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Green Homes

High-End Green in the Hamptons

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Superior Walls foundation panels are made in a factory of precast concrete. They are delivered to the job site on a flatbed truck and are installed with a crane.
Image Credit: Richard Stott
This photo of the completed basement shows that the Superior Walls foundation panels come from the factory with a layer of Dow Thermax polyioscyanurate insulation.
Image Credit: Richard Stott
The wall SIPs are 8-inch-thick EPS panels faced with magnesium oxide. The roof SIPs are 10-inch-thick EPS panels faced with steel.
Image Credit: Richard Stott
The structural ridge is made of Weyerhaeuser Parallam PSL engineered lumber.
Image Credit: Richard Stott
The roof panels were installed with help from a crane.
Image Credit: Richard Stott
The exposed posts and rafters supporting the roof of this great room are made of Weyerhaeuser Parallam PSL engineered lumber.
Image Credit: Richard Stott
Workers install the Schluter-Kerdi membrane in preparation for the exterior tile work.
Image Credit: Richard Stott
Light fixtures installed behind Kalwall and polycarbonate panels create glowing surfaces at night.
Image Credit: Richard Stott
Once a planned 3-kW PV system is installed on the roof, the house will have HERS Index of 35. The estimated annual energy cost for heating, air conditioning, domestic hot water, and miscellaneous electrical use is $6,311 per year.
Image Credit: Richard Stott
Floor plan: Lower level.
Image Credit: Richard Stott
Floor plan: Ground floor.
Image Credit: Richard Stott
Floor plan: Upper level.
Image Credit: Richard Stott

A luxury spec house on Long Island seeks certification from six green building programs

By Richard Stott

The Hamptons are flush with poorly built, energy hog spec homes on an acre or two. Many of these homes have huge lawns, pools, tennis courts, and koi ponds. Most are thankfully hidden by tall privet hedges. Of course, the Hamptons are also known for some of the most extravagant and well-built residences in the world. All of these estates, well-built or not, require an army of maintenance workers to keep them tidy and presentable.

When the maintenance and utility bills began to pile up for his own home, a developer named Michael Newmark of Newmark Developers decided to stand up for sustainability. In the fall of 2012, I received a call from Michael; he wanted a whole new approach to delivering a high-end spec house. His site, nearly 4 acres of oak forest on eastern Long Island, had no views, no waterfront, and no topography.

The developer had finished a number of homes in the same area, all of traditional style and construction, but none of them paid the slightest regard to energy or environment. Our firm had finished our first LEED Platinum home in 2010 and we remain committed to delivering efficient, healthy, and comfortable buildings. So we began a dialog on how to deliver a luxurious, sophisticated home that saves energy on every aspect, from the utility bills to the landscaping, and is much less demanding on the environment.

After a few meetings with the developer, we came up with a wish list that we thought would be appealing to high-end second homeowners looking for something different. The program called for the usual indoor spaces, but we added some “points of interest” so that our spaces shared a common connection and made the home fun and entertaining by design.

The theme (or “parti”) was “a modern green barn.”

Design outline

Here is how we conceived the design.

First Floor:

  • Grand entry and daylit stair both up and down
  • Open-plan living/dining/kitchen with deck that connects to pool and outdoor dining
  • Separate pantry closet
  • Powder room
  • Master suite
  • Large laundry room
  • Second bedroom/office with in-suite bath
  • Three-car garage with plenty of daylight

Second Floor:

  • Junior master suite
  • 2 additional bedrooms with in-suite baths
  • Catwalk connection to open loft space

Lower Level:

  • Open to the basement-level courtyard
  • Home theater
  • Large workout room with outdoor space
  • Wine room
  • Mechanicals
  • Playroom/bedroom, open to courtyard

The plan for the exterior was to include a 60-foot lap pool, terraced garden, a subterranean courtyard, parking, and low-maintenance landscape features. A tennis court is optional. We also included space for an elevator, to be constructed or not depending on the buyer’s wishes.

We agreed to use the most advanced building science and materials available and wanted a clearly defined break from the common wood-frame construction, gambrel roofs, and enormous landscapes.

