Pushing Net-Zero Forward

December 9th, 2013

The Ridgeline, one of the home designs in our new Renew Collection of high-performance to net-zero home packages.

We know that it has never been more affordable to build a net-zero home, and our mission is to push the concept of extremely energy efficient homes, easily powered by renewable energy, into the mainstream, in Western North Carolina and elsewhere. Deltec’s Green Building Coordinator, Leigha Dickens, explains how we are aiming to make extremely energy efficient and net-zero homes the norm of new home building. Read her blog post, here.

Mother Earth News Fair 2013: Building the Home of Tomorrow, Today

October 11th, 2013

It’s that time of year again, and Deltec is participating once again in the hugely popular Mother Earth News Fair, this year in Lawrence, Kansas. Participants will get the opportunity to attend a mini-workshop on Deltec Homes and tour a Deltec home built nearby.

At last year’s fair in Seven Springs, PA, Deltec Homes president Steve Linton presented (twice) a talk to appreciative, attentive audiences, “Building the Home of Tomorrow, Today.”  This year he will be repeating this popular talk. If you’d like to download the presentation, we have made that available on our website. While it’s not the same as seeing it in person, we hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity to download the presentation.

Just click here to safely and automatically download the file. And of course, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at roundhouse@deltechomes.com

A Deltec Dream Retirement Home

August 12th, 2013

Exterior and interior views of this Deltec home

In pursuing their dream of many years to downsize in retirement and have a one-of-a-kind place to call their own, Joe and Judy Baker, from Marietta, Ohio, turned to Deltec Homes, and could not be more pleased with their unusual home.

The Bakers chose a Deltec Windsor model on a basement. With 2,000 sq ft of finished home, it’s enough room for all their needs. The unfinished basement serves as a playroom for their grandchildren, and some storage.

One might think the unique shape might stand out sharply from neighboring homes, but thanks to the soft green exterior the Bakers chose, it blends in softly with the natural surroundings. In keeping with their unique home, Judy opted for unusual but complementary color choices transitioning from one room to the next.

A lot of thought went into planning the outdoor living area: The home has two eight-foot sections of screened porch and two open ones with idyllic views of the grassy area and trees behind the home. “We are very pleased with how it turned out,” said Judy Baker

See the rest of the article here.

Round: variations on a theme

August 5th, 2013

If you’re a fan of round homes, you’re probably well aware that there are several variations on the theme, from geodesic to domes, to monolithic domes to Deltec’s own panelized round. Real estate agent Jessica Clausen recently had cause to immerse herself in the subject, as she had clients who were interested in seeing round homes. Jessica condenses thousands of years of ’round’ history into one blog post as she explains how cultures from pre-history to modern times have constructed round dwellings using local materials. She also covers the aerodynamics and hurricane resistance of round homes, and why they are green.

Her succinct explanations of the various round homes, each with a photo example, makes for interesting reading in her blog post. Spoiler alert: Which round house do you think is her favorite? Deltec Homes, of course!

Jersey Strong in a Deltec Home

July 16th, 2013

When last we saw Deltec homeowners John and Kathy Guerin, it was 2010 and they had just finished building their dream home on the Jersey shore. Little did they know that not even two years later, their desire for a home that was “resistant to the winds coming off the Bay” would be put so severely to the test.

The Guerin's 'Jersey Strong' Deltec looks surreal in its perfection, in the midst of destroyed vegetation, bulkheads and damaged homes along Delaware Bay after Hurricane Sandy.

The 2,000-square-foot home is situated squarely on Delaware Bay, offering panoramic views of the water and wetlands. In anticipation of seasonal high water, the two-story house stands on pilings six feet off the ground. Unlike many homes along this beach, the Guerins, in defense of their ocean view and with complete trust in their Deltec, opted to skip erecting a bulkhead in front of their home. When Hurricane Sandy slammed the New Jersey coast last fall, the Guerins witnessed the true hurricane resistance of their Deltec: Although many nearby properties, even those ‘protected’ behind a bulhead, suffered significant water and wind destruction, the only damage to their home was a single turned-up shingle on the roof. Indeed, the bulkheads themselves were destroyed so as to be useless.

“The house withstood the storm very well,” said John Guerin to the press. “That’s one of the reasons we chose the Deltec design.”

