Many people don't realize how beneficial it is to transform their homes into green homes.
Green houses are extremely cost-effective over the lifetime of the home's operation. While the upfront costs may be a bit higher in some
cases (though that additional cost continues to decrease), green houses are less costly to maintain, benefit from lower utility costs and
greater energy independence, and provide better indoor air quality than houses built to conventional standards and codes.
Live Green, Live Smart's The Sustainable House™
is a participant in the LEED for Homes Pilot
Project™. We have transformed an ordinary post-War rambler in a suburban neighborhood into a Century House that will be energy efficient,
environmentally healthy, respectful of the natural environment, and comfortable for family life as climate and energy resources alter in the
coming decades. Live Green, Live Smart's The Sustainable House™ is the nation's first home remodel to achieve
LEED Platinum certification
- the highest level of efficient
The House Basics
In order to achieve LEED Platinum status, Live Green, Live Smart/The Sustainable House™ must meet a rigorous set of guidelines that require
exceptional attention and innovation on the part of the builders and designers.
Sustainable Energy Systems
The most conspicuous innovations are in the ways the House actively uses (or doesn't use) energy. Because this is a demonstration project, the
House incorporates many redundant energy supplies – it is important for us to show how not just one, but many, systems work and how they work
- Solar panels provide both electricity for the home and energy to heat water.
The Honda/Climate Energy Freewatt&trade "combined heat and power" (CHP) system provides, via a generator and furnace run on natural
gas, co-generating electricity and forced-air heat.
Underneath the House's front walkway are four 135-foot-deep geothermal wells, which circulate a non-toxic solution through pipes to
capture the stable temperatures beneath the surface. The energy of the Earth's heat is transferred to a WaterFurnace™, which can
heat the home in the winter and provide air conditioning in the summer.
The green building materials and techniques as applied to the House are less conspicuous than alternative energy sources, but no less important
to our Platinum remodel.
Conservation and Pollution Control
Efficient insulation and an air transfer system ensure that none of the heat or cold generated goes to waste, and that the air inside
the home stays clean and breathable.
- Solatubes provide natural sunlight all day long, even in the basement, reducing electricity needs.
- Every lightbulb in the house is an energy-efficient compact fluorescent or LED.
- Low-voltage radiant in-floor heating is an efficient way to reduce furnace needs.
- Greywater is collected from the showers for reuse in the double-flush toilets.
- Windows are triple-glazed and argon-filled to reduce heat transfer.
- Appliances are EnergyStar rated, and an induction stove is used for cooking.
- All electrical energy purchased from the grid is the product of windfarming - no coal-fueled energy will be used in the House.
Remodeling an existing home instead of building a new one allows us to keep our construction footprint to a minimum. Remodeling when more usable
living space is needed also preserves untouched land, reducing the land and resources needed for specific construction.
To rebuild the home we have reused as many of the original components as possible - including the 2x6 studs reused to extend the eaves
out from the house to save energy needed for cooling, and to protect sidewalls and windows from Minnesota's weather extremes.
Anything that cannot be reused is recycled – such as the House’s old stucco – and anything that cannot be recycled is handled by
responsible disposal to reduce pollution of air, soil, and water.
Studs for the new additions (foyer and garage) are 2x4 instead of the standard 2x6. They are also spaced farther apart - 24 inches on
center - providing about a 30% savings in new lumber used.
- Most new wood is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified to come from sustainable forests.
- Furniture, cabinetry, and countertops are made with recycled or sustainably-harvested materials, and are free of harmful chemicals.
- Paints and varnishes are free of harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and formaldehyde.
The highly efficient insulation is no-VOC, and an energy heel enclosed in an interior soffit minimizes cold and hot air import by
protecting the jointure of walls and roofline.
Foundation concrete is made with 40% fly ash – recycled sooty waste from coal plants – which is less expensive and more durable than
a standard Portland cement mixture.
- Potable water from municipal supply is further filtered with a purification system.
Water-saving devices include automatic on-off faucets, the batteries of which are recharged by water flow through the supply valves,
and double-flush toilets that flush once for liquids and twice for solid waste.
In meeting conservation and efficiency requirements, what goes on outside the House is equally as important as what goes on inside the House.
Rain gardens planted with native plants collect rainwater and allow percolation back into the ground instead of runoff into storm
drains. Cisterns collect additional rainwater from the roof and gutters of the House - a two-inch rainfall provides a month of plant
and lawn watering.
Native plants requiring less water are established, with an emphasis on those especially suited for the local climate and the House's
- Reduction of turf grass area means a reduction in lawn maintenance needs.
- Behind the house a permaculture microclimate and intensive garden allow the homeowners to grow and enjoy their own fruits and vegetables.
- Hardscapes are paved with permeable materials to reduce run-off into storm sewers and waterways.
The collaborative team that remodeled the House committed to using the best off-the-shelf and state-of-the-science materials and techniques to
reconstruct an ordinary residence into a demonstration of best practices in sustainability. While all our technology is currently available on
the retail market, some of it is being used for the first time in such a residential application in the Upper Midwestern region of the United
From design to furnishings we have kept foremost our goal of minimizing carbon footprint, preserving natural resources, and living healthfully
with as much energy independence as attainable.
The house is a demonstration laboratory occupied by an ordinary American family that will be testing and evaluating the materials, systems, and
techniques used in the project.
You can share in our adventure on this site.
Peruse our construction diary.
View the architect's drawings.
Ask questions in our new Q & A forum