Design considerations

The Sagaponack Modern Green Barn is basically two barn shapes, a one-story and a two-story section, with a connecting link that houses the entry and stair. The house is oriented with the long axis running east/west, exposing the maximum wall and roof area toward the south. Both the one- and two-story sections open to the courtyard and south-facing glass takes the form of triple-glazed bifold doors (U=0.12) by Intus to allow the house to be completely open to the outdoors, yet provide exceptional thermal qualities. Windows on the north side are minimal, but enough to allow for balanced daylight and views.

The barn concept can take many forms and we looked closely at the Long Island potato barn for inspiration. Potato barns are built partially in-ground and constructed with exterior facing concrete pilasters for structural support. We used the pilaster concept here to house steel columns where necessary for balconies and decks and also to provide chases for the leaders from the wide built-in gutters. The gutters also eliminate the need for snow guards or rails. The pilasters are built under the wide overhangs which protect the glass from summer sun yet allow sunlight to stretch across the floor to the north wall in winter.

SIP walls and roof

Another innovation in our construction process is the use of specialized R-36 structural insulated panels (SIPs), 8 inches thick, for the walls. We specified magnesium oxide panels for the walls and 10-inch thick, R-42, steel-skin SIPs for the roof/ceiling.

All of the exterior walls were constructed with magnesium oxide skin panels. The exterior was simply stuccoed and the interior was taped, spackled, and painted. The metal-skin roof SIPs were installed and immediately, the house was dried in — a big advantage.

Again, to save labor and the number of trades on the site, we simply cleaned up and painted the interior metal skin of the roof. Every major room in the house has a cathedral ceiling, so the finish process was much less complicated. Every panel joint connection from the basement to the top of the roof ridge is spray-foam-sealed during the joining process to assure a tight fit.

A tight construction schedule

The project had to be completed quickly and the timeline did not allow for the common design-bid-build scenario. I knew we had to get a contractor on board from the start in order to get the project completed on time.

Enter John Barrows, a contractor, partner in Performance Path Solutions, and green building lecturer for the NAHB. Performance Path Solutions represents and distributes Superior Wall foundation panels as well as both magnesium oxide skin and metal-skin SIPs. After meeting with John, the developer decided that a fast-track building process with John would be his best chance to get the product he wanted in the time frame allowed.

The panel distributor, Oceansafe, provided us with engineering for the wall and roof systems and Superior Wall Foundations provided us with the necessary engineering for the foundation and floor system.

Since the majority of the basement level is occupied space, we agreed that the Superior Wall system was the best for our project. For foundations installed in winter, the Superior Wall system has the added benefit that it can be constructed during freezing temperatures. The Superior system does not require a poured concrete footing; rather, the 10-foot wall panels are placed on a thick gravel base. Backfill and the poured slab over rigid insulation lock the wall in place. Rigid insulation under the slab provides a continuous thermal break and significant thermal mass for the lower level.

The thermal performance of the of the R-21 foundation walls was increased by adding R-13 batts on the interior, similar to standard cavity-wall insulation. This system required the use of dead-men reinforcing opposite the open walls to the courtyard in order to resist soil pressure. If walls and floor diaphragms are not properly connected, the foundation could be pushed out of plumb during the backfill operation.

We designed the floor system with Weyerhaeuser I-joists. The subfloor consists of 1 1/8″ thick tongue-and-groove Boise Cascade Sturd-i-floor throughout the main and upper floors. Michael George, a local Weyerhaeuser rep, assisted with the floor and diaphragm engineering. The only independent engineering we needed was for the retaining wall that defined the lower courtyard.

We broke ground in May 2013 and finished 15,000 square feet of constructed space, which includes the pool, patios, terraced garden, and courtyard, in 16 months. The weather during the winter of 2014 on Long Island was particularly bad; there were numerous days when nobody could get to the building site. Temperatures were well below normal, but every time the sun was shining, the building was warm enough to work inside.

Daylight and nightlight

During the day, sunlight enters every space from ridge skylights and the gable ends made of Kalwall. The Kalwall has an R-8 thermal rating. The daylight inside is amazing and every room on the main and upper floors is filled with even soft light.

As the sun sets, the transformation from dusk to dark is almost magic. The impression is that every place the daylight enters now gives up a warm soft glow to the outside. The four major gable ends and ridges shed a soft interior light and the pilasters light up as well. By lining the inside of the pilasters with Solexx (twin-wall 5 mm polycarbonate) and covering them with 1×4 FSC-certified African mahogany called Sapele, each pilaster becomes a soft glowing lantern as daylight fades to black.

