A couple of weeks ago, Matt and I attended the Crestone Energy Fair here in Colorado, and I'm excited to share what we learned. As part of an energy fair dedicated to sustainable and renewable energy, the fair also hosts a tour of sustainable homes. No matter how long I've studied sustainable building, nothing takes the place of experiencing innovative homes in person.
Joined by many likeminded folks, open to learning about innovative building techniques, we felt like we were in sustainable-home heaven.
Crestone, Colorado is a community that inspires innovative home builders to explore building sustainably. The building department there encourages creative ideas and exploration of new and old building techniques.
Within a few square miles, we experienced many types of construction: strawbale, rammed-earth tire (Earthships), formed rammed-earth, homes with climate batteries, earthbag domes, and many others.
Nearly every home incorporates passive solar heating and cooling as well as solar PV. Many homes are off the grid, but many remain tied to the power grid.
One of the homes that I want to share with you clearly demonstrates that sustainable homes need not be expensive.
This charming home, built for less than $50K, is simple, elegant, and could secure a building permit just about anywhere. The homeowner/builder has some carpentry skills, so he used his talents to create double, 2x4 walls that are 12 inches thick. He then filled that space with cellulose insulation (shredded paper). These walls provided a super-insulated building envelope, containing the heat that is generated using passive and active solar techniques.
He achieved his goal of a non-toxic home by plastering with earth plasters, painting with zero-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints and installing a brick floor, and insulating with paper.
The most innovative feature is how he heats his house. He uses solar-thermal panels to heat water that runs through tubes embedded in the two-foot thick thermal mass floor. The floor, constructed of bricks over a thick layer of sand, stores the heat from the water during the day. Then, radiates the warmth to the home throughout the evening.
He also heats using passive solar techniques by placing large windows on the south side of the house. These windows open to also ventilate the house. He installed a small back-up woodstove to get through stormy days.
It was a hot summer day when we visited, and the house was very comfortable because of the thick insulated walls and the thermal mass floor.
He kept his cost reasonable by:
If you are interested in attending next year's Crestone Energy Fair - Tour of Homes, check out their website https://crestoneenergyfair.org and plan on participating in 2020.
Maybe I'll see you there!
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