What makes a house work better

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Hey folks. The latest guest post comes from Joey Conover of local design-build company Latitude 38, which hosts a hard-hat tour of its latest project this Saturday from 11am to 2pm. I wrote about the tour here and the house here. Below, Joey provides more deets for the construction nerds among us. (Design geeks, skip to the end!)

"I’m not sure if is our business model or our personalities, but my husband Jeff and I don’t like to stay settled for too long, which means we move a lot. We (and our great team of guys) are currently building our third home in Charlottesville for ourselves. We also build homes for other people, so this is a bit of an experimental project. It is a chance to try out some innovative building techniques that we could potentially use on our other homes.

"Our past four houses have all been EarthCraft certified, which means that we are third party verified that our envelope and ductwork is tight, and that we have complied with a myriad checklist of items that improve the energy efficiency, water efficiency, and indoor air quality of our homes. On this new project we are going a bit further, building to the Passive House standard. The Passive House design guidelines focus on making an extremely tight envelope, reducing heating energy demand, and improving mechanical ventilation.

"To meet these tight standards, we focused our design on the building shell. We upgraded to triple pane windows and double stud walls with a thermal break to allow for 11" of insulation. We have installed an ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator), which brings outside fresh air (filtering and conditioning it) into the living room and bedrooms, and vents it from the kitchen and bathrooms. The system is designed to inhale and exhale a whole house-worth of fresh air in two hours. This allows us to control where the air is coming and going from in the house, rather than have it leaking around the windows, from outlet boxes, attic vents, etc.

"This is also the first time we have had PVs (solar photovoltaics for all electric demand) or a solar hot water system installed on one of our homes. These two systems are installed on the south side of the gabled roof. Because the envelope of the house is so tight, our HVAC energy demand is going to be quite low (normally the biggest energy hog in a house). The hot water will be the biggest draw, followed by all of our appliances. Although the solar systems likely will not be covering 100 percent of our energy use, our energy savings, rebates from Dominion and selling SRECs should more than offset our financing cost of the systems.

"There is a lot more I would love to tell you about our new home (the letterpress cabinet for a sink, a piano for a wall, curved wood ceilings, double porches), but you should just come see for yourself! (Or check out our blog for more info.) And feel free to email me with questions: joey@latitude38llc.com. Hope to see you there!"

The house is at 310 Sixth St. SW.

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