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Energy Efficient Home Design & Construction

An Expert Panel Q&A

By Jeff Cornelius - March 28, 2019

This month, we hosted our second THINKtank event of 2019 at the beautiful new Roth Living showroom near the Design Center in Denver. This THINKtank was a Q&A format focusing on energy efficient home design and construction. We were thrilled to have Casey Van-Iten of Cornerstone Homes, Zeke Freeman of Root Interiors and Enrico Bonilauiri of EMU Systems as our panel of experts. Gilda Zaragoza was our moderator.
              
There were many great questions and a healthy discussion from our audience members. Below, we’ve attributed answers with the initials of each panelist who addressed the question and summarized their answers for purposes of this post.

Q. What are some major considerations when designing an energy efficient home?
    
ZF. From a design perspective, it’s important to focus on lot siting, orienting views to take advantage of passive heating during the winter and being conscious of the materials we use. Energy efficiency is one of the reasons we build in cities. Being close to light-rail and mass transit and alternative forms of transportation all help lessen the energy impact of the inhabitants of that home.

EB. I agree with Zeke that the climate is a big consideration, including what kind of systems are designed into and installed in the home. We have weather extremes here in Colorado, along with the high altitude – this all affects how energy efficient the home will be.

CVI. There are three main areas we focus on when building our new homes. One – The design. Using passive solar design and having the correct glazing on the windows are key. Two – The thermal envelope of the home. Air infiltration and lack of proper insulation will kill a home’s efficiency. Three – the systems. You can retrofit an existing home with a more efficient HVAC system or water heater, but for something like geothermal, it’s much easier to do on a new build.

Q. Does the square footage of the home matter?

EB. More than the square footage, it’s the shape and siting of the building.

ZF. I agree with Enrico. Interestingly, we have been seeing a trend towards higher quality vs. higher square footage. Obviously the smaller the square footage, the less environmental impact there will be in the construction of it, all other things being equal.

Q. Cassie, can you speak to a home’s NetZero rating and how you are achieving that?

CVI. Sure. We focus on the HERS score. That’s a rating that considers the structure and how it’s built. Other ratings like LEED consider things like what was the property used as previously, proximity to walking and bike paths, etc. In addition to a tight building envelope and lots of insulation, we don’t use natural gas – for water heating, fireplaces or the stove in the kitchen. Using 100% electricity for our systems and appliances allows PV solar to help us achieve that NetZero rating – basically that a home produces as much energy as it uses on an annual basis.
         
Q. How does energy efficiency affect the budget?

ZF. You have to look at it in terms of a long-term investment. There is a slight premium up front, but those costs are recouped over time in the form of energy cost savings.

CVI. Engineering, windows, insulation and systems are all more expensive than average, but it is a long-term calculation. And, the government keeps extending tax incentives, so that helps make things more affordable up front.

EB. Yes, the incentives that are in place are really helping multi-unit developers because at that scales, they are reaching almost parity to non-efficient construction and systems.

Q. What products give you the most bang for your buck?

EB. I would say high-performance windows. I especially like Alpen windows, which is a Colorado-based company.

ZF. We compared a 2x4 studded wall with 2” of exterior insulation vs. a SIP vs. a 2x6” studded wall with interior insulation and the 2x4 was most cost-efficient in terms of R value in our test. That may not always be the case for some projects, but my point is that it pays to look at things on a project-by-project basis and not just assume a SIP will be the most efficient for a wall.

CVI. We can get the same R values with stud and insulation vs. SIPs. Smart window shades and thermostats can help. Solar batteries are improving, too.

Q. Are there any products we should stay away from?

EB. Poorly installed ones. (lots of laughs). Yes, it’s funny I say that, but its true. There are lots of great products on the market, but they need to be installed properly to achieve your energy savings goals. It gets more and more critical as you approach NetZero.


Q. How do you incorporate landscaping into energy efficient design?

ZF. You can do this by planting deciduous trees in front of south-facing windows. This provides shade in the summer and sun in the winter. Xeriscaping can drastically reduce water usage as well.

CVI. You can design drainage the feeds landscaping vs. draining on an impervious surface. Also, have goats! They are great lawnmowers!

Q. What is the difference between passive solar and a passive house?

EB. Passive solar helps reduce the need for heating whereas passive house is a construction standard for air leakage and energy consumption.

CVI. Another standard that is growing in popularity is the Living Building Standard – it takes into consideration the overall wellness of the occupants, not just energy efficiency. As in “do these lights make you happy?”

