Launch Slideshow

Emerald House

Emerald Home

Emerald Home

  • The net-zero, 4,150-square-foot Emerald Home serves as the pilot project for Santa Fe's green building code.

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    The net-zero, 4,150-square-foot Emerald Home serves as the pilot project for Santa Fe's green building code.

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    Jack Parsons

    The net-zero, 4,150-square-foot Emerald Home serves as the pilot project for Santa Fe's green building code.

  • KitchenRecycled materials add Old World beauty to the kitchen, from the custom cabinets made of 200-year-old barn beams to the cast-iron sink and Oceanside recycled-glass backsplash. The Energy Star-rated lighting package, including the Progress Lighting units above the island, features more than 80% LED or CFL fixtures for superior energy savings compared with traditional lighting. Oceanside Glasstile: www.glasstile.com. Progress Lighting: 864.678.1000. www.progresslighting.com. Indoor AirTwo Venmar ERVs with HEPA filters provide crucial fresh air exchange and remove pollens and other allergens from the indoor air. Even the garage has a Panasonic Energy Star-rated motion-activated exhaust fan that prevents vehicle fumes from entering the living space. Venmar: 800.567.3855. www.venmar.ca. Panasonic:  866.292.7292. www.panasonic.com.

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    KitchenRecycled materials add Old World beauty to the kitchen, from the custom cabinets made of 200-year-old barn beams to the cast-iron sink and Oceanside recycled-glass backsplash. The Energy Star-rated lighting package, including the Progress Lighting units above the island, features more than 80% LED or CFL fixtures for superior energy savings compared with traditional lighting. Oceanside Glasstile: www.glasstile.com. Progress Lighting: 864.678.1000. www.progresslighting.com. Indoor AirTwo Venmar ERVs with HEPA filters provide crucial fresh air exchange and remove pollens and other allergens from the indoor air. Even the garage has a Panasonic Energy Star-rated motion-activated exhaust fan that prevents vehicle fumes from entering the living space. Venmar: 800.567.3855. www.venmar.ca. Panasonic: 866.292.7292. www.panasonic.com.

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    Jack Parsons

    Kitchen
    Recycled materials add Old World beauty to the kitchen, from the custom cabinets made of 200-year-old barn beams to the cast-iron sink and Oceanside recycled-glass backsplash. The Energy Star-rated lighting package, including the Progress Lighting units above the island, features more than 80% LED or CFL fixtures for superior energy savings compared with traditional lighting. Oceanside Glasstile: www.glasstile.com. Progress Lighting: 864.678.1000. www.progresslighting.com.

    Indoor Air
    Two Venmar ERVs with HEPA filters provide crucial fresh air exchange and remove pollens and other allergens from the indoor air. Even the garage has a Panasonic Energy Star-rated motion-activated exhaust fan that prevents vehicle fumes from entering the living space. Venmar: 800.567.3855. www.venmar.ca. Panasonic: 866.292.7292. www.panasonic.com.

  • Colorado-based contractor Earth Block made 4,000 CEBs on-site with site soil, some added clay-rich soil, and about 6% Portland cement for stabilization. 970.883.2456. www.earthblockinc.com.

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    Colorado-based contractor Earth Block made 4,000 CEBs on-site with site soil, some added clay-rich soil, and about 6% Portland cement for stabilization. 970.883.2456. www.earthblockinc.com.

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    Jack Parsons

    Compressed Earth Blocks
    Colorado-based contractor Earth Block made 4,000 CEBs on-site with site soil, some added clay-rich soil, and about 6% Portland cement for stabilization. 970.883.2456. www.earthblockinc.com.

  • Ultra-durable limestone floors grace the main living area; in other parts of the house, FSC-certified quartersawn white oak was used.

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    Ultra-durable limestone floors grace the main living area; in other parts of the house, FSC-certified quartersawn white oak was used.