Sandy was the second-costliest hurricane in U.S. history. With the forecasters expecting 2013 to be an above average hurricane season, you can bet many will be keeping their eyes on Deltec Homes.

When their Deltec dream home made the news in 2010, the Guerins had no idea that Hurricane Sandy would put the hurricane resistance of their home to the test.

R-Value? Don’t Forget About Air-Sealing

July 3rd, 2013

by Leigha Dickens

When we talk about an energy efficient building, everyone wants to know about the R-value. “R-value” is a measure of how well an insulating material slows the eventual loss of heat through the exterior surfaces of a building.

It is a fundamental law of thermodynamics that all of the heat that we contribute precious fossil fuels to put into a building will eventually leave it, for the same reason a cup of hot coffee left on a table at room temperature will eventually cool off. R-value is well and good—but it’s not the whole story, nor even the most important part of the story. Heat transfer comes in multiple forms, and one of the most important strategies for energy efficiency construction comes from paying attention to an entirely different method of heat loss, far too often overlooked in the construction industry.

Off-Grid and Grid Tied: It’s All Good

June 24th, 2013

by Leigha Dickens

Solar Panels on home

Many customers who consult with me on green building profess their dream of living in an off-grid home powered by solar energy.  Since solar technology is now widely available and cheaper than it has ever been, this dream is easier than ever for a homeowner to achieve.

However, solar is still a high-dollar line item on a construction budget or upgrade for an existing home, and whether the concept of an off-grid solar array makes sense for a particular home is a more complicated question.  There are multiple ways to set up a renewable energy system to power your home—with “off-grid” being only one possibility.

So What Does “Off-Grid” Mean?

“Off-grid” means you are on your own: there is no connection to the power company.  The only way to accomplish this in a setting where you want electricity even when the sun is not shining, is to incorporate batteries into your system.  Thus off-grid homes have no power poles running to them, and draw the power they need from deep cycle battery banks.

Grid-Tied: the Alternative

“Grid-tied,” by contrast, means that your house is connected to the grid, and you are still set up to buy your power from the power company when you need it.  But, when your solar array is producing power, you can either sell that power straight to the grid with the goal of financially offsetting the cost of the power you have purchased, or you use that power yourself first, and sell any extra to the grid.  You may not be using the actual electrons you have produced yourself, but you are still contributing green power to everyone’s benefit.

The Pros and Cons

The advantages of one system over the other come down to cost, comfort and independence. A grid-tied system will cost less because it does not require batteries, which form a significant portion of the cost of an off-grid system.  A grid-tied system for a net-zero home will also cost less because fewer solar panels are needed:  When you are not trying to store your own energy in batteries for later use, you do not need to produce quite as much energy in order to offset your yearly energy use.

A grid-tied system is also more flexible, both from a day-to-day use standpoint, and from a down-the-road standpoint.  Since you still buy any excess power from the grid, you won’t suddenly find yourself without electricity if you accidentally leave the lights on all night—although you will have to pay the electric bill for such a mistake.  And since you aren’t tied in to producing all of your own power yourself, you can use a grid-tied system to install as much solar as your budget allows, adding to it down the road as you are able.  Although you can add to an off-grid array down the road as well, if you don’t install enough to meet all of your power needs to begin with, you can’t wait on installing more capacity if you want to have enough power.

Pictured above is a grid-tied solar array installed on this round Deltec home in Virginia.  It produces enough energy to offset ½ of the home’s yearly energy needs, making the home a partial-net-zero home.  Installing the grid-tied array allowed the homeowners to put in as much solar as their budget allowed.

However, for safety reasons, grid-tied systems cannot function when grid power goes down (a live load on the line would present a danger to utility workers coming in to fix power outages), and to many independence-seeking homeowners, that is the biggest drawback of grid-tied systems.  There may be very practical reasons to go off-grid as well, such as a high cost of installing traditional power poles to a remote jobsite or a concern about local grid reliability.

Off-grid array installed by Leigha Dickens at Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in North Carolina

Pictured, left, is an off-grid array installed by yours truly at Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in North Carolina  The small research institute had a number of isolated telescope buildings on a high ridge that was prone to summer lightning storms.  Giving each building its own off-grid array made sense to keep this equipment powered even during frequent lightning-induced power outages at the site.

