Innovation comes from those willing to do things just a little differently, and green home building is no exception.
On a rural 12-acre plot in northeast Ohio, Dave Miller is building his dream home with a truly unique approach to insulation and air sealing. The 2,900 square-foot modern take on a classic farmhouse is reflects hours of research and preparation and a unique use for waste products.
"There's a front porch along the north side, so from that side it looks traditional, but on the south and east side we have much larger windows than you would typically see, so it's a mix of modern and traditional styles," he said.
Miller is a 23-year veteran with ProVia, serving as director of pricing for the Sugarcreek, Ohio-based manufacturer of home exterior products. He decided to build a new home for his family, with three children and one on the way. He plans on using ProVia products for the exterior, from metal shingles on the roof, to vinyl siding and manufactured stone on the exterior and high performance windows and doors.
One of the products ProVia makes is insulated fiberglass entry doors. For those models with glass inserts or lites, the lites are cut out of the door and that section of the door is discarded. However, each cut-out is a panel with an R-Value of about 7. Instead of letting those cut outs go to waste, Miller collected them over a period of about three months, finally gathering more than 12,000 pieces.
These insulated panels are one of the new twists he's built into the home. Working with a local Amish contractor, Miller is attaching two layers of the left over door panels to the exterior of the sheathing for insulation. On top of that will be a one-inch layer of polyiso rigid foam board with foil facing. The foam board outer layer will serve as the moisture barrier and will provide extra insulation and as well as a uniform surface for taping the seams and applying cladding. The door panels are held in place with 1-inch furring strips that match the wall studs. The door panel insulation extends below grade to the footers as well.
"I'm kind of a guinea pig, no one has ever done this but in theory those panels are 1 3/4-inches thick of polyurethane foam and two layers will have about R-12," Miller said.
The walls are 2x6 construction and the interior insulation will be standard fiberglass batts, which will give a nominal R-48 value to the wall, he said.
The insulation design reflects Miller's top two priorities: insulation and air sealing. To ensure air sealing, he used the Huber ZIP system sheathing, which includes taped seams, and Huber's liquid flashing around window and door openings. He also taped around the rim joist, one of the main culprits in a leaky house. He also put the door cutouts under the slab, for a layer of insulation there as well.
The attic will get a thin layer of spray foam on top of the ceiling drywall for air sealing, and then blown-in cellulose for insulation.
He hopes to be able to heat the home with a high-efficiency wood stove, although he will have a propane furnace for back up.
His goal is to have a blower door test of 1 ACH, close to the Passive House standard of .6 ACH.
Miller considered pursuing Passive House certification, but the cost and some design choices he made based on comfort and personal enjoyment made it difficult to reach that level. For instance, he designed in a using a vinyl sliding glass door that will affect the air tightness. The other windows are casement windows that provide a tight seal.
Overall the walls will be about 12 inches thick, so the extended door and window jambs will be about the only visible sign that something is different about the house.
Miller plans to move his family into the basement of the home first, and then he will handle finish work on his own.
"There's a lot of work left to do, but we're just anxious to move in," he said.
Read more about high performance home exteriors.
/ Gary Wollenhaupt is an experienced writer and editor, with a background as a daily newspaper reporter as well as corporate and agency public relations and marketing. He is constantly looking for affordable green upgrades to make to his home in eastern Kentucky.