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    Jack Parsons

    Flooring
    Ultra-durable limestone floors grace the main living area; in other parts of the house, FSC-certified quartersawn white oak was used.

  • Building EnvelopeThe R-7 SeriousWindows units feature krypton gas, heat mirror glass, and insulated fiberglass frames. For the walls, Dancer chose Applegates 85% recycled paper insulation for its low embodied energy and high R-value. SeriousWindows: 877.797.1206. www.seriouswindows.com. Applegate: 800.627.7536. www.applegateinsulation.com. WallsInteriors were finished with low-VOC Tobias Stucco wall finishing mixture or painted with Benjamin Moore low-VOC paint. Tobias Stucco: www.tobiasstucco.com. Benjamin Moore: 855.724.6802. www.benjaminmoore.com.Wood-Burning FireplacesDancer speced clean-burning, sealed-combustion Wittus fireplaces to provide backup heating in the living room and master bedroom on especially cold days. He says they are rarely used due to the homes exceptional insulation package and geothermal heating system. 914.764.5679. www.wittus.com.

    http://www.residentialarchitect.com/Images/tmp517E%2Etmp_tcm48-1183388.jpg

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    Building EnvelopeThe R-7 SeriousWindows units feature krypton gas, heat mirror glass, and insulated fiberglass frames. For the walls, Dancer chose Applegates 85% recycled paper insulation for its low embodied energy and high R-value. SeriousWindows: 877.797.1206. www.seriouswindows.com. Applegate: 800.627.7536. www.applegateinsulation.com. WallsInteriors were finished with low-VOC Tobias Stucco wall finishing mixture or painted with Benjamin Moore low-VOC paint. Tobias Stucco: www.tobiasstucco.com. Benjamin Moore: 855.724.6802. www.benjaminmoore.com.Wood-Burning FireplacesDancer speced clean-burning, sealed-combustion Wittus fireplaces to provide backup heating in the living room and master bedroom on especially cold days. He says they are rarely used due to the homes exceptional insulation package and geothermal heating system. 914.764.5679. www.wittus.com.

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    Jack Parsons

    Building Envelope
    The R-7 SeriousWindows units feature krypton gas, heat mirror glass, and insulated fiberglass frames. For the walls, Dancer chose Applegate’s 85% recycled paper insulation for its low embodied energy and high R-value. SeriousWindows: 877.797.1206. www.seriouswindows.com. Applegate: 800.627.7536. www.applegateinsulation.com. Walls Interiors were finished with low-VOC Tobias Stucco wall finishing mixture or painted with Benjamin Moore low-VOC paint. Tobias Stucco: www.tobiasstucco.com. Benjamin Moore: 855.724.6802. www.benjaminmoore.com.

    Wood-Burning Fireplaces
    Dancer speced clean-burning, sealed-combustion Wittus fireplaces to provide backup heating in the living room and master bedroom on especially cold days. He says they are rarely used due to the home’s exceptional insulation package and geothermal heating system. 914.764.5679. www.wittus.com.

  • Kohler low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets help keep water use low in each bathroom. Here, a pair of recycled-glass sinks sit atop a Caesarstone quartz counter. Kohler: 800.456.4537. www.kohler.com. Caesarstone: 818.779.0999. www.caesarstoneus.com.

    http://www.residentialarchitect.com/Images/tmp517F%2Etmp_tcm48-1183391.jpg

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    Kohler low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets help keep water use low in each bathroom. Here, a pair of recycled-glass sinks sit atop a Caesarstone quartz counter. Kohler: 800.456.4537. www.kohler.com. Caesarstone: 818.779.0999. www.caesarstoneus.com.

    600

    Jack Parsons

    Bathroom
    Kohler low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets help keep water use low in each bathroom. Here, a pair of recycled-glass sinks sit atop a Caesarstone quartz counter. Kohler: 800.456.4537. www.kohler.com. Caesarstone: 818.779.0999. www.caesarstoneus.com.

