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Green Homes

A Builder’s Home, Done Right

Starting with stock plans, a builder prioritized envelope details and made modifications to fit his family and their future

Our house sits on a two-and-a-half-acre parcel in Victor, Idaho. It is 18 miles from Jackson, Wyoming, 30 miles from Teton National Park, and an hour-and-a-half drive from Yellowstone National Park. To the west are views of the Big Hole Mountains; to the east we see Mount Taylor and the Teton Range. Suffice to say, it’s a beautiful and desirable location, which factored heavily into the home’s design. We purchased the land in 2006, but it was 12 years before we started building. My family thinks of this as a legacy home, which meant as a builder, I had to get the big things right.

Although we had a tight budget, it was important to build beyond code-minimum requirements and demonstrate our values and ability to execute healthy, sustainable construction methods. My company, Wydaho Construction, has built seven DOE Zero Energy Ready and Energy Star–certified homes, so I was committed to getting those certifications for my house. I did consider other programs. LEED is more comprehensive but also more expensive; plus, there are no local LEED raters, so one would have to fly in from Oregon, which would add to the cost. Passive House certification is difficult to achieve in climate zone 6 and, for us, cost-prohibitive. While DOE Zero Energy Ready certification is more strictly energy-focused, to earn that certification you are required to get Energy Star, WaterSense, and IndoorAir Plus certifications too. That made the program comprehensive enough to ensure a healthy, durable, and energy-efficient home without breaking the bank.

Customizing stock design plans

Teton Valley has a rich agricultural history that defines much of the region’s heritage and present-day character. For that reason, the farmhouse style made sense for our home. We love the simple and practical aspects of the traditional farmhouse, but wanted it to have a contemporary…

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11 Comments

  1. JWolfe1 | | #1

    This was a great read and I'd like to continue to see more GBA content like this.

    I find it very interesting that in the climate of Victor which appears to be have around 8500-9000 HDD that they could not justify going above just a standard 2x6 wall with cellulose insulation and are still hitting Zero Energy Ready Now standards. It also appears no exterior rigid foam was installed since that was not referenced. Per posts I've seen about things like super insulated garages, I think some GBA readers go well into points of diminishing returns on insulation for the sake of more insulation. What do others think about standard 2x6 framing in a rather cold climate?

    1. Expert Member
      Michael Maines | | #2

      I don't put a lot of emotion into insulation levels; I run energy models that give me reasonably accurate data for making an informed decision. Building nerds tend to focus on walls because they are interesting, but they are not the main source of heat loss in most homes. That said, I can't recall a time here in Zone 6, with about 7000-7500 HDD, that going above code-minimum insulation in the walls didn't have a reasonably good return on investment. I do see diminishing returns above about R-30, but it depends on the assembly type.

    2. Alexander Arnote | | #4

      We are getting ready to build in zone 6 Wyoming and are planning on doing 2x6 with exterior Zip-r (probably r6). Given the cost of labor and low energy prices the return/payback period does not justify the expense of putting in double stub walls. Instead the money is better spent on air sealing, electric appliances/heat, and solar (300+ days of sunshine). If I was on low carbon power like hydro I would probably delay the solar as well.

  2. AnonymousUser | | #3

    What a beautiful home! Congrats on your super low blower door result! I wish you and your family many decades of comfort and enjoyment. One question that has peaked my curiosity: it seems in foto that some roof planes are clad in standing seam, whereas others have what appear to be.... (cannot tell in pic) asphalt shingles (?) What are the benefits to using two different claddings? Just curious, as I have seen other builders do same, even on “money-no-issue” projects. Are there performance advantages?

  3. qofmiwok | | #5

    How was your garage insulated, other than the ceiling? Are you planning on heating it?

  4. T. Barker | | #6

    Well done!
    You say you maximized your hot water efficiency by using a conventional hot water heater as a holding tank. Somehow it brings the well water from 50F to 70F - without using any electricity. Can you explain this system a little more please?

  5. qofmiwok | | #7

    "drywall gasket around door and window openings" What is a drywall gasket?

    1. Expert Member
      Malcolm Taylor | | #8

      A gasket attached to the face of rough openings and plates which compresses when the drywall is installed.

      1. qofmiwok | | #9

        I know what a sill gasket is. He also mentioned drywall gaskets around door and window openings. People use sill gaskets around windows and doors? I've never seen anybody do that.

        1. Expert Member
          Malcolm Taylor | | #10

          None of these are sill gaskets. If you are using drywall as part of your air sealing strategies you need to seal between the perimeter and around any openings in the wall surface and the framing behind. One way is using a bead of flexible sealant, another is to install gaskets as I described on the surface of the framing which will compress when the wall is boarded. They are also often used on the surface of each side of the top-plates on the interior walls to stop air-movement into the roof space above.

        2. Expert Member
          Michael Maines | | #11

          These are drywall gaskets: http://www.conservationtechnology.com/building_gaskets.html.

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