We built a mockup of the pilaster and tried numerous types of dimmable LED rope lighting, but found in the end that a simple soffit-mounted LED was enough to spread the light evenly throughout the pilaster. As the job progressed, we called the pilasters “lanterns.” Where the lantern extended more than one story, we used another LED can-light for each additional level.

The polycarbonate film behind the mahogany slats mimics the slatted barn doors and appears to have the same substrate finish. So during the day, the pilasters look to be constructed in the same way as the stucco exterior walls. At night, with dimming options, the lighting effects are infinite, and the variations of lighting scenes completely transform the appearance and mood of the exterior.

A hydro-air heating system

Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing are important considerations, especially in a SIP building. We organized the mechanical systems to be as efficient as possible. The center of the two-story space contains the main mechanical room. The main mechanical room contains a Weil-McClain Ultra 230 boiler (AFUE 95 with modulating controls) and one of three air handlers which serve the main and lower floors. The room also contains an energy-recovery ventilator (ERV) for the north wing and the 400-amp main electrical distribution box.

Most of the bathrooms are oriented close to this mechanical core to keep plumbing and electrical runs short where the majority of hot water is needed. The only hot water requirement in the south wing is the kitchen and powder room, which are served by an on-demand water heater in a closet below the kitchen.

The south wing and connecting link are served by a fourth air handler in the basement mechanical room (mechanical room #2) at the east end of the south wing basement, where the second ERV is located.

The central area of the two-story space (where the bathrooms are located) has a flat ceiling, and the attic above is a perfect location for the third air handler to service the second floor.

A sunlit courtyard

The courtyard is the hinge point. Most spaces have direct access to the courtyard in the form of views, balconies, or doorways. Sunlight not only fills the courtyard, but reflects off the south-facing glass and lights up the covered outdoor space under the deck off the kitchen. Daylight even makes it back under the kitchen to the workout room under the south wing. The retaining wall of the courtyard is stucco, and a perfect place to project movies. The courtyard floor is covered in ¾-inch-thick stone and becomes a playground to the house with access to each floor.

An indoor playroom/bedroom with an attached bath is located at the lower level, accessible to the court. The level also has an additional full bath, which serves as a cabana for the pool. The main stair extends to all three levels and overlooks the court from every step. The main stair with extensive views of the courtyard terminates at the lower level gallery, a perfect place to display art and sculpture.

An outside stair rises as part of the terracing to the main-level patio, Jacuzzi, waterfall, and pool. The waterfall, an infinite edge at the pool, spills into a trough and creates a soft “white noise.” From the far side of the pool, it appears that the water is spilling into the court. As the stair rises, each terrace level is accessible from the stair. The irrigated terrace garden can be planted with almost any type of plants, including vegetables.

The master and junior master bedrooms include balconies that overlook the courtyard and provide privacy from the terrace and outdoor dining areas.

When children visit, they never stop running

The house is a fun place to be. The courtyard can be accessed from almost every room and there are numerous ways to move through the house both horizontally and vertically. Although we planned for a round clear glass full-access elevator by Visilift, it has not yet been installed. It remains an option.

The second-floor catwalk and loft lead from the bedrooms to the main stair and also to a second-floor deck with a spiral stair to the ground level. We’ve found that whenever people visit, especially children, they are seen running from one level to the next, inside, outside and in between — and they never seem to stop. The whole house becomes a playground.

A three-car garage

The unheated three-car attached garage is a daylight magnet. The Clopay ‘Avante’ doors are translucent and compliment the north and west walls which are constructed of single ply polycarbonate sheet, which we cut into each stud bay.

The wall studs are cedar and left exposed with no finish.

Tile floors

We wanted to keep the materials simple and clean. We used modern materials that fit our LEED goals and look great together. The floors (all but the bedrooms and theater) are porcelain tile by Casalgrande Padana (Dragon Grey).

Since all the doors of the living room open fully to the patio, we wanted to share the interior and exterior floor surfaces, so we used the same tile size, color, and pattern on the outside, only with a grip surface. This color will not overheat in summer and really brings the two spaces together. The grey tile extends down the exterior stair and covers the horizontal surfaces of the terraced garden.

