My Green House Experience

So here are some things I learned…

I stayed in a net-positive, freshly built green house right outside of Burlington, one of the houses in the South Farm Homes development (Hinesburg, VT). It was designed by the architecture firm Truex Cullins.

Net-positive means that not only is it made so that it generates all of its own power; it actually generates more than it needs and gives power back to the grid. The owner will actually get a check for about $200 every year for her contribution. How is this done? The house was built to maximize passive solar heating. Depending on its orientation to the sun, different windows were used. One side of the house had triple-paned windows, with a higher solar heat gain coefficient. In other words, these windows suck more heat from the outside in, and then keep it inside with the help of 8 ¾ inch walls. The walls are insulated with cellulose. What is cellulose? In this case, newspapers ground up to the consistency of dense fluff, and then sprayed with borate, which is a natural pest repellent. You might think that ground up newspaper would be a fire hazard. But when tested, it was less flammable than traditional insulation.

The home’s hot water is generated through heat from solar panels on the roof, and a geothermal heat pump on the ground floor. . The electricity is generated through thin photovoltaic film that covers the roof. The roof is at a 45 degree angle, which is perfect for that area’s latitude, in terms of receiving the best benefit from the sun’s rays.The geothermal heat pump also creates the hot water for the home’s radiant heating.

According to the builder, the cost to build the house was $180 per square foot, which is “pretty competitive,” according to him. I actually have NO idea what competitive is in that arena, so please take it as a direct quote from the builder.

But check out these benefits:

In Vermont (good old uber-green Vermont), the owner will be reimbursed for 30% of the cost of the photovoltaic material. My notes are a little dodgy right here, but without getting too specific, she’ll get back $7,000 from the state, and $10,000 in tax breaks for installing a solar and PV roof. She’ll also save $2,000 per year in utilities, and make $200 annually from what she contributes to the grid. The South Farm Homes community is going to share a community garden, and also share the bounty of some of the families’ goats and chickens.

All of the furniture in the house is eco-friendly and local where possible, and I will give you more details about that as I get more information on their sources. I fell madly in love with their Flo-Beds, which were made of organic cotton, natural latex and shasta wool. It was like sleeping on a delightful marshmallow—with just the right firmness and give. AND you can adjust it to make it firmer…and even adjust one side to be firmer or softer than the other, if your partner has different softness preferences than you.

You can see the actual development’s plans and detailed information here:

http://www.efficiencyvermont.com/pages/BBBD2006/docs/Vermont_Green%20Building%20Network/South%20Farm%20Homes.pdf


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