Net Zero

Mottram Architecture Project of the Month: Modern Solar Farmhouse with Live Solar Maine

We are thrilled to announce that the Modern Solar Farmhouse is featured this spring in the Green and Healthy Homes Maine magazine! If you're local and would like a free copy, let me know. Supplies are limited. Or you can pick up a copy on local news stands now!Excerpt from the article: "Why we like it: With this project, Mottram and Live Solar Maine had a strong focus on delivering a highly energy-efficient house, in a simple approachable aesthetic, for a highly marketable price. It's not easy to find a net zero ready home for $205/sq ft. much less one with such comfortable New England charm. The home's simple structure are time tested vernacular forms and expertly combined with higher levels of insulation and tight construction."

Popular Culture Connection: Energy Modeling

We use REMRate to do energy modeling on our non-passive house projects and in order to submit projects for HERS ratings and other certifications we are part of the Resnet community.  We love to hear about energy modeling in the news, so here are a few things:

  1. We would love to say congratulations to our friends over at Rochester Passive House for winning a very prestigious accomplishment. They won the 2017 RESNET Cross Border Challenge. They had the lowest HERS score without on site power generation anywhere in the US or Canada built in 2016. That includes over 200,000 homes that were rated through the HERS Program. Congratulations! If you're local to Rochester, they are having an open house on April 1st. Go check out the house, it's beautiful and impressive!
  2. We finally got our HERS Rating on the house in Cumberland! It's designed as a net-zero home, but it was built with 2 rows of solar panels for onsite power generation. It can accommodate 3 rows and would need a few more panels to be net-zero as built. So we rated it as built and it came in with a HERS score of 10! We've been monitoring the data for a year and we can confirm that it performs as the energy model says it will!
  3. We are thrilled to hear that there is legislation moving forward to help with Energy Efficient Mortgages.We are even very excited that Senator Susan Collins is an early supporter of the BiPartisan Energy Efficiency Legislation Introduced in the US Senate. Check out more on the RESNET Blog

Building Strategies: Building homes with Intelligent Designs

Are you thinking of building a new home? What qualities of a home are important to you? How about modern design, spaces with lots of natural light, well regulated heating & cooling for comfortable room temperatures? What if you had all of that plus reduced utility bills? If you’re passionate about loving your space, then your dream home might be a net zero design!With the exception of the alluring aesthetics of a net zero home, at first glance you might not realize it is out of the ordinary. What makes this type of home so special is the details that are working in harmony to make the space truly unique for you and your loved ones. If you are planning to build a home anyway, why not make some early decisions that can make your home smarter, cheaper to live in and more comfortable.A common misconception is the average consumer cannot afford to build to the standards of net zero, however this is a feasible goal for anyone ready to build!  It’s possible to keep costs comparable to conventional construction simply by planning ahead, and that’s what we do best here at Mottram Architecture.When building with net zero in mind certain strategies drive design. Every material, angle, direction and appliance chosen has a higher purpose and function. The following details are some of the most important design choices to incorporate in your building plans to achieve a net zero home. Starting from the biggest choices down to the smallest hidden technicalities, every detail works together to make your home the best it can be.