The lower gallery space is also tile. All ceramic tile is laid on Schluter-Kerdi waterproofing membrane.

We used only two types of wood for the project. The bedroom floors and all the trim is the same Sapele mahogany that we used for the exterior features and works well with the FSC-certified doors from ETO doors.

The other wood source is the Weyerhaeuser Parallams (PSLs) which we used for rafters, girders, support girts for the skylights, all the framework for the loft over the kitchen, and the entire catwalk and stair structure. The PSLs are sanded smooth and left exposed.

All interior door and window trim is also Sapele mahogany, treated with one coat of Penefin, which really brings out the richness and color. The mahogany floors and decking are left untreated. The theater and playroom are carpeted and the workout room has rubber workout flooring.

The gray standing-seam metal roof is Kynar-finished 24-gauge steel.

Lessons Learned

Get your contractor on board early. Rated, sustainable projects require special attention and expertise. I believe it is far better to hire a knowledgeable contractor during the design phase and review the project with the whole delivery team often during the design development and construction document phases of design. A design-bid-build type delivery would be much difficult to document fully and much more risky.

Precast concrete foundation panels. The Superior Wall foundation system is great, but it must be installed carefully and reinforced according to the engineering included with the design documents. Failing to install all the diaphragms, supports and back-up reinforcement will result in walls being out of plumb.

Airtightness. Although all the SIPs are locked together and sealed with foam, be sure to check all connections between systems to assure that no gaps are left. We found some fist-size holes at the connection between the SIPs and Kalwall gable connections that were hidden and went unnoticed until we ran a blower-door test.

Plan ahead for wiring runs through SIPs. Carefully plan all lighting locations and pick fixtures before construction. SIPs are adaptable to wall switches and outlets, but it's better to avoid placing wires, conduit, or piping in the perimeter walls if possible. Review the lighting and power plans with the SIP manufacturer and installers before they start.

Beware of hairline cracks when plastering over SIPs. The base and finish coat stucco system on the exterior went off without a hitch. When it came to taping and spackling the interior surfaces, however, we found some hairline cracking at the joints. We believe this resulted from the normal building “curing process” and was telegraphed to the panel joints due to the rigidity of the panels. This was solved by the use of an elastic bedding compound (same as used on the exterior stucco) and an elastomeric paint used as the primer.

Polycarbonate issues. Polycarbonate is a wonderful material, but it expands and contracts like crazy and is prone to condensation. Be sure of your attachment details.

General Specs and Team

Location: Climate Zone 4, Sagaponack, NY
Bedrooms: 6
Bathrooms: 7.5
Living Space: 8860
Cost: 470

Architect: Richard Stott, AIA LEED AP, Stott Architecture Developer: Micahel Newmark, Newmark Developers Builder: John Barrows, P3 Builder Group


Foundation: Superior Walls Xi+ precast concrete panels - R-21 delivered + R-13 fiberglass batts added inside

Slab insulation: 2” thick XPS

Above-grade walls: MagWall Building Systems SIPs with R-36 EPS

Siding: Stucco applied directly to the SIPs

Exterior trim: Unfinished Sapele FSC-certified mahogany

Windows and glazed doors: Intus Eforte vinyl windows – average U-factor=0.14

Translucent glazing system: End walls and ridge skylights by Kalwall (U-factor=0.20)

Timber framing: Weyerhaeuser Parallam PSL engineered lumber

Floor framing: Weyerhaeuser Trus Joist I-joists

Roof / ceiling construction: Oceansafe 10" thick SIPs with 25 ga. steel cladding (R-45)

Roofing: Standing-seam metal roof by I-metal

Space heating: Weil-McLain Ultra 230 propane-fired boiler (95 AFUE)

Cooling: Carrier 16 SEER variable-speed air conditioner

Ventilation: Santek variable-speed ERVs (2 units)

Domestic hot water: Indirect 80-gal. SuperStor water heater connected to the boiler; system has a hot-water circulation pump activated by motion detectors.


Appliances: Energy Star rated appliances (where applicable)

Lighting: Oligo LED track lighting, recessed LED fixtures

Swimming pool and Jacuzzi: Installed 3” water-supply pipes with wide-sweep elbows and a variable-speed multi-stage pump. Filter medium is recycled glass instead of sand.