Q. Do you have any Colorado-specific considerations?

CVI. We see dramatic temperature swings here, so a tight building envelope is key. Also, water conservation is particularly important for us in Colorado.

ZF. As we’ve discussed, house siting is really important here in Colorado to account for the movement of the sun through the seasons, snow gathering, etc.

EB. High-performance windows can really help.

Q. What information sources do you like to stay current on energy efficiency?

CVI. I get the USGBC newsletter – they have an office in Denver. Also, check out the LEED website – lots of good info there.

EB. Check out PassivePedia – it’s like Wikipedia, but for energy efficient construction.

ZF. Hammer & Hand out of Washington. Building Science is an online magazine. The Zero Energy Project. Also, the US Passive House website is a great resource.
        

END…..

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Featured New Homes

The Townhomes at Pine Bluffs

By Angie Sudberry - February 26, 2019

For years, the Town of Parker was viewed as a small rural town and a place for residents to escape from city life.  With Denver's rapid population growth, the Town of Parker is booming with new community developments, restaurants, retail shops, and offices.  Even with its rapid growth, Parker has been able to maintain it's small town feel.  From it's historic downtown, parks, trails, open spaces to it's community events like Parker Days and the Christmas Carriage Parade, residents still experience a sense of community.  

Invalesco Real Estate had the opportunity to tour The Townhomes at Pine Bluffs, a unique community by Ascent Builders located in this wonderful town.  The Townhomes at Pine Bluffs is a fast-growing community with a lot to offer.  This neighborhood is uniquely positioned with easy access to I-25 and E-470. Just north of Pine Bluffs you make your way into downtown parker where you will be met with a wide range of activities from cultural arts, recreation center, pools, parks, trails, & open space.  Just South, you will find Frank Town where you can visit Castlewood Canyon State park with beautiful rock formations and plenty of trails.

       


Kim Brown, head of sales, led us on our tour. The Townhomes at Pine Bluffs have professionally designed exteriors with beautiful stone accents. Each home features a front porch entrance and an oversized two car garage that gives you plenty of room for parking and storage. Lush landscaping surrounds the community. The Homeowners’ association provides all exterior maintenance, snow removal, and lawn care. There is a gorgeous club house and pool within walking distance.

We started our tour with the Spruce model, a 2 bedroom 2 bath ranch home with the option for a 3rd bedroom or a study. Upon entering, you are greeted with abundant natural light and an open concept kitchen, dining, and living area. Ten-foot ceilings throughout this home add a spacious feeling and provide abundant natural light. The gas fireplace with limestone surround is perfect for entertaining and getting cozy on those chilly winter nights. Gather at the kitchen island with your guests while you prepare appetizers for the evening. Stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops make for an easy clean up after meals. The master suite has a spacious 4-piece master bath which allows for easy transition into your walk-in closet with a custom closet system making organization easy.   
 


Other options to choose from at the Pine Bluffs townhome community include The Evergreen, a two story 4-bedroom 3.5 bath townhome, and The Conifer, a two story 3-bedroom 3.5 bath townhome. All floor plans have a variety of options to choose from to customize and make it truly your home! Not all options listed here are standard features.

Ascent Builders is leading the industry in quality construction and quality customer service. They were founded in 2005 by Jason Brown & Jeff Proctor. Jason and Jeff felt the industry needed a company dedicated to providing high-quality customer service along with high-quality craftsmanship and they have successfully been able to provide this to the consumers today. Ascent has been busy finishing their other communities that include Cornerstone Townhomes in Thornton, Colorado.   This community has three luxurious floor plans to choose from.  All of them include attached garages, walk-in closets, and private porches. Within the community you can visit the 5,000 square foot private club house that boasts an outdoor heated swimming pool & spa, full kitchen, business center, two playgrounds, sand volleyball court, and a fitness center. 

Keep your eye out for Ascent Builders as they continue to amaze us with unique communities & quality homes!




 
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Giving Back

Invalesco Partners with Sun Valley Youth Center

By Angela Olthoff - January 16, 2019

Giving back to our community is one of Invalesco’s passions and we are excited to announce our partnership with Sun Valley Youth Center.  When looking for a non-profit to partner with, we focused on finding a local charity with similar cores values, that impacts children in a positive way, has education as the main focus and where we can not only give financially but where each of us at Invalesco can personally volunteer our time.  After much research and various meetings with local charities, we were lucky to find Sun Valley Youth Center.  Their focus on our community's youth and their empowerment, perfectly aligns with our vision. 