An off-grid system could also be argued to have a lesser environmental footprint than a grid-tied system.  For one thing, it forces you to adopt a more energy-conscious lifestyle, for every decision about electrical usage has consequences for how your system performs.  Additionally, an off-grid system produces its energy on the site where that energy will be used, eliminating the inefficiencies of distribution.  A grid-tied system is typically sized to offset the power consumed at the homesite, but is not often sized to offset the wasted energy from burning a fossil fuel at the power plant level and then distributing that energy.  An off-grid system represents a complete removal of your home from the environmental externalities associated with conventional power production—for some, this is by far the biggest attraction of renewable energy.

Pros and Cons Can Vary by State

How the state in which you live structures its rules and incentives for renewable energy makes a difference to which type of system makes more financial sense.  In general, grid-tied systems can have a dramatically shorter payback period than off-grid systems, as utility incentives for renewable energy or programs to pay homeowners for the power they produce typically speed up the time it takes to recover the up-front investment of solar.  However, in states that have very poorly structured rules for grid-connection, off-grid might be a better way to go solar while avoiding regulatory headaches.

I recently interviewed four Deltec homeowners who have built their homes with solar energy: two who chose to go off-grid, and two who chose to go grid-tied.  For some of these customers, state incentives played a role in their choice.  I compiled their stories into an off-grid fact sheet I use to educate our customers, which you can download from our website here.

A good place to go to start looking for the rules and incentives in your state is the North Carolina Solar Center’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency: http://www.dsireusa.org

If you’d like to start getting a handle on just how much solar you would need and how much it would cost, I have found several online calculators useful for arriving at ballpark figures:

Alt-E’s Off-Grid Solar Calculator: http://www.altestore.com/store/calculators/off_grid_calculator/

Grid-Tied Solar Estimator: http://www.solar-estimate.org/index.php?page=solar-calculator
Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/green-homes/off-grid-grid-tied-zbcz1305.aspx#ixzz2XBBfiYZm

Adawehi: A Healing Community

May 27th, 2013

Guest post by Claire O’Sullivan, Adawehi Community Member

In beautiful Western North Carolina, nestled in the Foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, is the Adawehi Wellness Center. The mission of Adawehi is to support healing and promote health on all levels—physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. When Jackie Woods, the founder, decided to construct the first building—the Healing Center—she chose a Deltec because it was well constructed, durable and a prefab kit that we as a community could assemble, with the support of Jackie’s contractor husband, Rodney Booth.

Adawehi community members build the 'Healing Center.'

Adawehi community members build the 'Healing Center,' a building envelope by Deltec Homes.

The center first opened up for business in June 1997. It provides space for services such as awareness classes, personal healing sessions, deep emotional-release massage, non-force chiropractic, color and sound therapy, astrology readings as well as nutritional counseling. A large room on the bottom level holds awareness classes, hosts 60 people for a community movie night and also hosts yoga classes. Finally, there is a space dedicated to the production of personal growth CD’s recorded by Jackie Woods.

The Deltec was built when most community members still lived in Atlanta, GA. We would drive up on the weekend, camp, or stay in nearby lodgings and then work all day to assemble the structure. This was the beginning of community life. Working together, eating together, sometimes freezing together!

The Healing Center, which is considered the heart of the community, wasn’t the only Deltec to go up on the property. Jackie’s personal home is also a Deltec, complete with a cozy wood burning stove, vaulted ceilings and amazing views. The Deltec architecture options allowed Jackie to create a space that reflects her love of nature, and cozy hominess.

The campus has two other Deltec homes where community members live, containing both private and shared areas. Deltec offers such diversity in floor plans that all four of the Deltecs on the property are completely different in design. The homes not only house community, but helped create community. Three of them were built by community members, volunteering their time on the weekends. The sides were delivered to a flat area where they were painted, and groups of people worked together to lift them and put the panels into place. We learned to support each other, work together, push ourselves and know our limits. We also learned to ask for help. The building of the Deltecs was a testament to what a group of people with a common vision could accomplish together.

Four prefab, circular, sustainable homekits by Deltec Homes, built by Adawehi community members, on campus grounds.

