GreenTown Los Altos visited the home of the future – and it looks great!
Sold just two weeks ago, in one day, this passive-inspired modern home located in north Los Altos, designed by Modern House Architects and built by Clarum Homes was made available for a special GreenTown visit.
Sean Misskelley, Director of Construction, led the tour. For Sean, “a passive home is simply a building that employs a set of advanced building technologies to achieve extreme energy efficiency. Energy consumption is reduced by 90% or more compared to that of conventional homes.”
Sean told us about an owner in Danville who brought in his PG&E bill last year for the month of May. “Look, it’s only $43. In my old home it would be $400!”
When asked how Clarum does it – the answer was pretty long. There are a lot of things that contribute – but the key things are enhanced insulation, greatly reduced thermal bridging, a virtually air-tight building envelope, high performance windows and a heat recovery ventilation system.
Does it add to the cost? About 5-6% to the hard construction costs, according to Sean, but it pays for itself with lower bills, increased comfort and healthier air. Because the house is tight, it needs a system to bring in fresh outside air – the heat recovery ventilation system. This house exchanges the air nine times a day. The fresh air coming in is filtered so it is very clean and it is heated (or cooled) by a heat exchanger using the old air going out. This process is surprisingly efficient and recovers 94-95% of the heat.
That’s how you get a $43 PG&E bill, clean air and a nice comfortable temperature all at the same time.
When asked if the building code requires this – the answer was a resounding “no!” Los Altos has a GreenPoint Checklist that promotes energy efficiency, but nothing as comprehensive or demanding as this.
We have seen the future and it is energy efficient, comfortable, well-built, healthy, conserves water and uses sustainable building practices. Sounds like the way to go, doesn’t it!
By the way, the current exhibition at the Los Altos History Museum, “A Place to Call Home,” has a section on the future of sustainable development. Check it out.