Southern Oregon this Appraiser's perspective

The Ashland Green and Solar Home Tour – Fall 2009
October 14th, 2009 11:07 PM

50+ of us loaded onto the two school buses headed for our first stop on the Ashland Green and Solar Home Tour sponsored in part by the City of Ashland. We had 5 homes to view in as many hours. From the schedule it looked like there would be a wide range of applications to look at and I was excited.


The first home was an Earth Advantage and LEED certified home built by Dorris Construction and designed by Carlos Delgado and implemented a full array of green and sustainable components. The 2-story with basement executive view home started with a fully insulated slab foundation, Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) walls, and was topped off by Structural Insulated Roof Panels (SIPs), and a 2.2kW grid connect solar system as supplemental power. High efficiency Energy Star electronics, appliances and lighting throughout, a drain back solar water heater and tankless gas water heater backup, along with a demand controlled hot water recirculation system make this home a Net Zero when it comes to its energy usage.

Sanford Design and Renovation are making their mark -as demonstrated by the next home - with simple and affordable Energy Star and Earth Advantage certified homes. The hydronically heated slab along with ductless heating and air conditioning by All About Air

allows the typical market participant to be a part of energy conservation without any extra effort. The Listing Broker knows much more about how you can finished this home just the way you like it. Email Emily Zook now and ask her for a link to the listing. This was one of two houses on the tour that employed advanced framing techniques which in this case optimized the effects of recycled fiberglass insulation and air sealing details.

The next house on the tour was impressive because of the story that went along with the solar power and hot water retrofit. The owner had an option a couple of years ago to either invest money in bonds or into a solar power and hot water upgrade in her home. You guessed it, she chose to invest in her home. By her account she has lowered her monthly utility bill by ¾ and will continue to enjoy the tax credits for another 4 or 5 years. She admitted that this simple change in lifestyle has caused her to want to see how low she can get her power bill. The solar system by Electron Connection, Inc includes a single storage tank with both a heat exchanger and back-up electric element in it installed in an under stair closet.

The 20 panel 3.8kW grid can be remotely monitored and provides information about power generated and power used. Additionally the homeowner installed a low water use landscape and irrigation system that even supplies a healthy vegetable patch.

Our next stop was the N. Mountain Park in Ashland where a representative from the Oregon Department of Energy provided pamphlets about Energy Tax Credits available through the state of Oregon for both businesses and residents. Who knew that the cost of heating an average home with a geothermal Heat Pump is 6 times cheaper than with a 65% efficient Propane furnace!!

For the most part I think of energy conservation as "not using" what I don't need, but the next example on the tour demonstrated the act of conserving by right-sizing the home for the use. Did you know that the average American home today is 2,500 square feet? That’s twice what the typical home was in the 1980’s.

This one bedroom, one bath dwelling designed by Anna Bjernfalk is an Earth Advantage and Energy Star certified home with an insulated concrete slab floor and kiln-dried pre-fabricated walls by Pacific Wall Systems to minimize waste. A ductless HVAC system and a basic bathroom fan on a timer are combined to provide more than adequate ventilation for a 672 square foot home with 50+ people inside. Landscape with limited turf and pervious hardscapes finish off this neat and tidy package.

Our final tour stop gave me a greater appreciation for the City of Ashland. This craftsman style straw bale home was constructed inside the historic district of downtown Ashland. It fits comfortably into the surrounding neighborhood of 2-story circa 1910 to 1920’s homes.

John David Duffie designed this gem around a Tulikivi soapstone stove with non-load bearing locally sourced barley straw bales on a hybrid convective air slab (solar slab) foundation. The science behind this house is incredible, but more impressive was being in it. The dual flush toilets were my favorite after years of “Yellow mellow, Brown down” toileting. I have to say though I was also impressed by the picture of the wastewater heat recovery system that captures heat from the shower waste water to pre-heat the water going into the tankless gas water heater.

I came away from the tour a better appraiser. Not because defending a comparison of roof vented cooling to ductless HVAC is going to be any easier, but because I recognized that ultimately it is the lifestyle choice that is valued by the green / sustainable market participant, not necessarily the individual components.

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Posted by MARGARET NELSON-QUIN on October 14th, 2009 11:07 PMPost a Comment

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