Professional Project: Riverbluff Circle House by Latitude 38

Green Building and Renovation Month 2011

Name: Joey Conover of Latitude 38
Location: Charlottesville, VA

Tell us about this home building or renovation project: This house was built on spec by our design/build construction company, Latitude 38, and sold this past spring. The home has three bedrooms, 3.5 baths and a separate work studio for a home office...

What specific green materials, techniques, or processes went into this project?

  • EarthCraft and Energy Star certifications
  • Estimated Annual Energy Costs: $1,544
  • HERS (Home Energy Rating) Score (est.): 58, or 42% more efficient than standard home construction
  • High efficiency heat pump
  • Extremely tight thermal envelope (<0.09cfm50/sfbe)
  • Low-e Pella windows
  • Conditioned standing height crawl space
  • Heat-pump hot-water heater (50% typical energy demand)
  • Metal reflective roof
  • Energy Star appliances
  • Hardwood oak floors
  • No-VOC paint
  • Urea-formaldehyde-free cabinets
  • Energy Recovery Ventilator for fresh air
  • WaterSense low-flow plumbing fixtures
  • Drought-resistant native plant landscaping
  • Compact yard for low maintenance
  • Located in conservation community Riverbluff

What green building material or product were you most pleased about?

We focused on a tight envelope with few thermal breaks (the house is wrapped in rigid foam outside of the exterior sheathing), so that there is not excess demand placed on the HVAC system due to unnecessary air infiltration or thermal loss. This requires that we introduce fresh air mechanically, but the homeowner is in much more control about how the house is heated and cooled. And they are always able to just open the window if needed (but do not suffer when the window is closed and there is still a cold draft!).

What had you less than enthused? What would you do differently?

We would invest in some higher end plywood box cabinets (rather than IKEA). IKEA is apparently urea-formaldehyde free (necessary for good indoor air quality), but they are made of MDF and probably won't last as long as plywood/wood cabinets. You can't beat the design, hardware and options for the price, though.

Have any advice for readers looking to green build or renovate their home?

If renovating: Get a home auditor to figure out where your house is leaking and get a contractor to caulk and foam all holes and penetrations (windows, outlets, behind showers, can lights, vents, etc). This will not cost much, but is necessary before you invest in more insulation or better windows (much less renewable energy systems). Another biggie is to look at your attic. Either a) condition your attic by insulating under the roof deck rather than over the ceiling, or b) make sure you seal your attic off (no duct work or lighting up there) and put in a ton of cellulose insulation and then vent it.

If building new: Find a architect and/or builder that you really get along with. The process can take up to over a year (design process and construction) and it is very intensive and personal. Put together a whole "look book" of features that are important to you and that give your designer and idea of what you want (words just don't do it). Regardless if functionality or design is most important to you, make sure you find someone who has experience building what you want, but who is open to trying out new things.

Thanks, Joey!

Do you have a home renovation or retrofit project you'd like to share with us?
Submit to us here.

(Images: Latitude 38)