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An affordable green home, Philadelphia style

February 11th, 2009

First, they scaled back the size of each project: the lots are small, and the houses are modest and do not have basements. But the 100K houses are not just all about double-paned windows and low-flow toilets (though they have those); they feature sustainable elements that drive the design, creating a union of form and function.

“The design is modern, and resembles an urban loft. There’s only one door in the entire house – on the bathroom,” says Darling. “One door means more efficient construction, less framing, less labor and materials. LEED considers all of these factors in the total impact of building.”

The home measures 18 feet across, and 36 feet in length. The living, dining and kitchen areas are on the first floor, two bedrooms and a bath occupy the second floor; both floors have nine-foot ceilings. (see picture)

The 100K team enlisted Interface Studio Architects, a South Kensington firm that specializes in sustainable design. Together they designed a prototype that was a hybrid of prefabricated materials and traditional site built techniques. The most notable pre-fab element are the SIPs panels. The solid-piece panels, increasingly used in high performance building, act as a tight frame and have a rigid foam core that provides insulation.

“The other big factors in meeting LEED criteria and keeping the price low were the open-floor layout, which has slots cut between the two floors to enhance the HVAC zone and the simple slab-on-ground foundation,” says Ludeman. “That enabled us to install the radiant-heat floor at a minimal cost.”

“Our goal, essentially, is to sell the houses for the same price you could buy a rehabbed row house in the area,” says Darling. “About the same price as for that older house, but its about three times more efficient.”

By focusing on “doing the basics very, very well,” the team builds a house that provides the home owner a well-finished, energy-conserving space that offers an urban location, but skips the fancy bamboo and tile treatments that drive up costs in other green projects. It’s a home a minimalist could love; a place that new home buyers can afford now and embellish later.

Postgreen has plans to build approximately 40 to 50 similar small homes around Philadelphia. With approximately 25,000 infill lots around the city, finding the space will not be an issue. The group will be breaking ground this month on their next project, two houses designed to meet the Passive House standard, a German standard focused on energy efficiency by using the sun to passively warm the interior in the winter, while shading windows from hot rays in the summer.

These houses, a block and a half away from the original, will not be rated as LEED houses, although they will far exceed LEED in the areas of energy efficiency and mechanical systems.

“We worked with the Passive House Standard to improve our energy efficiency,” says Darling. “Our idea is to perfect some very specific aspects of our houses and then go back to the LEED system and make it more comprehensive.”

One of the homes in the second project has already been sold to a Mario and Mel Gutierrez, young couple with a daughter who sought out Ludeman after reading about him.

“We’d been looking for a house to buy when we happened upon Chad’s site and we emailed him, not expecting a response,” says Gutierrez. “Since we met and saw what they were planning, we’ve had real faith in their decisions. We’re very excited about the whole project.”

Ludeman insists that Postgreen didn’t set out to save the planet, although that’s a pretty nice byproduct. The 100K house was focused on building a smart, affordable home.

“This is simply the right way to build homes,” he says. “It just doesn’t make any sense to build any other way. I think the term ‘green building’ will soon go by the wayside. This will be the way all houses will be built in the future.”

(Photo credit: Postgreen. Read and see more on the FAQ on the 100K House website.)

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

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