Energy Specs

Blower door test results: 2.66 ACH @ 50 Pa (average of pressurization and depressurization multi-point tests)

Estimated site energy use: 182.2 MMBtu (projected to be reduced to 168.7 MMBtu with future installation of 3-kW PV system); estimated energy cost for heating, air conditioning, domestic hot water, and miscellaneous electrical use is $6,311 per year.

Actual energy use: Unknown; house is not yet occupied

Water Efficiency

• Low-flow plumbing fixtures
• EPA WaterSense certification
• Central plumbing core allows efficient pipe runs

Indoor Air Quality

• Low- and no-VOC paints
• Solid wood and tile flooring
• Balanced ventilation system provides fresh air to living spaces and bedrooms

Green Materials and Resource Efficiency

• Prefabricated building components reduced waste and construction time
• Engineered lumber and advanced framing techniques optimize material usage

Alternate Energy Utilization

PV: The plan is to install a 3-kW PV system on the south-facing roof; once this system is installed, the house will have a HERS Index of 35.


The home will receive 6 third-party rating certifications.

1. The house is registered in the LEED for Homes program and we expect to attain at least LEED Silver.

2. We also registered under the National Green Building Standard (NGBS) ICC 700- 2012. We wanted to compare the complexity, cost and time to complete these two programs.

3. Department of Energy “Zero Energy Ready Home” ( formerly Challenge Home Program).

4. DOE Energy Star

5. DOE Indoor Air Plus

6. DOE Water Sense

Also a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) is required for LEED, for Energy Star, and for our own local municipality, which was one of the first agencies in New York to require HERS ratings for homes. In Southampton, the larger the home, the more efficient it must be.

We contracted with Steven Winter Associates and worked with Karla Donnelly from that firm, who is helping us with all six of these programs. Many designers and contractors are claiming that their buildings are built to LEED or NGBS standards, but the only way to know for sure is to have the certificate on the wall. I’ve found that the requirements of these rating systems are often a focal point for decision-making. On a project with no certificates, a material might be substituted or spec changed to save a few dollars. A subcontractor can (and often does) install a noncompliant item without notice. When documentation is required, disputes are minimized and the whole team works toward a common goal. The sustainability team, from the owner to the subcontractor, is strengthened, focused, and committed from the start, and an issue that might cause an argument or be fodder for a lawsuit finds an answer or solution in the rating requirements.


  1. Chaz Steffen | | #1

    It is very nice that this
    It is very nice that this home will be more efficient than the typical home of this size in this area. I applaud your work to raise the bar. But Green?? It must mean something different than it used to.

  2. Antonio Oliver | | #2

    few questions
    1. For the wall with the columns, how deep was that roof overhang?

    2. You said that 1 1/8" subflooring was used. How wide was the spacing of the floor joists?

    3. In such a large house, how many AC zones and what was the guiding rules in separating areas?

    4. Is the cost to build only the construction cost, or does it include the cost of the land?

  3. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #3

    How is this supposed to work?
    "Slab insulation: Dow Thermax 2” thick polyisocyanurate "

    Using a hygroscopic insulation such as polyiso under a slab seems a bit optimistic about the waterlogging potential to me. But maybe I'm misunderstanding how it's really being used?


    A 230KBTU/hr boiler seems like a lot of boiler, even for an 8800' house. While the building doesn't have a super-efficient shape, at those R/U-factors design condition heat load can't be even half the output of the boiler. Is it intentionally that over sized to be able to serve up hot water to the 7.5 bathrooms via a single 80 gallon indirect? Is it heating the pool too?

  4. Robert Opaluch | | #4

    Sustainable? Green?
    For a $4 million dollar price tag, a green home should not have a $500+/month energy bill. That's not sustainable or green IMHO. There is something terribly wrong with our "green" standards.

  5. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #5

    Green certification programs
    I'm grateful to Richard Stott for sharing the details about this well-designed, well-built luxury house.

    My concerns relate to the six green certification programs that this house qualifies for. If I had any say in developing these green certification programs, here are some questions I might ask:

    1. Is it green to develop 4 acres of oak forest for the purpose of building an 8,800-square-foot vacation home?

    2. Should there be an upper limit on the number of square feet or the energy budget for a vacation home?

    3. Are private swimming pools green?

    4. If a developer builds a house with a swimming pool and 7.5 bathrooms, has the developer really solved the "army of maintenance workers" problem?

