Home of the future here now


Good stuff, Peter…thanks.


I wonder how much more it cost to build this way and if it applicable to more Northern Climates.

My building partner and I started to study newer building technology in 2006 looking for and edge. When we did the math for basic improvements like ICF walls Vinyl dbl pain windows in place of the standard at the time aluminum single pain and totally enclosed polyurethane spray foam roof deck etc it was about 17% cost over traditional. I have always been sceptical for several reasons. Air quality for one and the time to recover investment without tax credits to start. Maybe my 90 year old Dad retired 2nd generation Bldr turned inspector pounding in my head “pioneers got shot in the behind” was too much. I agree that building has improved in time and innovation is great but how many homes built in the last 20 years will be around in 100. Just as my inspections this is my observation

Very interesting indeed.

Same principles apply, instead of keeping cool air in we keep the warm air in. Not sure what it said, if anything, about a foundation or was it a slab. I’ll have to watch it again.

I know of one development here that has geothermal and other energy measures in every home and each one sold before it was built.

If you look “Passive House” on Wikipedia there is talk about very tight homes that don’t even need heaters in Germany. Germany is way ahead on these homes because they have lots of hastily built housing stock built in 1946-1950 that just isn’t worth keeping.

According to Wiki: The price increases significantly for European homes above 60 deg latitude. Because England and Scandinavia are warmer than N. America at the same latitude, I would guess this type construction would be more expensive in the American interior.

it’s a good article that talks about extra costs.

But even if you couldn’t get rid of the furnace totally - it’s still worthwhile to pursue many of the energy savings measures.

New homes = Free energy savings if planned and built correctly
Old Homes = Retrofits are expensive

I agree that building has improved in time and innovation is great but how many homes built in the last 20 years will be around in 100.

How true. This past week I inspected a home only 13 years old and it looked over 40 yrs. I owned a home in Maine for over 10 yrs that was built in 1820 before moving to Florida and that house was better insulated and used less to heat than most homes here. Furthermore, it will probably be around for another 100 or so.

I got out of building several years ago because materials that we were using was crap and nobody seemed to care. Sounds like a drywall problem that we have today.

Here’s another one.



Home Energy Rating Summary

In June 2006, extensive structural testing and computer modeling of STEP-Tech panels proved they will withstand the destructive warp, twist, bend or bow forces similar to forces caused by hurricanes. The testing revealed that:

  1. The roof panel withstood a snow lioad test in excess of 27" of water equivalent to a snow load in excess of 20 feet
  2. The wall panel withstood a load equivalent to sustained wind speeds in excess of 173 mph; curtain wall panel/axialload test withstood 1.5 tons per linear foot of wall (a repeal test bent the red iron test beam). and; curtain wall panel/racking shear test withstood 5,300 Ibs. of repeated force and then returned to within 1/4" of original position.
  3. In sum, STEP-Tech panels exceed performance requirements of any roof or wall structure by more than 500% resulting in affordable structures that are virtually indestructible
  4. Certificate (5-star+ Rating)

I spent the last 4 days at the International Builders Show in Florida where I saw literally tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of products…it was simply minding boggling…not to say my feet are still recovering from all the walking on the hard concrete floors.

The savings that are purported by many of the manufacturers are typically based upon government incentives and using their product with other systems which assist in bringing those savings to life.

The one problem that has existed for the last 30 years and will continue to exist is that many of the installers of the construction products out there do not know how to install them properly… go to any construction project and see what percentage of workers can even read the directions…yet alone are willing to follow them.

I was listening to a sales / demo man with Owens Corning compare his product to fiberglass and cellulose…while many of the things he said was true about the product comparison I also caught him leaving out facts or worse inferring to things that simply don’t happen…or if it does its negligible. Walk a few isles over and you come across a fiberglass or cellulose booth which is making it sound that their product is the greatest
and can easily point out the issues with their competition.

I am getting ready to build an upper end home in which the client wants the home ecological friendly, energy efficient (we are looking at solar and geothermal), and the most bang for his buck…and oh yeah, it needs to have two mother inlaw suite which will need to incorporate Universal Design…budget…around half million… can it be done…only in certain degrees.

No home is ecological friendly…unless you are living in a cave. If one were to consider all the plastics that will end up in the dump one day then from the future looking back… this generation will be looked at as hypocrites. As to energy efficiency… I spoke with a lovely Dow Corning rep who showed me a solar product that will be released this summer… I was stunned with low profile, sleek design and performance… I told her that I would love to put the product in a progressive neighborhood I am getting ready to build and would like to know the cost…she said they are still yet to determine which markets of the US they want to hit and have yet to come up with a price. With all of its features you can guarantee that it will be VERY expensive and even with any government incentives it will take at least 10 - 15 years to recoup the price in comparison to other alternatives that are out there…now that is just one product…you start adding up the tankless water heaters, various insulation and venting systems, synthetic materials, etc…we are not talking 17% - 20% more cost.

