The “modern farmhouse” style house detailed in this document is the centerpiece of a modern sustainable living and farming demonstration project. The owners aim to achieve “low carbon, local produce” organic sustainable farming on a portion of a once active conventional cattle farm, and to demonstrate high efficiency, high sufficiency, low or non-polluting biophilic living and production facilities on that site. They aim to achieve and sell the smallest carbon footprint organic produce in the area and demonstrate to all who are interested in a standard and model for similar achievement elsewhere.
Low carbon production will be the main metric for the socially responsible corporation (WA state’s form of Benefit Corporation or B-corp registration) to be set up in 2018 by the owners. All farm buildings (workshop, greenhouses and production areas of the house–agricultural tourism unit, canning kitchen, cold storage rooms) are designed to be energy efficient.
All energy use on the whole site will be monitored as part of metrics for the social responsibility corporation and reported on our website on an annual basis.
The owners began drafting floor plans and researching energy efficient technologies in 2010.
An integrated site plan was developed, including an integrated energy system centered on the workshop. The 18kwh solar array was provided for by designing the pole barn workshop with an offset saltbox 5/12 pitch metal roof with longer rafters facing south and engineered to take the load of the array. An additional solar array and battery backup are still planned for installation on the house roof and garage when the technology/cost of battery backup improves and need for more power manifests as farm operations expand (expected to be 2020-21). The owners conducted research on passive solar techniques, use of thermal mass, radiant heating, geothermal and air and water heat exchange systems, window performance, stack effect heating and ventilation, micro-climate effects of bodies of water, solatubes and LED lighting costs and efficiencies. LED cost, availability and performance changed considerably from 2012 to 2016. Solatubes required sizeable square footage loss to chases necessary to carry the light on three floors. Each tube is good for one floor, one fixture, so each 8-inch diameter solatube would need a chase through the upper floor to reach the main floor and both floors to reach basement level. Deborah Todd recommended research into Phase Change Material. They then contacted Phase Change Energy Solutions and attended a building conference with a presentation on the one building in the region that had used PCM. The builders involved in the presentation were not interested in another PCM-using design so were not considered for the build.
The owners determined that the house would be sited along an axis, 8 degrees off true north/south, in order to maximize winter time insolation. The house design was tested for solar angle and window sizes, placement and eave effects on light over the year in the designer’s CAD-CAM software. A virtual walkthrough testing solar and light effects was conducted. The storm drain/aquaculture farm ponds and curtain drains were located near the house, on the north/northeast side and curved to the south of the house to provide micro-climate softening of prevailing northeast winter storms and to enhance light reflectance into the house. Offset walls were chosen to capture southern prevailing winds in summer and provide entry sheltered from north winds (see floor plans). Windows were sited away from the north and oriented toward the east and south. An all-electric house with no fossil fuel use was specified. The builders installed an induction stovetop and Energy star rated appliances, purchased by the owners.
The owners observed wind and water flows and solar movements over several years after the purchase in 2010. The 9.4 acre property, .5 miles from the Canadian border and 1.5 miles outside of Blaine, WA Urban Growth Area, is aligned due north-south along the longer axis, with clear solar access over 600 feet deep in an almost 180-degree arc facing south at the house site.
You can find out more about this case study from ILFI here.