  6. Allan Edwards | | #6

    Large Homes
    One could certainly make a case that mega-sized homes are not Green. However, these homes are going to be built whether or not they are deemed Green or have the various certifications. Let me repeat: they are going to be built because there are plenty of people who have the $ to build them and for whatever reasons they want a very large home. We routinely build homes this size or larger, in fact we currently have a 22,000 sq ft home under construction.

    I think it is better that these homes be built to high standards espoused on this site and others, and if by doing so they are able to receive certifications and labels, so much the better. I do try very hard to apply good building techniques as advocated here on all my homes, no matter the size.

    I think it is detrimental when those in the building science community criticize architects, builders, and yes homeowners when they try to follow good building techniques and they just happen to be building large homes.

  7. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #7

    Response to Allan Edwards
    You wrote, "I think it is detrimental when those in the building science community criticize architects, builders, and yes homeowners when they try to follow good building techniques and they just happen to be building large homes."

    Just to be clear: I was raising issues that I think need to be considered by people responsible for creating green building certification programs -- not architects, builders, or homeowners.

  8. Peter L | | #8

    Allan Edwards - The clear voice of reason
    Thank you Allan for your common sense response. You nailed it. These large and extravagant homes will be built REGARDLESS of whether people whine and complain about what square footage constitutes what is green or not. There are people who have more money than all the GBA posters on this site combined and multiplied by 100 or more.

    I would rather have them build it to better energy standards because in the long run it will save on fossil fuels. If they are going to build a 20,000 square foot home, I would rather have them do it to these energy efficient standards. Like Allan stated:

    "These homes are going to be built whether or not they are deemed Green or have the various certifications. Let me repeat: they are going to be built because there are plenty of people who have the $ to build them and for whatever reasons they want a very large home. "

    That's the fact of life. Like it or not, they have money to burn and we don't. So when they build their McMansions I would rather have them build energy efficient McMansions. The "green morality" religious clergy have no say on what square footage is green or not. Don't be a green pharisee!

    Funny on how the green movement develops these "I am holier/greener than thou" because I (fill in the blank..). It becomes like a religious movement with its own scribes and pharisees who chastise and walk around in pompous pride because they feel they are holier/greener than others. There is no doubt it becomes a "religious movement" and by doing so it turns away the moderates.

  9. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #9

    Verdetude is relative, to be sure...
    An 8800' energy pig is certainly a lot less green than an 8800' tight well designed, well insulated building on the same site.

    My concerns on this one are a couple of design/implemetation nits, to reiterate:

    Putting polyiso under a slab is a dubious practice at best, with a decidedly BAD track record on becoming permanently wet in those applications. EPS would have been a better choice, costs about the same per unit-R, and is about the same from an overall lifecycle environmental impact point of view.

    Heating this house with what has to be several indepent zones with a boiler whose min-fire output is comparable to the WHOLE HOUSE load is potentially problematic. It's unlikely that it will be able to meet it's AFUE efficiency unless there is a lot of thermal mass in the radiation &/or a large buffer tank to keep it from short cycling itself into low efficiency and an early grave on zone calls. Without more detail on the heating system (and the heat load) it's hard to say, but I would have expected to see either a self-buffered boiler solution (like some of the HTP systems) or a boiler less than half the size, given just how small the space heating load has to be to hit a HERS index of 35 with only 3kw of rooftop PV.

    I would agree with others that at that budget it would be very easy to hit Net Zero Energy on that house, if that had been the priority, but that's not a typical priority for buyers of luxury vacation homes. Building a mansion on spec is a business, after all, and the cost of money for the additional time necessary for finding a buyer who DID prioritize Net Zero could be substantial.