Located in central Denver, Sun Valley sits just south of Bronco’s Stadium at Mile High and is home to about 1500 residents.  It is historically known for its low-density and low-income (median annual income is $9,874) housing with  94% of the housing market being subsidized.  Since 1999, Sun Valley Youth Center has been committed to giving back to one of Denver’s poorest and oldest neighborhoods.  Their focus is transforming the lives of at-risk youth living in this low-income neighborhood, providing hope for the community and teaching every child they serve.   Sun Valley Youth Center offers a variety of enrichment Programs, Karate, Flag Football, Cycling, Mindfulness, Yoga, Aqua Fitness, Healthy Living, Life skills, Cooking, Baking, Dance, Public Achievement, MMA, Equine Assisted Learning Programs, Photography, Art, STEM, overcoming obstacles as well as Literacy (iready) and homework help.  Every child selects the programs they are interested in , which in turn teaches them important life skills that will help them navigate through their day to day lives.  The hope is that each child will begin to see their purpose in the world they live in and will feel empowered to know they can overcome the obstacles they may face daily.  Many of these children are yearning for stability in their life and Sun Valley has given them this stability.
                                                                         
                        

                                              “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” – Seneca 

Along with providing enrichment programs, before and after school care, mentoring and life essential skills to the youth of Sun Valley neighborhood, Sun Valley Youth Center has partnered with Sun Valley Kitchen to offer healthy food options and a variety of culinary classes for the kids.  Sun Valley Kitchen provides a healthy breakfast and afternoon snack for those children who enroll at Sun Valley Youth Center.  They learn how to select and prepare healthy meals in their cooking classes.  When we met with Sun Valley Youth Center’s Director, Kris Rollerson, we had the opportunity to eat at Sun Valley Kitchen and see first-hand how the Kitchen has not only impacted the youth at the center, but also the community as a whole.  People who live and work in the community can purchase a fresh cooked meal, not pay the high prices they would pay at another local chain restaurant and enjoy eating their meal while catching up with other Sun Valley locals.  If these reasons alone are not enough to entice someone to eat at Sun Valley the Kitchen, every Thursday a local community member is the chef for the day and makes one of their special dishes that represents their culture.  It just so happened we were there on a Thursday and had the honor to eat the Local Chef's Special Dish of the Day.  This Local Chef Series is an entrepreneurial program in partnership with Mi Casa Resource Center.   

                                                     
         

Invalesco believes that giving back to the community is essential and we are thrilled to start this partnership with Sun Valley Youth Center.  Our first interaction with Sun Valley was impactful and we can't wait to see what future volunteer and financial interactions bring to each all of us participating in this venture.  Our hope is that our service will not only help empower the youth at Sun Valley, but it will impact our own lives in an unforgettable way.  
                                                           


 
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Featured New Homes

Adamo Homes

By Angie Sudberry - December 20, 2018

Invalesco recently had the opportunity to tour a custom designed, paired home by Adamo Homes. Greg Schwartz, an Adamo Homes Business Development Specialist, led us through this tour.  Adamo is proud to be " America’s First Small Batch Builder", building in smaller quantities which allows them to provide a higher quality product with a higher level of customer interaction.  The Adamo team spends time getting to know their customers personally and aims to meet their lifestyle and design needs when building their homes. Adamo strives for quality over quantity, carefully handpicking their homesite locations and taking time to perfect the desired home for each customer.



                  

FIrst stop on our tour was 5170 Le Duc Drive.  This perfectly positioned paired home sits on a private lake in the gated community of Castle Pines Village. This beautiful deisgned custom 2-story home features 4 bedrooms, 2.5 baths and a 2-car attached garage with 3,833 finished sq. ft. When you first walk into 5170 Le DucDrive,  you are greated by the beautiful, up-close view of the lake which gleams from the great room window.   While enjoying the lake view, you can snuggle up to the stone surround gas fireplace, enjoy the natural light shining throughout the home and appreciate all the finishing touches selected just for this home.  This thoughfully designed home features an open floor plan with main level living, engineered hardwoods floors in the kitchen and great room and 4 bedrooms.

