Building with Green Materials and Protocols
Building green means utilizing all practices that reduce the negative impact of construction to create homes that are healthier and more efficient. At ECOterra DESIGN-BUILD, we strive to minimize waste. We use engineered wood products and recycled low or no VOC materials throughout the construction process in order to provide the most energy-efficient and healthy environment possible.
Building green is not a slogan, it’s a lifestyle that Kaye Marshall, General Contractor, Designer, Project Manager and the driving force behind ECOterra has embraced her entire life. “Coming from a family of engineers, you learn conservation is the primary focus of energy usage”, Marshall says. All of our energy-saving protocols have had rigorous testing and have stood the test of time.
A word about “green” building and the Sense Monitoring system
Green Building has become such a buzz word in the past decade and there are many very good Green Builders out there. Many builders say they build green but in the true sense of the word they do not.
At ECOterra we take a two-step approach to assure our clients have a high-performing, truly Green Built home.
First, we third-party certify all our homes thru Build Green NM (read about them here ). This protocol starts in the design phase and is followed through completion, with final testing and certification. With that certification, our clients receive Sustainable Building State Tax Credits and other utility rebates based on the certification achieved.
Step one is all part of the building process. But what about after construction is complete? It’s great to say that your home was built to a Green Built standard and should perform to X. However, we take it one step further. We install a monitoring device by Sense that measures a multitude of parameters, but to simplify the explanation, it monitors the electricity used and electricity generated by your solar PV systems in real-time, validating our commitment to the energy efficiency levels of our homes.
Sense monitoring devices have machine-learning AI capabilities through an algorithm that identifies electronic devices by their unique signature, reading currents over a million times a second.
Sense identifies your refrigerator, your stove, your hairdryer, etc. — any electronic device in your home — and lets you know when it turns on and off. It also troubleshoots motors that may be running too long or too hot or are ready to fail. Sense watches your system for you and alerts you to any issues that need attention before it becomes an emergency!
Knowledge is power and you can easily monitor the entire energy overview of your home using the Sense app on your phone, tablet, or computer!
To read more about Sense Monitoring go to sense.com
ENERGY MODELING and ANALYSIS
Energy-efficiency and renewable energy are the cornerstone of ECOterra’s homebuilding process. After analyzing how you use energy in your current home, we model and translate that usage into the most energy-efficient home design fitting your lifestyle. Our strategies include the selection of innovative lighting, appliances and heating and cooling modes plus much more to achieve the least environmental impact while creating a home you will cherish at the same time.
Site selection is an extremely important, base element of Green Building. At ECOterra, we strive to minimize our impact on the land and vegetation of the site in order to protect the environment around it. A required EPA Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) incorporates silt fencing, a concrete washout and a Rip Rap driveway to minimize erosion, and loss of material from the site.
OUT of the GROUND
ECOterra prepares its foundations by establishing a reflective insulation/moisture barrier beneath its slabs which allows radiant heating systems to operate more effectively.
With high-efficiency boilers (95-97% efficient), in-slab radiant heating is a clean, healthy and efficient way to heat your home. Coupled with insulation to enhance the hot water radiant heating system, solar thermal panels and a storage tank tied to your heating boiler can be incorporated, eliminating the need for a traditional water heaters. The solar thermal panels function as a water heating or pre-heating system which reduces the gas needed to operate the boiler.
Utilization of composite materials such as engineered trusses, TJI’s, OSB and Microlam Beams, reduces wood consumption.
ECOterra’s predominant materials focus is to minimize waste thereby minimizing our impact on the forests and other natural resources.
Prior to the final exterior finish, the entire house is wrapped with a 2 layer Home Wrap Moisture Barrier and drain plane to minimize air/moisture penetration. An additional 1” or 2” of rigid insulation wrapped around the home for a complete thermal break.
AIR LOSS CONTROL
Caulking throughout the exterior walls of the home including under pressure-treated base plates minimizes air/dust infiltration which is the start of a hermetic home. Doors and windows are wrapped with window wrap and then sealed with expansion foam.
Drywall works as the interior portion of an air-gap. It is extremely important to caulk or seal duct boots, electrical outlets and any other penetrations in the drywall in order to pass duct-blast tests and blower door tests which determine air leakage in the ducts and in the entire home.
Indigenous local materials such as concrete, gravel, wood and stucco are used to minimize transportation costs and pollution. In addition, the stucco process is a finish coat with low or no VOC emissions.
Interior finishes are an integral function of Building Green. Using low or no VOC-emitting finishes makes for a healthier environment. Low or no VOC paints, plaster finish walls, quartz countertops and tile walls and floors all minimize VOC’s. The use of “Green” or fast-growing woods like Liptus or Bamboo are additional components of Building Green. These fast-growing woods help greatly in reforestation efforts.
New Mexico has a large number of sunlight days per year and with federal, state and PNM grid-tied incentives, solar photovoltaic systems are working their way into the mainstream. Grid-tied systems can generate between 3,000-20,000 kWh’s per year, reducing dangerous CO2 gases being released into the atmosphere by generating facilities using fossil fuels to run their plants. Coal is the number one fuel used to generate electricity in the world.
LANDSCAPING and WATER CONSERVATION
Protecting our natural resources is the basis for Building Green. Water is by far one of the most important resources in the world today. By designing drainage and ponding around the home, a well as adding cisterns, the xeriscaping (or natural landscaping) can thrive using runoff from the roof of the home. In our arid climate the addition of timed low water usage drip systems support the vegetation during dry seasons. The natural desert landscape is a kaleidoscope of colors when given even minimal water.
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