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Building an Affordable, High-Performance Home

Working for Habitat for Humanity is a life-changing experience. We knew going into the high-performance home build in Randolph, Vermont, that the work was important. Affordable housing is one of the most critical issues in communities all over the world – and Vermont is no exception.

But what we didn’t know, was that we would be most impacted by the people.

Join us as we work with the team of volunteers in Central Vermont, and you’ll witness the true spirit of giving back – building up your own community through hard work, patience, and laughter.

 

 

Affordable Housing in Vermont

To better understand the challenge that low-income families face, it’s important to understand the term “housing wage.” It’s the amount a full-time worker needs to earn to afford a modest apartment – while spending no more than 30% of his or her income on rent and utilities. National Low Income Housing Coalition – nlihc.org

Vermont has a housing wage of $22.40 — ranking the 13th highest in the U.S. But the gap between the average hourly wage renters make, $12.85, and housing wage ranks even higher, at fifth in the country, making affordable housing out of reach for many Vermonters. Vermont Digger – vtdigger.org

 

The High-Performance Habitat Home

The Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity (CVHH) is familiar with high-performance building. They’ve got a passive home under their belts, and considered the same for the build in Randolph.

Architect Neil Husher, Vermont Architects Collaborative, designed the home in Randolph to maximize energy-efficiency, and the focus was on tightly air-sealing the entire building envelope.

“We couldn’t do a passive house here because we didn’t have any sunshine, but we could do high-performance, so that was our target to shoot for.”

– Neil Husher, Architect, Volunteer, Vermont Architects Collaborative

 

“With all of the details, it was a learning curve for me. This is framed differently than I’ve ever framed before, it’s actually balloon framed, even up to the rafters,” said Husher. “We also attached the ledger boards for the decking on the inside of the ICF, so there are no rim joist insulation problems, which you normally have on houses.”


Efficiency Vermont

Vermont is a progressive state in regards to energy efficiency, and much of the growth has to do with Efficiency Vermont.

Founded in 2000 as the nation’s first energy-efficient utility, Efficiency Vermont provides technical and financial support to improve the energy efficiency of homes, businesses, and communities.

“Efficiency Vermont is really keen on helping with the social responsibility of living in Vermont.“

– Jennifer Severidt, Energy Consultant – Residential, Efficiency Vermont 

 

For the folks at Habitat, this meant not only a significant refund for achieving an established list of standards, but also personalized help in the support of a Residential Energy Consultant, Jennifer Severidt. Detailed air sealing and continuous insulation were essential components in this build, and Jennifer was not only on hand to explain and review installation details, she worked right along with the rest of the volunteers to install the building materials herself.


The High-Performance Building Materials

To maximize energy-efficiency, Rockwool COMFORTBATT insulation was used in the interior wall cavities, and Dow Styrofoam Blue Board continuous insulation was used on top of the sheathing, to limit thermal bridging through the studs.

“But when we started to look at putting insulation on the exterior walls,” said Severidt, “We thought – What are we going to do about the windows?”

They chose ThermalBuck, which extended the mounting point to create a flush plane with the Blue Board, and insulated the rough openings, to limit thermal bridging in the building envelope.

“ThermalBuck takes care of that problem, of how to create a thermal break at the window, and still have things line up.“

– Jennifer Severidt, Energy Consultant – Residential, Efficiency Vermont

ThermalBuck, the high-performance window buck, is made up of an extremely dense EPS, insulating 4 -times greater than wood window bucks. Coated with a waterproof resin and installed with DAP Dynaflex 800 Sealant and nails, it makes for a complete air and water barrier at the rough openings.

 


The Right Fit for the Build

The team of volunteers in Vermont is led by Project Lead Anne Walker, a former engineer with extensive knowledge of architecture and building.

Crew leaders Glen Seifert and Ken Stevens provided the ideal balance of work skills and people skills, keeping the crew moving along and enjoying the process.

