Ultra-Green-Built Home Gets An Assist From WERS

There are net-zero energy homes, and then there are homes that go even further.

Home buyers in Minneapolis wanted to build a home that produced as much energy as both the house and their cars would consume. They hired Marc Sloot of SALA Architects and Kerry Hage of Hage Homes to lead the design and construction team ultimately delivered to them a GreenStar Gold/LEED Platinum masterpiece.

Before addressing the solar needs, the team spec’d thick insulation, passive solar tempering with triple pane windows, geothermal heat pumps, a high-efficiency fresh air exchanger and Energy Star-rated lights and appliances.

This house was about more than just energy, though. The homeowners also gave preference to manufacturers that used recycled content in their products, used renewable energy for their manufacturing and/or transportation, and produced products without using toxic or harmful components such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

They also took a sustainable approach to their water usage. Their motivation was not due to supply concerns. Instead, they wanted to reduce their total energy footprint, which included the energy devoted to water. Indoors, this meant using low-flow fixtures in the showers and bathroom sinks. On the exterior, drought-tolerant turfgrass, in addition to xeriscape techniques, minimized the outdoor water demands.

The property boasts four rain gardens, which will be fed by either onsite rainfall or stormwater runoff from the street channeled onto the property via curb cuts. Finally, the project has four, 50-gallon rain barrels. 200 gallons might not seem like a lot of capacity, but the landscaping is designed to require no more than average rainfall, and Minneapolis receives approximately 2.5 feet of rain per year.

“One of the reasons this project has scored Platinum in LEED v4 is the dedication to water reduction. While LEED for Homes pulls from the EPA WaterSense tool for outdoors and uses the LEED water performance spreadsheet for indoors, there is no uniform, agreed-upon tool to track or predict stormwater, rain water, black water or greywater use,” says Brett Little, Executive Director for the Green Home Institute.

“We were excited to use the WERS tool as a way to measure more accurately the rain barrel catchment for this project, which could be used to populate the rain/grey water section in the LEED Water Performance Pathway,” Little says. “Moreover, the WERS could theoretically be used to meet all of the water performance items asked for in LEED through one tool, rather than relying on two or three different tools which always allows for more error. We recommend contacting the USGBC to voice your opinion if you want to see WERS adopted as a substitute.”

“The great thing about building a comprehensive tool like WERS is that people can use it for a variety of purposes,” says Mike Collignon, chair of the WERS Development Group. “We believe this precedent shows WERS can lend assistance to LEED projects and, hopefully, will open the door to its expanded usage within the LEED process.”

You can see this fascinating project by registering for the Green Home Institute’s Facebook Live tour.

Photos courtesy Corey Gaffer