  10. Richard Stott | | #10

    A Sustainable Conversation
    I'm excited that this story is evoking/provoking a lively dialog. A quick correction - The slab insulation is 2" XPS not poliiso. The edit never made it to print. Mostly great comments and questions, I'd like to reply to some of the important ones:
    1. By developing a high end residence with a conscious effort to respect the environment, we take a giant step away from the waste and disregard that so many wealthy developers, owners, builders and designers have proven to be the norm. My practice includes many building types from Police stations to commercial space and includes both very high and very low end homes. We do our best to assert sustainable practices for all of them. To me, the rating systems do three things: First, they provide a focal point for the team to make decisions and a deterrent for breaking the 'rules'. Second, they act as a "window sticker" of inclusions and exclusions for the owner and future owners. For the first time in history, the construction is de-mystified and documented. 3. They provide a benchmark for expectations and performance; a way to compare what we expect to what we get. Sometimes buildings don't perform as expected, but at least with a third party rating, we have a way to analyze and correct issues.
    2. Of the 4 available acres, less than an acre was disturbed, which includes the as yet uncleared area for a tennis court.
    3. Since more than 50% of the homes in the Hamptons are vacation homes, and they range from a few hundred square feet, unheated summer cabins, to the largest private home in America at 60k + square feet, we feel it is essential to consider sustainable practices for everything we design.
    4. Even the pool has advanced science and technology solutions, large piping wide sweeps to reduce friction, a solar cover and multi stage pumps.
    5. It is certainly possible for an owner to maintain this house and property single handed, but even if our potential wealthy city dweller is not interested in vacuuming the pool or mowing the lawn, this residence will require a fraction of the staff.
    6. The budget - Don't forget, this is the Hamptons, where a very low end building will still cost north of $200/sq ft. Many residential projects here finish out at twice the $400+ numbers for this home, and more.
    Here in the office, we all live in small efficient homes and it seems wasteful to us to build extravagant homes, but these homes are built nevertheless. Why not apply all our knowledge and expertise into raising the bar for all buildings.
    7. Utility costs for homes this size in this area will typically average out to $1500 to $2000/month so we think $500 estimated utility cost is an improvement - and we're hoping to do better than that.
    Thanks for all your comments .
    Ric Stott

  11. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #11

    Response to Richard Stott
    Thanks for the information on the sub-slab foam. I have corrected the article.

  12. Antonio Oliver | | #12

    heating fuel
    Just curious how much it would have cost to get a natural gas line to the house. Using natural gas rates in my area, you would cut your heating cost by at least a third. If natural gas is in the area, saving $2k a year might pay for the gas line in a short amount of time.

  13. Peter L | | #13

    Intus Windows
    The article stated they used Intus triple pane uPVC windows with a SHGC of 0.494. Is that SHGC on the south windows or all the elevations?

  14. Robert Opaluch | | #14

    Why I'm not impressed

    This comment provides more detail on why I was not impressed by your energy efficiency results. Not bad results, just not impressive. The aesthetics you describe in your house tour seem impressive. Your lighting design seems impressive. Amenities, impressive.

    There are a lot of dimensions to sustainable architecture and building. I'm only commenting on the energy efficiency part here. I suspect you have done a more impressive job on other aspects, like water usage, for example. Unfortunately the lack of space in articles doesn't provide as much detail as a lot of us would prefer to see. Our comments are based upon limited information.

    Green building standards aren't a comparison game. Just because your neighbors homes waste lots of energy doesn't make you green. We don't compare ourselves to 1950's style homes with R-13 walls and single-pane windows in our less affluent neighborhoods and you shouldn't either. We have standards for super-insulation that are much higher than code minimums, that do not involve what neighboring properties use. I don't think anyone here is complaining that rich buyers are building big homes per se. Its that with your huge budget, and your choice of expensive materials, you CERTAINLY have the budget for PVs, super-insulation and very tight construction. We expect more than you describe. Your use of PV, insulation levels and air tightness strike me as unimpressive GIVEN YOUR BUDGET, not best of breed energy efficiency, WHICH YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN TO IMPLEMENT. I would not have made the same decisions as you. Again, we aren't claiming your house is terrible or wasting far too much energy like your neighbors, just a disappointment to us who are pushing the envelope and looking for examples that do the same. Call us perfectionists or radicals if you wish, but we outdo you in energy efficient building it seems.

    I design for sub-$200 heating bills for the winter season in New England for an affordable 2,000 SQFT 3BR 2BA home. Not up to Passivhaus standards to reduce cost of construction. R80-100 ceiling, R-60 walls, R-40 floors above a basement, with attached garage buffering the west side, minimal number of corners, for example. You can't cost-justify a central heating power plant and distribution system when the heating load gets very low. So those fossil fuel heating system savings are put into insulation and better windows. Overall costs aren't much above average new home construction costs, and total cost of ownership is much lower.

