Washington-Area Luxury Builder Tests Market for Smaller, Energy Efficient Homes

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    A rendering of the builder's Victorian-style home that's part of the Building America Challenge.

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    The Branford model is about 600 square feet smaller than the builder's typical homes.

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    A detached garage ensures cleaner indoor air and less space in the house to heat and cool.

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    A view of the rear elevation.

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    The house uses 2x6 studs set at 24 inches on center, prodiving more cavity for insulation and reducing lumber.

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    A contractor performs air sealing with Owens Corning's EnergyComplete system.

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    The sealing prevents air infiltration and air leakage.

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    A contractor blows in fiberglass insulation, which provides better coverage than batts.

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    Sealed joints prevent air leakage from the ducts.

Camberley Homes, a division of Bethesda, Md.-based Winchester Homes, typically builds luxury homes measuring about 3,200 square feet, but the company will soon complete a model home that it believes might signal the future in more ways than one.

“When the NAHB Research Center approached us about doing a [Department of Energy] Building America Challenge pilot home, we thought it was a good idea for two reasons,” Stephen J. Nardella, senior vice president of operations at Winchester, told Builder. “We felt it might be a good opportunity to get ahead of code changes that are likely coming, and it was a good time to test the market for smaller, more energy-efficient homes.”

Nardella made his comments Wednesday March 2, at a behind-the-walls demonstration of the energy efficient construction technologies the builder is using on the house at the Poplar Run Community in Silver Spring, Md., site of a former 36-hole country club. The builder says the demonstration is important because it’s not the “same old energy-efficient home.”

A partnership with the NAHB Research Center and DOE, the project house in question, The Branford model of the Centennial Collection by Camberley Homes, is a 2,600-square-foot home designed from the ground up to be energy efficient. It’s being built to the standards of the government's Building America and Builder’s Challenge programs, which stipulate that the house must be 30% more energy efficient than the code.

“The energy modeling shows that the home would be in excess of 30% above 2009 International Energy Conversation Code, so it’s a significant increase in energy efficiency over the typical home,” said Randy Melvin, director of research and integration for Winchester.

To accomplish the energy efficiency improvements, Camberley Homes rethought the way it approaches its houses. For starters, this one has a detached garage for better indoor air quality, but it also means less square footage to heat and cool. The design by Newport Beach, Calif.-based firm Bassenian Lagoni Architects measures about 600 square feet smaller than the company’s usual luxury homes, and, for construction efficiency and waste reduction, the builder uses prefab and panelized structural components from iLevel by Weyerhaeuser (Weyerhauser Real Estate Company is the parent company of Camberley and Winchester).

The only Washington-area house in the Building America program, The Branford is built with advanced framing techniques, so the 2x6 studs are set at 24 inches on center as opposed to 2x4 at 16 inches, reducing lumber and creating more space for insulation. Moreover, it uses Owens Corning’s EnergyComplete whole-house insulation and air sealing system, which the company says reduces heating and cooling costs by up to 33%.

“What we’ve done with our framing, air sealing, and insulation package is addressed all the thermal weak spots in the corners, headers, and windows and doors of the house,” Melvin explained.
 
Other energy-efficient moves include sealing the ducts and locating the runs in the conditioned spaces; using blow-in fiberglass insulation for good thermal performance; and locating the HVAC in a central area to minimize duct runs.

“The Camberley Homes Centennial Collection is an exciting new product line for us,” said Alan Shapiro, president of Winchester Homes and Camberley Homes. “We are focused on building the highest rated energy-efficient homes in the Washington, D.C., area. The ability to combine high-performance construction with innovative elevation designs will make these homes unique in the marketplace.”

Slated for completion by the end of April or early May, the completed model house will be priced in the high $800s, but the base floor plan and elevation should start in the mid-$600s.

Nigel Maynard is senior editor for Builder.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.