ABC Green Home

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With 3 Zero Net, LEED projects under development in southern California, the ABC Green Home development team is seeking to partner with utilities and suppliers to open up new markets

By Nick Slevin

Folks, we are headed for a ZNE only homebuilding world, sooner than we think. The ABC Green Home Project is a series of Zero Net Energy, LEED homes constructed in southern California, though now asking to expand to other markets.  The first 1,700 square-foot unit opened at The Great Park in Irvine, CA in October 2012. Over 30,000 people took a private tour of the home while it was open and on display. 150,000 more took the virtual tour online. The object of this homebuilding exercise was to demonstrate that it is possible to build affordable buildable and certified green homes on a reasonable cost basis and provide a well-built solid and healthy family home, without breaking the bank on materials and construction costs. The house won the Gold Nugget Award for Green Design Excellence in 2013 and the So Cal Award for Sustainability, later that year. The KTGY Group Architect and Planners were very happy. Their new take on a Craftsman home theme proved very popular.  We were most pleased to have the support of a large group of advertisers from our magazines, whose products we naturally incorporated into the design, providing a model home experience to supplement our product partner’s print and digital trade channel and homebuilder specific, marketing campaigns.

The home featured an all-electric design and used heat exchange technology and programmable appliances, electric window blinds, grey water recovery and water sense approved components.  We incorporated smart home technology throughout, without going overboard on the options budget. Our development partner, Southern California Edison, was keen to demonstrate best practices in as many areas of ZNE home technology, construction and design as possible. A 5.5 KW solar array on the roof provided by Jim Petersen at Petersen Dean, generated big power and literally spun the meter backwards, putting excess electricity generated back into the grid, while under a full load, even with all the appliances, TV’s, AC and the house lights on. From its digital door locks to its programmable ceiling fans, appliances, irrigation system, security systems and lighting, the entire home was designed to be operated by a smart phone. We demonstrated this while in Ireland at my father’s kitchen table in Westport, County Mayo.  Edison’s John Morton provided a hugely funny remote demonstration of the home’s capabilities, much to the amazement of the people touring the home at the time and those of us in mayo, as observed through the in home cameras. The point is, all of this high tech stuff is available now and is becoming less expensive all the time. Providing home owners with peace of mind, home security and the ability to engage with and manage their home remotely, is a very valuable asset.

We employed a different framing layout than is currently considered standard. Using 2” x 6” studs, 24″ on center, saving us overall on the lumber cost and creating a bigger stud bay for insulation. With a layer of rigid foam insulation outside the OSB and under the siding materials and membrane, our 9” thick exterior walls really adopted passive house technology, allowing less air to pass through the wall and creating easy work for the HVAC system. This factor was key to the design and is the standard for all ABC Green Homes.

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We continued to throw curve balls at our design team throughout the development process and indeed still do, with the subsequent ABC Green Home projects 2.0 and 3.0. One of the most interesting aspects of this experience remains the ability of our architects and engineers to design and create beautiful homes using a wide variety of building materials and architectural styles. Since these homes are supported exclusively by our advertisers, one could argue the participating suppliers really had more to say about the design than almost anyone else. We share the entire development experience from design through grand opening, within the magazine and online.  We are also producing a series of videos of the various stages of construction, now available online at www.abcgreenhome.com

In order to emphasize the simplicity and straight forward nature of our approach to high performance homebuilding, we arranged for the Building Industry Technology Academy, a collection of 9 area high schools, to provide high school students to work on the original project for school credit. Child labor laws notwithstanding, we had high school age kids with their tool belts and hard hats on, doing some of the roofing and it was awesome. The youngsters also learned framing, window installation, siding, dry walling, painting, wiring and plumbing, all over the course of the summer. We have continued to use our homes as classrooms, hosting multiple networking events, lunch and learns and educational programs, for a wide variety of trade channel and consumer audiences. One afternoon as we were cleaning up after a daylong event, two bus loads of Chinese homebuilders pulled up unannounced outside, with a TV camera crew from China, to study the house. We gave them the plans and the drawings and showed them around. Figuring if they can reverse engineer an aircraft carrier, working out Net Zero home design should not prove too difficult. The original home was recently HQ to the EPA’s Solar Decathlon, demonstrating to the university students competing how an actual ZNE home should operate and function.

photo(9)The ABC Green Home project continues with Habitat for Humanity as our builder partner, working with our design team, now led by John Danielian from Danielian Associates. We have three projects under development currently and have arranged our relaunched web site accordingly.  Site visitors can access each ABC Green Home project individually and take the virtual tour, see what products we used, check out the designs and the home features. The ABC 2.0 and 3.0 projects are both multi gen 2,500 square-foot family homes incorporating universal design. These homes are designed to be provided to disabled U.S. Veteran families, once their time as high performance model homes is up. Our builder partner Habitat is vetting suitable Veteran families for possible home ownership of these rather unique and special homes. 

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Readers can watch the ABC 2.0 home being built by accessing the live camera on the job site through this link: http://68.25.35.192:12/appletvid.html?ds=1?width=2048?height=1536?dummy=1425059307728

For a video of the ABC 2.0 project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2FIXgm3gXY&feature=youtu.b.[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2FIXgm3gXY[/embedyt]

We have a really deep design team involved with these homes. Our Virtual tours are custom crafted by the very talented Joe King at Ripple. Joe brings the architect’s plans and the interior designer, Carrie Peltzer’s vision together here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqhDoPsHrEE [embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqhDoPsHrEE[/embedyt]

We are also proud to work with Saeed Bekam and his wonderful team at Gouvis Engineering, who have provided yeoman’s work at the coal face, producing the MEP, structural and Title 24 work for all 3 ABC Green Home projects. For a more complete look at the manufacturers and design team participants, including presenting Sponsor SoCalGas, please visit the web site. If you are interested in participating please email me.

Net Zero Energy is soon going to be the new normal. Like it or not, sooner or later this is going to affect your business. My advice is to embrace it. Make it part of your building philosophy. Don’t be afraid to try something new. The headwinds that persist are mental roadblocks set by folks unwilling to push the boat out. Get your oar in the water. Make your next project a bit greener than your last. Before you know it, you will be competing with me for the Gold Nugget award for Green Design Excellence. Good luck. No seriously, good luck!

Nick Slevin is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of
Green Home Builder and the Developer of the
ABC Green Home project. He may be reached at
nslevin@penpubinc.com