    Your ceiling insulation is R-45. That's not quite super-insulated, and not that much above code minimum for some areas. R-45 is not impressive, compared to your impressive windows. With your budget you could have done better. Please don't tell me you chose materials that make R-80 too difficult to achieve. That's the point. You pick materials for other reasons, and energy efficiency takes the back seat in that design decision. You are optimizing other factors over energy-effiency. I see a lot of R-35 walls in green buildings, and understand that the cost of foam insulation in walls, or the 12" to 16" wall thickness with more affordable insulation types are the reasons behind their design decisions for R-35 (which isn't bad, just not impressive). But with your budget and square footage, it doesn't seem to be much of an argument against more wall insulation. Given your incredible (and no doubt quite expensive) windows, if your home was tighter with higher insulation, seems it would cut your heating bill significantly.

    PV not impressive. No solar-heated hot water or solar-heated pool? Any consideration of Net Zero Energy building?

    The numbers I've seen say 1ACH is tight construction, less than 3 moderately tight, 3-5 typical, over 5 leaky @ 50 Pascals. If so, your 2.66 ACH is not bad but not impressive.

    IMHO your home belongs in Architectural Digest more than touting it as an example of a very energy efficient building. This is not a condemnation of your impressive work and talent, but it is a wake-up call that some of us green designers and builders expect more from you.

    When you receive the results of your LEED or other certifications and tests, please comment on them.

    Thanks for writing the article and bringing up these discussions.

  15. Richard Stott | | #15

    I agree with you for the most part, the energy efficiency is not terribly impressive, but it is good, and way above most of the newly constructed homes in the area. You must remember that the cost of construction in the Hamptons is impressively above average. So what is perceived to be a 'huge' budget is really not so huge. Our use of Superior wall foundations, Mag wall SIPS and metal skin SIPS was an effort to save labor, the most expensive component of construction on the East End of Long Island. In that we succeeded, at least to some degree. If the project were ALL about energy, we would not have used Kalwall for gable ends and ridge skylights, which also leak a little more than we thought. We were hoping for a better ACH rating too and expected something below 2 ACH at 50Pa.

    If the house were ALL about energy, it might not have other amenities that make owning a vacation home in the Hamptons so attractive to wealthy buyers. For a Spec home, it's not extremely anything, except perhaps attractive, which is of course the point. I'm proud of my client, the developer, for having the guts and the foresight to bring a project like this to market. The house is not perfect, but it is a balance of sustainable practice, experimental use of materials and high end features combined into a fun, healthy, light filled, modern barn style vacation home. This fairly large home is a giant step from the norm and a stepping stone for even better performance with equal amenities for a specific price point.

    If I disagree on anything, it's your comment that "Green Building Standards aren't a comparison game."That's precisely what they are, a way to compare this house to that, and this house to minimum code, etc. The sum total of your comments compare components of this house to others. Arguably more a mechanism than a game, we use sustainable standards to evaluate and compare both our goals and the outcome.

    We learn through this process and improve. This publication, the process of writing the article and reviewing the comments, are all part of the 'game'.
    Thanks for playing.

  16. Expert Member
    Dana Dorsett | | #16

    Any insights to share on the boiler sizing & heating design?
    The boiler still seems very oversized for the heating load of a house like this. It's output in condensing mode works out to about 25 BTU/hr per square foot of conditioned space, which is about 2x higher than the heat load of pretty-good code-min house in Fargo, ND, (where the outside design temp is about 30F colder than in the Hamptons.)

    I'm wondering what other thermal loads it might be serving, and what system design measures (if any) were taken to keep it from short-cycling on space heating zone calls?

    Thanks for the clarification on sub-slab foam- XPS will clearly work. Looking forward, EPS is substantially greener than XPS due to the differences in blowing agents. EPS is blown with pentane with a global warming potential about 7x CO2, compared to the HFC134a used to blow XPS, which has a GWP nearly 1400x CO2. That's a 200x higher environmental hit from the blowing agents, whereas pound per pound the enviro hit from the polymer is the same. The all-in difference turns out to be "only "about 5x- you can insulate five slabs that size with EPS for the same climate damage that you get with just one slab insulated with XPS. Cost-wise it's about 20-25% cheaper too.

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