The master bedroom contains vibrant natural light, a striking, large 5-piece master bathroom, large walk in closet and easy access to the laundry room.  Then head upstairs to your 2 bedrooms for guest or family, an extra sitting area for an office or playroom, and another full bath. The basement is unfinished which allows you to decide how you want to use the space. The basement has pre-plumbing done for a bathroom.
   When you are not resting in one of the 4 bedroom, enjoy cooking in your open kitchen featuring, a large beautiful Carrera Quartz island with custom maple cabinets, soft close drawers and Bosch appliances. 

Along with your beautiful new home, enjoy the amble amenities in the covenant controlled gated community at The Village at Castle Pines.  Spend your summer days at The Canyon Club swimming pool, BBQ'ing on the Viking steel gas grills, playing sand volleyball, challening someone to a tennis match on one of the 5 championship tennis courts or gather a group of neighbors to play a friendly game of soccer on the multi-use field.  If The Canyon Club isn't appealing, go to The Summit Club located on the north side featuring another swimming pool with interactive water features, a pavilion and a multipurpose playing field.  In the colder months,  you can enjoy the heated outdoor lap pool, outdoor spa, both located at the Village Lake Fitness Center.  Here you can also exercise,  take a class in the yoga studio and/or train in the TRX training room. . The trails & Members Only golf courses are just an added bonus!

                              



This is not all Adamo has to offer. They are gearing up for the new year with some amazing projects, which include the Rooftops at the Meadows, our team's favorite. Modern meets the suburbs situated on the hillside in the popular Meadows neighborhood in Castle Rock. These beautiful homes also contain open floor plans, a large master suite containing it's huge master bath, complete with free standing tub and dual entry walk-in shower.   And one of the best features of these homes, your private roof top deck, ideal for entertaining. These homes are close to completion with few remaining. Stay tuned for what Adamo is bringing in 2019!!!

                                                                                                                                              



 
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Featured New Homes

Geos Neighborhood by Cornerstone Homes

By Angie Sudberry - November 19, 2018

Our team at Invalesco Real Estate was delighted to tour the Geos neighborhood, Colorado’s first geosolar development, built by Cornerstone Homes.  The neighborhood harnesses geo-thermal energy paired with both passive and active solar strategies and cutting-edge green building technologies to achieve net-zero energy consumption. Casey Van Iten, project manager, led us in the tour and provided us with a wealth of information on the innovative building process.  This unique community will include community gardens, parks, corner stores, & shared facilities.
 
An incredible amount of energy savings can be achieved by using passive strategies. The strategies implemented in the Geos neighborhood include achieving extreme air tightness (0.6 ACH50), being intentional with the staggered placement of the homes and the placement of windows and opening to maximize solar energy when and where it is needed. Cornerstone took into account all of the seasons of Colorado’s climate.  However, it is evident they weren’t just technical and thought of the beauty of the homes too… the homes have breathtaking mountain views! These passive strategies make the home extremely comfortable with steady temperatures throughout. The homes are so well insulated and air-tight that their heating and cooling demands are only 20% of a comparably sized traditional home.
 

 
For the active solar energy component, the homes feature solar panels on all their roofs. This is a greatly cost effective way of contributing towards achieving their net-zero energy goal. 

We saw examples of green building everywhere throughout the homes, from paints with no VOC to triple-paned windows. It was very inspiring that Cornerstone Homes really looks to build with quality and efficiency and isn’t only looking at their bottom line. Casey explained that because the homes are so air tight, it is important to only use materials in the home that are of high quality and will keep the air inside as pure as possible… well, that would make any homeowner breathe a little easier! (pardon the pun).  Additionally, all of the homes have Energy Recovery Ventilators that are constantly bringing in fresh air from the outside but precondition the air to an ambient temperature before it enters the home. Probably the most impressive piece of equipment we’ve seen in a home: a geothermal heat pump.  In this neighborhood, the pump accesses water 300 feet below the surface to heat the home!   And because the homes only require ¼ of the heating capacity of the smallest furnace available, they were able to install 3” ductwork… now that’s impressive.

The homes impressed us at every turn and we look forward to touring again as the community takes shape.  The current homeowners seem very happy in their homes and are thrilled to not pay a cent on their energy bills.  Geos Neighborhood is currently wrapping up phase one of construction and can barely keep up with demand.  Thankfully, there are still 2 more phases to go! 
        

If you want to learn more about energy efficient homes, look out for our invitation to our THINKtank next March where we will be hosting a panel of experts to learn more!  Contact our team at info@invalescore.com for more informaiton on the homes

 
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