Perfect the art of best practices

The term “green” elicits both positive and negative responses from those in the housing industry. Josh Wynne, owner of Sarasota, Fla.-based Josh Wynne Construction, avoids this term completely. Wynne also is the designer and builder of U.S. Green Building Council’s highest-scoring Platinum LEED home in the country — an accomplishment he has achieved twice in his career.

Energy efficiency was the goal of this house, the Power Haus, which also is a Residential Design + Build 2011 Design Excellence Awards winner (July/August page 34). “We saw an opportunity to chase and build the most energy-efficient home in the U.S.,” Wynne says. “I don’t focus on that word, green. I stick with concrete things like certifications and performance criteria such as energy consumption, health, durability.”

To create the most energy-efficient home in the country, Wynne and his team were faced with many challenges from the start, with the first being the lot. “The lot is a hardwood swamp which is rare here, and it was overrun with exotic species which we had to remove. [The clients] wanted the house to feel as if it was set down in the middle of the swamp. In addition, there were 146 trees at risk of impact that we had to maneuver around,” Wynne says.

Design elements also presented challenges. Originally, the house was to include a radiant heating system, but Florida’s sporadic cold weather challenged this. “Because it generated so much thermal heat mass the air conditioning would need to be turned on in January to cool the floor,” Wynne says. “There was a lot of discovery as we tried to go outside the box.”

Design encourages sustainability

The homeowners specifically requested a modern design for their new home; however, they were also clear they didn’t want a stark, sterile home. Wynne found that traditional Florida cracker style could meet their expectations as well as provide the energy efficiency needs.

Wynne’s family has lived in Florida for generations and he believes in using traditional local styles for his projects. “A big failure in architecture is to not adapt a home to its climate — you have to pay homage to regional architecture which is why I chose the cracker element. [Florida cracker] homes were adaptive to Florida so the design embraces the climate,” he says.

Passive ventilation, passive lighting, long eaves and solar orientation all affected the desired design. “Natural traditional elements done in a modern way,” he adds. “Polished concrete floors, clay walls over mold-resistant drywall, and native cypress timbers used for doors, trim, cabinets and roof framing all lend to the contemporary Florida cracker vernacular while offering stellar performance against the elements.”

Wynne’s favorite place in the home is the kitchen (shown on the cover) which features cabinets built with lumber from a mill. Wynne’s team gathered the lumbered waste from a local mill, milled the scraps, glued the panels together and used a clear finish. “It’s pretty striking to see all the different grains and woods,” he says.

Typically, energy-efficient homes and LEED-certified homes are designed with a minimal eastern and western glass exposure. Wynne’s clients wanted the home to open and provide views to the swamp which meant the western elevation needed to open to this area. “The reason I did the orientation this way was because I was able to model the bulk tree line on the swamp to determine where the shadow would hit,” Wynne says. “I made the rear eave on the house 4 ft. long so it would shadow until the sun would dip below the trees and the sun wouldn’t be a concern.

“In the winter, we wanted to take advantage of the deciduous trees. As the sun drops, it filters into the area,” Wynne says. “Although on paper, the large exposure on the western side is not green, in practice it worked in our favor.”

Wired for success

Home technology was another homeowner request. Using Elan’s G system, almost everything in the house is automated. “The Elan system is the brains behind the operation which includes two 7-in. touch screens and four 3-in. touch screens,” Wynne adds.

The home’s technology includes a lighting control system, integration with HVAC, security, appliances that are IP-addressable and connected to the system for monitoring, entertainment, audio and solar panels. “The homeowners can manipulate their home from anywhere,” Wynne says. “My client emailed me the other day concerned about the solar performance being too low for the month, so we troubleshooted the system. You can see in real time and over a lifetime how much power the solar system is producing and how much power is being used — even by each component.” Three years ago, Wynne Construction won Custom Electronics Association’s award and he hopes to win this award again.

Wynne and his team are very proud of this project and its many industry awards. The key to its success is the teamwork behind it. “You can’t do great things all by yourself,” he says. “A well-built house has a soul and intangible quality coming from a lot of people’s passion. We had the right team together and we all cared enough to make it a success.”