IT'S PRETTY EXCITING TO SEE YOUR new house come out of the ground like this. We were surprised how quickly the workers built the first floor (out of concrete blocks). Our builder, Kim Goehring, explained that the house was engineered more like a commercial building, with some new techniques and products that he says will better withstand hurricanes (like Juan, in 1985). Most of the houses here already are built with masonry blocks, but he's adding extra steel reinforcement and filling most of the blocks with concrete. Even the stairs are concrete! Plus he's planning to build the second floor using 2x8s (2x4s are the norm), which he says will not only set the windows deep into the walls on both floors and provide more room for wall insulation, but give us an authentic Spanish look on the outside. He seems really confident that he can build a weather-tight house for us. We're just hoping there are no more hurricanes!


This house is a showcase of a systems approach to energy efficiency. It is engineered and built to reduce energy use for heating by 70 percent, cooling by 43 percent, and hot water by 64 percent, compared to a similar-sized new house in Orlando, Fla. Specifically, it features solar thermal panels for water heating, four high-efficiency heat pumps with a minimum 14 SEER rating, sealed and insulated ductwork within conditioned spaces, an R-22 insulated unvented attic that achieves remarkable temperature control, low-emissivity windows and patio doors, and spray-applied insulation on the 2x8 framed wall cavities of the second floor. IBACOS Consortium/National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Circle no. 190.


  • Weatherization. A complete weatherization package from DuPont Tyvek features the HomeWrap barrier system. Circle no. 191.
  • Metal connectors. A variety of metal connectors from Simpson Strong-Tie creates a continuous load path that helps resist severe weather. Circle no. 192.
  • Concrete. In addition to steel-reinforced concrete blocks (filled with poured concrete) for the first floor, the Portland Cement Association coordinated the provision of a masonry retaining wall and interlocking concrete pavers. Circle no. 193.
  • Insulation. A layer of extruded polystyrene foam insulation panels from PACTIV Corp. offers additional insulating value to exterior walls. Circle no. 194.
  • Power tools. Workers relied on a complete line of power tools from Hilti. Circle no. 195.
  • Drywall. Moisture-resistant drywall from Georgia-Pacific features a paperless surface to help curb mold growth. Circle no. 196.