The 12 rental homes in Dow’s new test community are identical except for insulation and air-sealing systems.

Photos: Courtesy OhNo Design

The 12 rental homes in Dow’s new test community are identical except for insulation and air-sealing systems.

The country’s first subdivision designed to gather scientific, whole-house performance data while providing comfortable homes for residents will generate new insight into building science and energy efficiency in residential construction.

Testing for Dow Building Solutions’ Twelve Energy Efficient Test Homes (TEETH) project in Midland, Mich., began at the end of October and will run for five years. The tests will produce comparative data based on several different whole-house insulation and air-sealing systems in real-world living conditions. The houses are comparable in size, floor plan, and other key features with the exception of the insulating and air-sealing systems. Each home was built with one of four different systems that feature unique combinations of insulation and air-sealing improvements, including continuous insulation and closed-cell spray foam insulation.

The test homes, available for rent through RiverTowne Properties, feature state-of-the-art instrumentation for collecting and compiling quantitative data on energy consumption, humidity and moisture levels, heat flow, and temperature. In addition, residents will be asked to complete two surveys per year to gather qualitative data about individual comfort and level of satisfaction with the home’s living environment.

The test homes were built by Freeland, Mich.-based green builder Cobblestone Homes for Dow, which hosted discussions with builders from various housing markets during the project’s planning phase to identify the most relevant industry questions about energy-efficient housing. One critical question the testing will explore is how to balance an enhanced building envelope with affordability, says Dale Winger, Dow market manager.
The project also will fill a critical gap in real-world information about residential energy efficiency, says Mark Wahl, co-owner of Cobblestone Homes.

“There is a shortage of whole-house data for high-performance builders to refer to when evaluating new products and systems,” he says. “And by bolstering a home’s performance with proven systems, we can help lower the ongoing cost of homeownership and ultimately help raise the value of real estate.”

Jennifer Goodman is Senior Editor of EcoHome.