Faren Dancer makes no apologies for the grand size or luxurious nature of his 4,150-square-foot custom gem with sweeping views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. In designing the expansive Emerald Home, the pilot project for Santa Fe’s green building code, he aimed to show that a big, beautiful house can offer the ultimate in sustainability, too.

Thanks to impressive geothermal and solar systems, a well-sealed and extremely insulated building envelope, and resource-efficient recycled products, the net-zero house not only lives large but with a limited carbon footprint that is in line with the strict goals of the 2030 Challenge, which calls for progressively reducing all greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by 2030.

By opening the house for public tours and educational conferences, Dancer has found that its high-performance features steal the show from the well-appointed living spaces, fully equipped media room, and high-end finishes.

“We created this home as a potential model for the other 300 homes that would be built in this subdivision eventually—making it bigger than most green homes—to show you could have a beautiful home that would fit in with the higher-end location, but with the embodied energy of a house closer to 3,000 square feet,” he says.

The project team began with an emphasis on ultra-tight construction practices and optimum solar orientation that help keep the house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Double framing allowed for 12 inches of Applegate 85% recycled blown-in cellulose for an R-value of 42. Interior walls of compressed earth blocks increased the thermal mass and provide excellent sound-deadening properties, an important consideration in a dwelling with 9- to 15-foot-high ceilings.

Dancer and his crew left nothing to chance with the building envelope, sealing every penetration and specing ultra-efficient SeriousWindows and R-20 Kalwall skylights. Even before factoring in renewable energy systems, the exacting attention to detail and thorough insulation package brought the home’s HERS rating to 35 and shrunk the heat load to 35,000 BTUs/hour (compared with 135,000 BTUs /hour for a typical home of the same size). This reduced the amount of geothermal wells required from 12 to six and allowed Dancer to get by with a 5-ton ground-source heat pump instead of the 10-ton model his HVAC contractor recommended. Based on the results of detailed REM/Rate energy modeling software, the changes saved nearly $30,000 in construction costs, he estimates.

The grid-tied 9.2-kW PV system includes a 1.8 kW Wattsun solar tracker that follows the sun’s trajectory for maximum sunlight gathering. “The beauty of trackers is that they give you about a 20% bump in efficiency because they follow the sun, and they stay cooler because they are freestanding instead of sitting on the roof, which provides about another 7% efficiency,” he says.

Hot water comes from a solar thermal system that is integrated into the geothermal wells and can supplement the home’s radiant floor heating when excess hot water is produced. During the winter, two clean-burning, sealed-combustion fireplaces offer additional warmth, although Dancer says they are rarely used.

Combined, the solar and geothermal packages were eligible for $56,000 in tax credits. In addition, the solar system earns renewable energy generation credits that Dancer sells to the local utility, and it also garners a direct credit on the home’s electric bill when it sells excess power to the grid.

An array of recycled materials and engineered wood products help bring the home’s embodied energy in line with that of a much smaller house. For starters, massive amounts of reclaimed old-growth wood grace the home’s interior, including the walnut cabinets, milled hickory ceiling beams, and ash entry door. Other products made from recycled materials include the bathroom and kitchen tile backsplashes and cast-iron sinks and bathtubs.

Outside, the house’s low-lying design and neutral color palette blend in with the surrounding landscaping, which is mainly drought-tolerant indigenous selections such as pinon and juniper, with a few deciduous trees along the patio for summer shading. About 80% of roof water is directed into one of three 1,700-gallon cisterns, where it is held until used for irrigation. The remainder flows into a passive irrigation system that allows the water to slowly drain from perforated pipes laid in planting beds.

For Dancer, a longtime environmental advocate and educator, the most important feature of the Emerald Home is its role as a hands-on showcase of high-performance building practices. “Educational outreach has been my mission in green building for many years,” he says. “And, we have to realize that larger high-end homes will continue to be built and often have the biggest ongoing carbon footprints. The Emerald Home has none.”