  1. If you haven’t purchased land to build on yet, there are many characteristics you can look for when selecting your site. Natural elements to shelter you from the a cold climate and a direct line to sunlight will optimize your net zero potential.  These features are ideal to help with temperature and access to natural resources to power your home.  An external consideration to site selection is proximity to public transportation like the rail or bus. This can help reduce emissions and save money. With conventional construction, your site choice might be influenced by a popular or desired neighborhood.
  2. Facing south for optimal solar exposure is imperative for having the greatest ability to produce power directly from the source, your home! This also works as an advantage in cold climates like Maine because it allows for your home to be naturally heated by maximizing passive solar gain. With conventional construction, your homes orientation might be influenced by the landscape or neighboring homes.
  3. Simple and moderately sized homes can make the idea of net zero a reality. When a space is well planned out and designed with functionality in mind, an over-sized McMansion is no longer necessary. Keeping both these strategies in mind will save building costs and allow to allocate your money to more energy efficient appliances and materials.  With conventional construction, your homes size and shape might be influenced by short-lived popular trends.
  4. Maximize your walls potential for insulation and resisting air infiltration, while clearly defining your heated spaces.  With Mottram Architecture you will see optimal R-values in your walls, ceilings and floors. All of our structures will also have a continuous air barrier. The combination of these two details will reduce heat loss and drafts, which increase your comfort and decrease your bills. The whole idea is to define a thermal barrier which means, keep the heat inside and keep the weather outside!  With conventional construction, your home is built to breath, a design that invites drafts and burns through your hard earned money.
  5. Choosing the right style and location of your windows. High R-value windows perform best but just by reducing the number of windows you need, placing them in the right locations and only have operating sections where needed, you can make a huge impact on the performance of your building and reduction of energy demand on the solar system. With conventional construction, your home is built fast and cheap. The type of window chosen is based on price and availability.
  6. For reasons mentioned above we are building a sealed home space which is why controlled mechanical ventilation is important. This will make your home safe and efficient. Duct work and equipment is best located within the heated spaces of your home. This ensures the system won't use extra resources to compensate for any external weather.  With conventional construction, your home is leaky enough to vent naturally.
  7. In Maine with Mottram Architecture we are most likely to recommend a heat pump for our net zero homes. This type of heating system uses the natural outdoor & ground temperatures on your site to move heat in or out of your home.  This system is more efficient because it’s moving instead of creating energy. With conventional construction, your home uses non-renewable resources like oil and gas to create energy to heat your home.
  8. Renewable power production: To truly be Net Zero we believe a home should produce more power on site than it consumes during the year. On site produced energy is most efficient when it is directly attached to the structure which is using the energy. In Maine that means solar. By following all the principles above we can reduce consumption of the home to a manageable amount of energy use that can be produced by a solar array.

Planning and attention to detail are the foundations to an intelligent design that will lead to a cost effective net zero energy home. If you think these designs align with you and your families goals and values engage Mottram Architecture to guide you through this conceptual process.  We can help you identify what choices are right for you and your home and how you can create a long term space customized to your needs that will start giving back the day you move in!

Educate and Advocate: Start Your Path to Net-Zero

At Mottram Architecture we are passionate about promoting and practicing sustainable living and integrated design. Our energy efficient building design approach helps our clients achieve a healthy home and make a positive impact on their community and our environment. There are countless ways you can get involved and become an advocate of energy conservation.What is Net-Zero“A zero-energy building, also known as a net-zero energy building is a building with zero net energy consumption, meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site.” (by D. Crawley U.S. Department of Energy). These homes do at times use non-renewable energy however it is counterbalanced by the amount of renewable energy used, giving a net balance of zero energy consumption. There are also homes that create a surplus of energy referred to as “Positive Energy Buildings”. Similarly there are homes that are considered  “Ultra-Low Energy homes” which consume a marginal amount more than they produce. To achieve this goal the home must: 1. Be designed to use less energy 2. Maximize the use of on-site and renewable energy sources. Building a new home has advantages over retrofitting to reach Net-Zero status. For example an important factor such as building orientation for optimal solar exposure can be designed and planned in the design phase of a new build. All net zero homes start with good design. At Mottram Architecture these are the principles that we use to develop our Net Zero Homes in Maine. Net Zero might be more challenging to achieve through a retrofit, however any energy conscious renovation is guaranteed to make an immediate and obvious difference.How You Can Get InvolvedIf you're interested in renovating your existing home, there are many things you can do to drastically increase the efficiency. An Energy Audit is the best way to understand what your home needs. Here at Mottram Architecture we perform Energy Audits for our clients, as part of all of our renovation work, to pinpoint inefficiencies of the home.  The results of the energy audit will prioritize improvements that will have the highest impact on the health and energy consumption of your home. If your just getting introduced to the concept of sustainable living and are interested in some DIY strategies here are some simple, low cost, steps you can take to significantly reduce your energy use.No matter what motivates you, saving money or saving the environment, small changes can have big impacts.  If you want to consider Net Zero but need more information, contact us today! We offer a feasibility study that can help get you started by pinpointing what works for your budget, your site, your family and your goals. Start your path to Net-Zero today, you won't be sorry!Resources"Zero Energy Buildings: A Critical Look at the Definition" Paul Torcellini, Shanti Pless, and Michael Deru, National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Drury Crawley, U.S. Department of Energy. National Renewable Energy Laboratory report: NREL/CP-550-39833. June, 2006. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy06osti/39833.pdf