“Trades may grumble but customers are lining up”

Addison Homes, a green builder in Greenville, South Carolina, certainly didn’t set out to cause trade partners to grumble, murmur or gripe. They set out to build DOE certified Zero Energy Ready Homes (ZERH) to provide their customers with the energy savings, comfort and indoor air quality such homes deliver. To do that, Addison Homes had to get local trades on board by doing things a bit differently. In doing so, they provided award-winning homes that customers rave about. They even show off the energy-efficient features included in the home (the homeowners in their winning Cobbler Lane project show their guests the pristine conditioned crawlspace…seriously).

What they achieved

The list of achievements in the Cobbler Lane home is lengthy, but here is a shortlist:

  • HERS Score of 41
  • 1.65 ACH 50
  • Homeowners said they have much lower bills in the new house, despite going from a 2,500-ft2 home to a 4,500-ft2 one
  • Doing all this at a cost of $135-$160 per square foot including land costs

How they did it (which helps explain the grumbling)

Todd Usher, owner and founder of Addison Homes, says it begins by educating trade partners on the way the builder wants things done. This starts with framing and flashing. They used advanced framing including insulated headers and drywall clips at two stud corners and wall intersections. The framing and seams were carefully air sealed. Particular attention was paid to the ceiling plane, as it was a vented attic. As part of this, Usher had the drywallers glue the drywall to the top plates.

The insulation was a combination of unfaced fiberglass batts combined with continuous exterior insulation for the walls, along with loosefill fiberglass insulation in the attic (which incorporated a raised heel truss). It is worth noting the walls were 2x4, 16’’ on center, R-13+5 and the attic was R-38. In other words, they simply met the prescriptive levels of the 2012 IECC.  They combined this with attention to detail and a team mentality towards air sealing that allowed use of cost-effective fiberglass insulation to meet the aggressive home performance target.

“Fiberglass performs as well or better than any other type of insulation when installed correctly and in air-sealed cavities,” Usher says. “We have found that good air sealing combined with the excellent performance and cost-effectiveness of fiberglass allows us to build some of the highest-performing homes in our region.”

Key Takeaways

There are really two that merit particular attention:

  1. Ambitious home performance targets are achievable with a variety of products, including fiberglass insulation, when employed as part of a whole house systems approach and delivered through diligence and teamwork on the part of the builder and the trades.
  2. Highly energy-efficient homes turn your customers into your strongest promoters. In an industry where word of mouth is so critical to success, delivering homes that prompt people to talk about you, and the homes you build, can be invaluable.

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