The Universal Design implemented for the mother inlaws will most likely cost over $80,000.00 for less than a dozen items. I was looking at a stair lift for my aged father and I came across several vendors who would do me right…my contractor cost…almost $20,000.00 for a stair lift whose parts do not cost more than $2000.00. This is just some of the things that we as builders and the aging baby boomers have to face… many of the products are simply overpriced. I wont even go into the products from China and all that mess…which by the way they had a huge number of booths there…of which virtually all of them had little to no traffic…they were pretty much like a leper colony. Even the ones that had very attractive American women in their scantly tight clothing… their sales will reflect the anger we as builders and our society has toward their crap…but I digress.

We are still getting the plans ready for this progressive custom home that we will be doing in the spring… I will post more about what we decided to go with and why…letting people know the pros and cons of all of the products we used.



Thanks Jeff great Info . We have the same thing in Canada .
I too learn much and am surprised at how few Homies go to the one here .
Much appreciated …Roy

Hey Roy,

I actually saw numerous Canadian vendors which actually had some nice products.

The one common denominator I noted with builders I spoke with from all over the US is that they all believe that we have at least a year or more before we hit rock bottom…that does not include the time it takes to get rid of so many of the empty and foreclosed homes…you are probably looking at 3 - 5 years for that
to happen.

Many of the builders I spoke with (and speakers at the conference) pretty much say they are barely hanging on… they are all looking for niches to keep them going.
The ones that are making have had to learn to diversify their operations… a mindset that will probably prevail for a long time.

Jeff from what I read up here is your correct at least one year .
We in Canada did not have the same problem with mortgages so we did not suffer as bad .
Today’s paper said Canada has been the least effected of all the countries in the world .
We hurt and if we are tops some countries are really hurting big time .

Thanks Jeff all the Best… Roy

You make some interesting points.

Here is what I see. If you want a home that uses 30% less energy, have the contractor caulk the holes that they drill and install the fiberglas batt according to the mfg instructions. It’s not done this way in approximately 100% of the homes.

Does this type “futuristic” home cost more to build? Yes, but I won’t go into that. Should it cost more? Not a bit.

Energy efficiency (which is the major part of “ecologically friendly”) doesn’t need fancy new products, it needs a systematic design approach. For $6000 worth of cellulose, and man-hours the Weatherization program can cut utility bills by 35%. They’ve been doing it for 25 years now.

I hope the architect on this project doesn’t spec 6" of spray foam insulation between the rafters and think "There, that makes R-42, this 50,000 cf home will have very low utility bills - now to spec 1,100 sf of South and West facing glass . . . "

Design, air-sealing and proper installation of insulation are the main ingredients of an “ecologically friendly” home. All these are almost completely free when dealing with new construction. very expensive after the fact.

I’m sure this post may have sounded just a bit rude. I apologize for that. I just see it so often that it’s frustrating… It’s not fair to the contractor. It’s not being honest and upfront to the owner.

If you need another set of eyes on the plans when it gets to that point, I’d be glad to take a look.

Hope that I helped!?


Keep in mind that the 2009 IRC energy code call for tighter building envelopes with 7 ACH or less. This means, and a good thing too, that you better use spray foam on all penetrations in the envelope, make sure the top plates are sealed and all the insulation is installed correctly.

What Jeff said about turn around is what I’m hearing up here too. Most lumber yards have cut back on inventories and only stock the bare minimum now.

Here’s an example, I did a job where I needed some cedar clapboards to do a repair. I needed 7 and 12 footers and could only by 16 footers because that’s all they stock now. Very frustrating when you go to the yard with your list and they don’t have what you need.

Another thing I see effecting building is inflation. Prices on materials are going up and so isn’t the cost of transportation. Hopefully with this down time better building practices will come to be a reality, but as long as Joe Carpenter works works out of the back of his truck it won’t.

Just remember when discussing these homes of the future; There is no free lunch.:frowning:

I’ve seen some built here at much higher than average prices. There definitely be a bit of a premium for a more efficent house, but these were 20-30% over the market value of a similar quality house with better energy features. A seasoned realtor (sold me my home) claims that the first purchaser of these homes loses $$$$ when they sell the home if inflation hasn’t been high.