The skill level for the majority of Habitat volunteers is best described as “do-it-yourselfers,” the materials used need to have simple installation methods, easily replicated by a revolving door of people. Not an easy task.

“With wood bucks, you need to have each piece at the right depth. It’s a lot fussier. ThermalBuck is much more precise, and much more forgiving.“

– Anne Walker, Project Lead, Volunteer, Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity 

 

ThermalBuck was an ideal fit, its unique “L” shape makes installing it at the right depth simple.

“ThermalBuck turned out to be a much easier approach to seal our windows, and gave us the added benefit of the thermal break,” said Anne. “With plywood, you’re creating a thermal conduit. But with ThermalBuck, it’s rigid, it’s structural, it’s much easier and faster than having to go around and manually build out the plywood bucking to get these windows aligned with our foam. It was really the perfect product.”


Just last year, The Washington Post reported statistics issued by Freddie Mac, which revealed that between 2010 and 2016, the number of apartments considered affordable for very low-income families across the United States decreased by more than 60 percent. To learn more about planning this high-performance home and the work of Habitat for Humanity, click here.  

Energy Efficiency is a Necessity for Habitat

Habitat for Humanity’s vision is simple:  A world where everyone has a decent place to live. It’s achieving it that’s the complex part. The team at the Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity (CVHFH) is working hard towards that goal, and an even loftier one – building one of the highest performing Habitat for Humanity homes to date, in Randolph, VT.

 

Energy Efficiency: an Essential Need

Building to higher energy-efficient standards is an important consideration for any building project. But the impact on personal health and well-being can be even more significant when making ends meet is a struggle.

“The fluctuating price of energy goes beyond what our families can afford”, says Bruce Landry, Affiliate Building Chair, Volunteer and Weatherization Technician, CVHFH. “The families we partner with start out with very tight budgets and every dollar counts. An energy-efficient home gives stability in heating costs and utility payments.”

“An energy-efficient home gives stability in heating costs and utility payments.”

– Bruce Landry, Affiliate Building Chair, Central VT Habitat for Humanity

 

Not Their First High Performance Rodeo

The home build in Randolph was designed by architect Neil Husher, of Vermont Architects Collaborative. Neil brought three original designs to the table for consideration, which he modified to suit this specific plot of land, and fine-tuned the energy-efficient features for maximum impact.

Although the CVHFH chapter had completed a passive home build in the past, it wasn’t an option for the Randolph home. For instance, there wasn’t enough southern exposure to provide sufficient solar gain. Differences in the wall construction also make this design a bit simpler – building to passive is more detailed, and takes more time. It wasn’t that the volunteer building crew couldn’t handle the technical details and complexity of a passive house, it just wasn’t the right fit for this project. 

 

The High Performance Building Components

The two-story house features 2′ x 8′ wall construction, and an impressive list of high performance building materials including: Rockwool Safe ‘n Sound batt insulation,  Partel VeraPlus smart membrane, Advantech sheathing, 2.0″ Dow Blue Board Styrofoam XPS insulation, Typar WRB, ThermalBuck high performance window bucks, Pella 350 Series windows, Stego Wrap Vapor Barrier, and an Amvic ICF Foundation.

2.5″ ThermalBuck was selected to extend the mounting point for the windows and doors, insulate the rough openings, and prevent moisture at the rough openings – traditionally a difficult detail of any building envelope. ThermalBuck helps simplify the challenge of mounting the windows with the exterior insulation, and integrating the WRB.

8-1-18-window-detail

 

“ThermalBuck makes it easier to do the high performance seals.”

– Anne Walker, Project Manager, Central VT Habitat for Humanity

Employees of BRINC Building Products, Inc., manufacturer of ThermalBuck, will be volunteering to help the CVHFH chapter with their ThermalBuck installation in September, 2018. Keep informed on the next steps of this high performance home by following ThermalBuck on social media:

 

Energy Efficiency in Vermont: More Accessible than Ever

One of the reasons this build was possible? Because it was in Vermont. Efficiency Vermont, founded in 2000 as the nation’s first energy-efficient utility, provides Vermonters with technical and financial support to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, businesses, and communities.

For Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity, this meant not only a significant refund for achieving an established list of standards, but also personalized help in the support of a consultant, Jennifer Severidt. Jennifer was assigned to the project, and provided not just a few answers, but guidance throughout the entire project, answering specific questions like “What specific heat pump would work best?”

 

“We wouldn’t have been able to attempt this without Efficiency Vermont.”

– Debbie Goodwin, Executive Director, Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity

 

Follow this helpful link to view more information about how to work with Efficiency Vermont to receive energy consultation and eligibility for certification, rebates, and third-party testing at efficiencyvermont.com.

 

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat’s mission Is based on the premise that affordable housing plays an integral role in building abundant, strong, and stable communities. Habitat for Humanity is one of the most recognizable efforts to support sustainable housing not only in the U.S, but internationally. To learn more about the efforts of Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity, and how to find local chapters in your area, follow these links:


Habitat for Humanity is not a giveaway program. They offer partner families a no-interest mortgage for their home. In addition to a down payment and monthly mortgage payments, the homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor (sweat equity) into building their new home. Families selected are those who need simple, decent housing, but who are unable to get a loan through any conventional means. Read more about how a family can apply and be selected here.

 

You Could Win the Most Energy Efficient House in VT!

Ready for a major life change? Then this contest is definitely worth a look. Green Mountain Power is giving away the most energy-efficient house in Vermont. Sharpen up your keyboard, and submit a 500 word essay detailing why you want to live in the Rutland Innovation House, and how you would contribute to the vibrant Rutland community – and you have the opportunity to win.

 

The GMP Rutland Innovation Home Contest

The GMP Innovation Home provides a unique opportunity to promote energy-efficient building, and to showcase the beautiful town of Rutland, Vermont. Rutland County is experiencing significant growth, and needs to attract talented people to enhance this vibrant community to fill the demands for a skilled workforce. It’s a beautiful area of Vermont, with great schools, a strong local business sector, vibrant downtown and a strong creative community.

“We’re giving folks all around the country the opportunity to submit a reason why they should be the ones to live in this amazing house.”
-Mary Powell, CEO, Green Mountain Power 

 

 

The House & Building Materials

Green Mountain Power, Naylor & Breen Builders, NBF Architects, and the United Way of Rutland County, developed this unique contest to give away a brand new, fossil fuel-free home to promote the latest in technology and green building. This impressive collaboration features more than 60 local businesses and national building material suppliers, like ThermalBuck, working together to promote the future of green building.

“I look forward to welcoming into the neighborhood whoever is lucky enough to move into that house.”
-Carol Tashie, Rutland Vermont resident, via GMP 

 

The house itself, is a 1,500 sq. foot traditional New England farmhouse featuring the latest in smart-home technology, and the high-performance building materials needed to conserve energy. Building material supplier R.K. Miles will be installing their trademarked R-Wall System, featuring The Henry Company Blueskin WRB, Rockwool Comfortboard mineral wool exterior insulation, 3.0″ ThermalBuck insulating window buck, and Marvin Windows & Doors.

ThermalBuck is proud to be a part of this project, and will be documenting the installation to share via our social media sites. To keep up with the progress each week, follow us on your preferred account:

  ThermalBuck.BRINC          thermalbuck_windowbuck            @ThermalBuck           ThermalBuck 

 


Contest Details

Not only will could you win this energy-efficient house, but the people of Rutland want to help you build your life here. You’ll be connected with a local “concierge” to provide assistance with job searches, a warm welcome from business and personal contacts,  and free co-working space at GMP’s Energy Innovation Center in downtown Rutland. Free house, new job, new community, new life. Why not?

Curious to learn more about life in Rutland? There are plenty of great resources around  – let’s get started!

