having drying potential in both directions in case they get wet.  Of course preventing them from getting wet is of utmost importance as well, so proper flashing detailing, good design, and bulk water control play a critical role in the longevity and durability of a home.  Our strict focus on this is why we are able to warranty our homes for a longer period of time than other builders.  Over 95% of building failure is due to moisture, so by paying such strict attention to this we can build extremely durable homes that will last centuries.

air & health

Air & Health

Health & Air Quality.    Our health and the health and safety of our families are typically the most important  things to most people.  Evolutionary Home Builders is no different, and we apply that guiding importance in our construction methods..  We do not simply claim this because we are building “green” homes.  We actually quantify this with third party moisture testing before we close up walls and  through third party indoor air quality lab testing for chemicals, VOCs, particulates, and formaldehyde post construction.  We are passionate about helping our clients achieve a higher level of health.

Air quality has been shown to be lower inside of our homes than outside air in polluted cities by as much as 400-500%.  Americans have been spending more and more time indoors, and the rate of allergy, asthma, and other chronic respiratory illnesses, is in direct correlation to that increase of time spent indoors.

It starts with the use of building science and physics to ensure we are not getting dew point in  our wall cavities.  Dew point is moisture, and moisture in the right conditions is what leads to mold.  We have greatly reduced the risk of mold in our walls through  proper modeling and construction methods.  The construction methods set forth by our Passive House principles of air tightness and thermal bridge free construction  coupled with our bulk water management and hygrothermal analysis assess and prevent a risk of moisture in every physical form water can exist in.  Without moisture, mold can not grow in your walls.

Our homes also come with a dedicated energy recovery ventilation system that is balanced and distributed.  We can not rely on leaky homes to provide the  fresh air we need to live in a healthy environment.  Most homes get their “fresh” air through gaps and cracks in their homes (even homes built to the latest energy code 2012 IECC get more air exchange this way than through their ventilation systems).  These are often the dirtiest paces in a home as well so the air is not fresh nor is it evenly distributed.  We exhaust air out of the places that you need to exhaust from (kitchen, bath, and laundry) and pre-condition the incoming air with the outgoing air with at least 85% efficiency on that energy recovery.  This authentically fresh (twice filtered) air then is distributed to the places where it is the most beneficial; above your bed and in your living areas.  These systems are also perfectly in balance so there are no pressure imbalances on your homes.

Contaminant control is also key.  We vet our products thoroughly to ensure we minimize VOCs , added urea formaldehydes, and other toxic concoctions so popular in todays products in all industries.  Health and been a major driver of innovation for us since our company started in 2005.  We have thoroughly been researching products we put into homes, and have been trained by some of the most respected experts in the world on this topic.  Low VOC paints are not enough; in fact your average Low or no VOC paint just has worse chemicals added into it that aren’t as known so manufacturers get away with it.  Our lab indoor air quality testing verifies the health of our homes, and the chemical makeup of them, proving they are genuinely healthier environments. Some of our products even clean out VOCs and formaldehyde that our clients unintentionally bring into their homes.

Continual health reports of indoor air quality are constantly being monitored to ensure not only was your house built to a high level of health, but so that occupant behavior ensures the homes stays healthy.  We have sensors in the home measuring for temperature, relative humidity, VOCs, CO, and CO2 to allow you to monitor this on an easy to read dashboard.  It also allows us to help you keep your Evolutionary Home healthy.

Beyond air quality, we also pay attention to EMFs in y our home, and use standard procedures that do not cost any more money to reduce EMFs in your home, thus creating a more relaxing atmosphere.

Our health is directly tied to the principles of science: physics, chemistry, and biology.

Green building studies have shown those working in green buildings are 5% more productive than those working in traditional buildings.  Also, studies have shown that green building reduce asthma by 8-23%, and all respiratory illnesses by at least 23%.  This is according to research conducted by William Fisk from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

 

energy

Energy Efficiency

Energy Efficiency.  Energy efficiency has both financial and environmental implications. Energy use is the largest expense of single family homes after the mortgage (sometimes even more than the taxes).  Building an Evolutionary Home will cut that expense by at least 65% which gives our homeowners and clients more money for things that will increase their quality of life such as higher quality food, better vacations, and social events.  The increase in the insulation levels pays itself off from the very first month of occupancy.  Our homes reduce the heating and cooling demand on them by 90% by using the principles of Passive House, and create more comfortable homes.  We use a conservation first approach where we model the home to the point right before diminishing return.  We make sure we use our clients money effectively and efficiently so that they get the most for their money.  In concentrating on homes that are super insulated, air tight, thermal bridge free, and have balanced energy recovery on the fresh air system, we reduce the need for fancy or large mechanical systems.  The heating and cooling systems needed are very small, and inexpensive.  We want to be sure a home doesn’t need a complex, expensive mechanical systems such as geothermal (which has its place for large non-single family residential buildings or historic homes) .  We also want to be sure that our homes are either net zero ready or are net zero.  Due to the small energy load on our homes built to the Passive House level, they require the smallest renewable systems in order to get to net zero.  Again, renewables are much more expensive than insulation, so by minimizing the required amount to offset energy, we make sure that: first, there is room for the size needed to get to net zero on your roof, and second, it will be the least expensive system to achieve your energy goals.  Also insulation does not need to be maintained like mechanical systems if the right building science is followed, and the home is well crafted, as ours are.

