FREE EVENT – This Thursday, March 21st – Zero Net Energy Home Tour

FREE EVENT – This Thursday, March 21st – Zero Net Energy Home Tour


photo above by Kat Alves

Founders of local family-owned company, Atmosphere Design Build take the challenging goal of Zero Net Energy seriously.

Recently, they took the challenge to a personal level by applying their mission-driven high performance and holistic approach to the design and construction of their own solar-powered Nevada County home, with the help of California Solar Electric Company. With a deep desire for comfort, health, and artistic design, the home for the family of four was built with an ethic of “treading as lightly as possible on the earth.”

“As this is our own home, it is an opportunity to explore how far we can push the intersection between design and the high-performance construction techniques that we have developed as our firm’s best practices. As the home for our family of four, it embodies our beliefs about resiliency, efficiency, and design,” said Mela Breen, who with her husband, David Good, own Atmosphere Design Build.

The future is now for homebuilding in California and the Good Haus is quickly becoming recognized as a leading model for what energy efficient homes can look like.

On March 21, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. this husband and wife team will open their home, affectionately called the “Good Haus” to local development stakeholders as part of an exclusive tour hosted by Fine Homebuilding Magazine and Sierra Business CouncilCalifornia Solar Electric Company will be on hand to answer questions about the 2020 advanced efficiency standards adopted by the California Energy Commission.

“The techniques we used in this project can be applied to any home. As California continues to push building towards higher building performance standards, it will be important that architects, designers, and builders know how to execute assembly details correctly. We hope to inspire folks that are building to commit to reducing energy usage and building in the least impactful way that their budgets allow,” said Breen.

The free presentation will explain the ins and outs along with the “why and how” behind the highly-insulated thermal envelope, efficient appliances and mechanical systems, and the photovoltaic solar system that meet or exceed all of the requirements in the state’s newly adopted 2019 Building Efficiency Standards.

“All newly built homes in California will be required to have solar as part of the new home build,” said Robert Totoonchie, Residential Sales and Design Manager for California Solar.

The new rules apply specifically to all new residences and major home renovations on buildings under three stories, starting January 1, 2020. Updates to building standards are projected to reduce home energy use by 53 percent and save Californians $1.7 billion in energy costs over the next 30 years, according to Green Tech Media.

Energy used in buildings is the second-largest contributor to California’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Concerned about both energy use and its environmental impact, the California Public Utilities Commission adopted the California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan in 2007. The plan set a goal that all new residential construction be zero net energy by 2020.

“All of the strategies they used in this house are things that builders are going to have to do. It is a lesson in the way that building is going to be in the very near future,” said Sean Groom, Contributing Editor for Fine Homebuilding Magazine.

The construction of the Good Haus – from start to finish – was featured in a three-part series in the publication.

“We wanted to find a project that would highlight really progressive building codes,” said Groom.

Zero net energy is achieved when the energy consumption of a project is equaled or exceeded by its on-site energy production, typically a photovoltaic array, according to Atmosphere Design Build.

Any project can technically be zero net energy with a large enough photovoltaic array, but that is not always the aesthetic homeowners are looking for. For ten years, Atmosphere Design Build has honed their talents on net zero houses, deep energy retrofits and passive houses. They put those skills to the test when they designed their own home, one that far exceeds California’s progressive building code.

Breen and Good have mastered the art of resource efficiency-reducing the carbon footprint of a project to ensure that photovoltaic arrays are no bigger than necessary.

Over its 25 year warranty, the solar electric system at the Good Haus is projected to save the couple an estimated $35,000.

The super high-performance home is equipped with the most energy efficient mechanicals, appliances and lighting available. Most residences of similar size have much larger loads and energy usage. The high performance building uses high levels of insulation, with the remaining energy needs filled in by a smaller solar array.  The house is quiet, stays comfortably warm in winter and cool in summer.

During the cold, snowy and cloudy month of January, the family of four used 608 kwh. The photovoltaic should easily supply enough for their future electric vehicle.

“We love partnering with Cal Solar on our projects. Renewable energy sources that offset a home’s usage is critical to reaching net zero energy. We are biased towards designing and building all electric homes so adding PV is the simplest and most cost-efficient way to then reach net zero energy. As an architecture firm, aesthetics are important to us, so we work to incorporate panels into our designs in a thoughtful manner,” said Breen.

Both the south and west facing roofs were planned with solar panels in mind. They chose a panel color that blends well with the metal roofing, is visible but subtle and integrated into the design.

Participants of the tour will experience the deep connection between a beautiful house and the land it is built on.

Set on a hillside above Nevada City, overlooking a valley, the house is designed around a steep, rocky landscape. Handmade modernism sets the tone with clean lines, open floor plans and lots of light. The house is a modern home in the full sense – in terms of the architectural expression, energy efficiency (high performance), and comfort.

Breen’s father, Dan Guyer milled lumber on site for the home. All the siding on the house came from incense cedar trees grown on Guyer’s property in Sierra County. The kitchen cabinets were made from Black Oak and the kitchen island is from wood Guyer milled years ago from savaged walnut trees.

“My father was a contractor and master carpenter for most of his professional life. My mother is an inherently creative person, an amazing gardner, house fixer-upper, do it yourself kind of gal. I grew up in a family that moved to Sierra County with the intent to get ‘back to the land.’ It was a very chop wood – carry water kind of upbringing. My artistic eye certainly was informed by seeing my folks create from the materials they had on hand. My formal education in architecture definitely had a broad influence as well,” said Breen.

“This is one of the most energy efficient homes in the state. Everything is electric so it will be offset by the solar panels. It’s just this visually stunning house which is super comfortable to be in,” said Sean Groom.

Learn more about this project: https://www.finehomebuilding.com/fhb-house

Learn more about Atmosphere Design Build: https://www.atmospheredesignbuild.com/

Register for the home tour: http://sbc.nonprofitsoapbox.com/upcoming-events/event/104