 

Ready for change? Get your entry in before the deadline May 25, 2018. Contest details & official rules available at greenmountainpower.com.

 


Green Mountain Power is described as an “energy transformation company” providing power and innovative products and services to most of Vermont. Their focus is to help people use less energy and save money, while at the same time, continuing to meet the existing energy needs of their customers by generating clean, affordable energy. GMP was recently named a Top 10 Innovative Company in Energy. Read more here

 

 

ThermalBuck to Exhibit at Better Buildings by Design

When we think of leaders in energy-efficiency and sustainability, we think of Vermont. It’s no surprise Vermont ranks among the top 5 states in the nation for the advancement and support of energy efficiency, and has long maintained a pioneering role among the states in this arena.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) credits Vermont’s three energy efficiency utility companies as the driving force for Vermont’s ranking: Vermont Gas Systems, Burlington Electric, and Efficiency Vermont.

“Our statewide and coordinated efforts provide equity, fairness and transparency—ensuring that every Vermonter has access to affordable products and services to lower their energy use.”

– Karen Glitman, Director of Efficiency Vermont, as quoted on vermontbiz.com 

Efficiency Vermont was established in 1999, with the purpose of reducing energy costs and protecting the natural beauty of Vermont’s environment. It offers a number of opportunities for Vermont contractors, distributors, design professionals and homeowners to connect, and work together to save energy – and money.

One of their key initiatives is also the region’s leading design and construction conference, Better Buildings by Design.

 

Better Buildings by Design – February 7th & 8th

ThermalBuck extends, insulates, and flashes the rough opening. Integrated with Henry Blueskin WRB.
We sure get this whole “integrated design” concept. Recent ThermalBuck installation in Manchester Center, VT.

The Better Buildings by Design conference brings together over 1,000 attendees from all over the Northeast, and more than 50 exhibitors to Burlington, Vermont, February 7th & 8th, 2018.

Interactive learning is a focus of the 2018 Better Buildings by Design event, presenting practical information and the latest trends and technologies in the building industry.

Over 40 workshops are available for attendees, featuring five learning tracks: commercial, building systems, lighting, envelope, and healthy homes.

BRINC Building Products is proud to announce that we will be exhibiting ThermalBuck at this sold-out event, joining a select group of exhibitors that range from retailers like Curtis Lumber Co. and 475 Building Performance Supply, to manufactures of energy-efficient products like Roxul, Inc., Siga, and Smart Vent.

 

 

Putting It All Together – Integrated Design

This year’s theme “Putting It All Together – Integrated Design,” emphasizes the focus of the workshop content, and a key strategy of the presenters. Attendees can choose from a wide range of topics that include Integrated Teams, Integrated Project Delivery, and Integrated Design in a variety of scenarios.

Take a look at the full schedule of events, speakers, and listing of exhibitors here.

The opening session kicks off with awards honoring “Efficiency Vermont’s 2018 Best of the Best in Building Performance and Home Performance.” Attendees can view the plans, drawings, and photos of these award-winning homes and commercial buildings throughout the conference.

Wednesday evening, February 7th from 4:45 – 7:00 pm, attendees and exhibitors invite colleagues, clients and subcontractors to a reception in the exhibit hall that is open to the public. The reception features complimentary beverages and hors d’ oeuvres, as well as a cash bar. The exhibit hall will also be open to the public Thursday, February 8th from 1:30 – 3:30 pm.

While the exhibitor opportunities have sold out, you can still make plans to register and attend the conference. Or join us for the public reception Wednesday evening, and get a taste of what Better Buildings by Design is all about. Visit efficiencyvermont.com for more information.

 


The ACEEE published the most recent State Energy Efficiency Scorecard in September, 2017. This report ranks every state in the U.S. for their efforts in energy-efficiency, providing an extremely valuable tool for understanding how states handle and recover from severe weather related events such as hurricanes and flooding. The results guide state-level policymakers in their efforts to build more resilient local communities. To review key findings of this report, visit aceee.org