The US Department of Energy and USGBC states that buildings consume 72% of electricity, 39% of all energy, and account for 38 % of carbon dioxide emissions.  Energy rates will continue to rise due to the finite amount of  those resources, but also because of the aging infrastructure associated with the utility companies and the power grid.

The reasons to build a home to an energy efficient standard have personal benefits to our homeowners, environmental benefits of less carbon emissions,  and resiliency benefits of not being affected by long term power outages or utility rate spikes (which again goes to financial freedom from utilities. It should be required  that all buildings be built to a high level of energy efficiency, but that efficiency doesn’t have to be the absolute them or artistry of a building.

Resource Efficiency.  This process starts in the planning phase, to design a home to minimize waste and choose efficient materials.  Construction in the Unites States uses 40% of raw materials, and accounts for 30% of all waste.  That is not a sustainable method of construction, and now is the time to change that.  Creating resource efficient designs and using resource efficient materials can maximize function while optimizing the use of natural resources.  Minimizing waste and recycling scrap are also important steps in creating a green home.  Another value of this step is to look at the transportation distance of certain materials from the raw material to the jobsite to help determine the true sustainability of that product.

Water Efficiency.  Water is arguably the most precious of all of our resources, and building are using 74% of water in the United States.  Even building in an area with the largest lakes in the world, we must be mindful of our water use and consumption.  Aquifers are depleting quickly, and more sever weather patterns could deplete them even quicker.  Conserving water is as important for preserving this resource as it is for planning for that “unrainy” day.  There are  many elements of water conservation that play into our homes.  Our sites are designed to hold on to all rainwater on site without sending it into the municipal stormwater system.  This ensures we are refilling the aquifers that so much of this country depends on.  Our plumbing fixtures are selected for their low flow consumption with a high level of engineering, so that there is no comfort sacrifice for our homeowners.  Other options to save water is to capture rainwater for gardening systems, or using graywater recapture to flush toilets.  We also plan for rough-ins for future rainwater capture for potable water.

Beauty and Inspiration. What good is a home that is not beautiful?  Homes use energy, water, and materials in order to build.  To maximize the use of these raw materials and natural elements, our homes should evoke a beauty that makes that impact beneficial and creating a source of pride for the people who own them.  Thoughtful design that inspires our clients, and gives them a connection to the outdoors and natural world  are a top goal of the type of projects we want to be associated with.  These are the types of homes that elevate an occupants spirits, and truly let them know they are home.

There is nothing more beautiful than connecting the built environment back to nature.  Ironically enough, there is also nothing more efficient than nature.

Lot Design, Orientation, and Site Prep.  Resource efficient site design and development practices help reduce environmental impacts and improve the energy performance of new housing.  For example, site design principles such as saving trees, constructing onsite storm water retention / infiltration features,  preventing soil runoff during construction, and orientating houses to maximize passive solar  heating are the first step in the design and planning of a new home.  This step helps reduce pollution and save existing habitats.  Other considerations are the local infrastructure, public transportation options, and walkability of the community.

Operation, Maintenance, and Homeowner Education.  As stated before, green homes help reduce maintenance needed in a home significantly.  As with any product though specific instructions are needed to help sustain that product.  Unfortunately, many builders do not offer their homeowners and instruction book for their home.  Green building steps require homeowner tutorials before a move in, and a step by step procedures manual for all the systems included in the home.  This helps make sure the homeowner knows how to maintain their home, and gives them a resource for any questions they may have.  This leads to peace of mind for green homeowners.

Social Equity.  In order to make the difference we seek to make as a socially and environmentally responsible company, we need to offer different types of products to suit people for different socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as offer a great experience for people of all ages, races, genders, and sexual orientations.

Our goal is not to take the common practice a lot of builders take and only build homes of a certain aesthetic, price, or size, but offer a range within all of these areas so that people that want to have a higher quality, healthier, more energy efficient, and sustainable home, have a builder to go to that can help  them realize this goal.