Opinions and politics aside, homeowners have the right to build any size home they want or can afford to build. No association, trade professional or politician will succeed in telling U.S. homeowners how to spend their money and what size home is appropriate. Thus, the ability to design and build any size home with efficiency and sustainability in mind is key to the future of custom home building.
When Jim Baker, president of Orefield, Pa.-based studio26 Homes and his two sons, Scott Baker, vice president of operations, and Brian Baker, vice president of marketing and design, launched their company in 2004, it was to fill a void they saw in the residential market. “I was in the commercial sector and was familiar with LEED but at that time there was no LEED for residential. We saw this as something that was emerging,” says Brian Baker.
Studio26 builds homes following the standards provided by the U.S. Department of Energy Building America Program and was the first builder in Pennsylvania to build a LEED-certified Silver home. This home — shown here and on the following pages — received Gold certification through the NAHB National Green Building Program which was approved as an ANSI standard in January. “We are committed to green homes. And one way we define green homes is homes that are at least 40 percent more energy efficient than standard code homes,” Baker says.
“There are different shades of green. A smaller home using fewer resources and less energy is greener than a larger home using more resources. I don’t deny that. But it’s not my place to tell a person if they deserve a big or small home. People are going to build big homes anyway. The technologies are out there [that can] be applied to all homes and buildings across the board,” Baker says. “We try to design a home that meets someone’s needs in a small footprint, which would also cost them less with no wasted space.”
Key Green Features
This home was oriented due south with the long portion of the home oriented for passive solar benefits. It includes overhangs to shelter the hot sun during summer months and allow the sun to enter the home during winter months when solar heat gain is appreciated. “We chose the style of home because Craftsman allows for [more overhangs] than other designs. Colonial homes don’t have many eaves and sometimes it can look forced and not part of the architecture,” Baker adds.
The garage was sited on the west side of the house to buffer it from the harsh winds as the home sits on a hill. A southwest-facing sunroom has features within the room to encourage energy efficiency. “Most of the windows are operable and can create cross ventilation in the summer. It is completely sealed off from the rest of the home, insulated separately with its own HVAC and exhaust systems. The owner can smoke his cigars in the room without contaminating the rest of the home. The doors are actually exterior doors so you can close it off from the rest of this house,” Baker says.
When designing and building a large green home, it’s essential to look at all building systems as being connected. “Similar to the human body, almost every system relies on the next to ensure that the home performs at its highest capability. The more integrated, balanced and smooth-running all of the systems are relative to each other, the higher the performance that can be expected from the home,” Baker says. “With these two key understandings in place, we feel we are well on our way to deliver successful green, high-performance homes that not only save our homeowners money on their bills every month, but also provide safer and healthier retreats that they can call home.”
To guarantee efficiency, the HVAC system was designed before studio26 broke ground. “Many builders will oversize the units or have the HVAC [installer] do the HVAC units. Also, unfortunately, homes will be built and the contractor will put things in almost as an afterthought. Because our homes are so tight we can now optimize the system and not oversize it. The system was appropriately designed for the load of the house,” Baker adds. One single 4-ton ultra-efficient heat pump is used in this house.