Four prefab, circular, sustainable homekits by Deltec Homes, built by Adawehi community members, on campus grounds.

Over the years the community has flourished, adding other buildings for community events, shops and additional healing services such as colon hydrotherapy and music therapy. Martial arts, drumming and tai chi classes in addition to a circuit training room have been added over the years. We also have a health food store, Beneficial Foods, and a Bed & Breakfast on the property.

Located on 125 acres of woodlands, the grounds are a haven for common and rare plant species. It is also a native plant preserve that includes walking trails lined with ferns, azaleas, and a variety of wildflowers and herbs, a beautiful place to experience nature’s healing & health.

You can find a complete listing of Adawehi events on our website, as well as a visit with one of our many healers or a lovely stay in the mountains at our B&B. We also provide Continuing Education courses for massage therapists and music therapists. For anyone seeking health or growth in any area of their life, we offer many products that will help. We invite you to visit our website if you can’t visit us in person!

Expanding the Family Circle: Multigenerational Housing on the Rise

May 20th, 2013

Have you noticed lately that households in your neighborhood are growing in numbers? From Grandma moving in with her grown daughter and her husband and children, to the boomerang college graduate moving back home, statistics show that the three-generation home, or multigenerational living, is not only on the rise in the US—it’s here to stay.

As of 2008, a record 49 million Americans, or 16.1% of the total U.S. population, lived in a family household that contained at least two adult generations or a grandparent and at least one other generation, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data, with a 10.5 increase in multigenerational households from 2007 to 2009.

Of course it’s no surprise that economics play a big part in this—Time magazine reported a staggering 85% of adult children returning home to live with mom and/or dad, after graduation. And, as Louis Tenenbaum, a leading thinker, speaker and consultant on Aging in Place observes, if years ago it was Mom or Dad moving in with grown children because they were struggling to make ends meet, now it’s more likely to be the grown child moving back home, complete with spouse and children.

Another cause for the sharp increase in multigenerational living comes from the immigrant population. For families from Asia, Mexico, Europe it’s in the natural order of life to have either the husband’s or wife’s parents living in the home with married children.

With the rise in multigenerational living, many building companies are scrambling to provide solutions to a self-sufficient ‘in-law ‘apartment. Steve Linton, President of Deltec Homes, says, “Due to the nature of our building envelopes, Deltec Homes, has been offering an economic and viable solution to multigenerational living for years. There is nothing easier than adding a smaller Deltec model to the main house, either with a Connector or by an external walkway.”

This is not to say it isn’t a tricky situation. Many families simply designate a bedroom to the aging parents or boomerang child, but this can lead to undue stress. The key to having multiple generations living peacefully under one roof is privacy and space. Maintaining a sense of independence is crucial to the sanity of everyone involved: this means a self-sufficient apartment complete with living area, kitchen, bath and, preferably, independent entry.

Kerry Watkins and Chad Moore, designers at Deltec, concur. They can reel off names of families for whom, over the years, they have designed a home destined to multigenerational living. Says Watkins, “A typical solution for such a situation has been a larger model (1200 sq ft or larger) for the main house, and a smaller model, such as a Camden, for the in-law apartment. At 800 sq ft, a Camden offers ample space for living/dining quarters with a bedroom and full bath, as well as some storage.” Adds Moore, “Many Deltec homeowners intentionally plan for a flex space—separate guest or office space that can, when the need arises, be converted into independent living quarters for a family member.”

A Deltec home can easily be configured for multigenerational living with independent entry and aging in place.

A Deltec home can easily be configured for multigenerational living with independent entry and aging in place. Here we see a 2,000 sq ft Windsor and a 500 sq ft Newport, both with independent entry, linked by a 16 x 18 ft Connect.

Says Joe Schlenk, Director of Sales and Marketing at Deltec, “A Deltec offers the live-in family members, whether they are boomerang children returned to the nest or aging parents, a more dignified solution to the problem—there isn’t the feeling of being reduced to living in a bedroom in someone else’s home.”

“In addition,” adds Schlenk, “a Deltec offers the perfect aging in place solution: open living floor plans with with the kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom, laundry, and garage access all within easy access on the same floor, eliminating the worry about climbing stairs.

Zoning laws are another aspect not to be overlooked when designing a multigenerational home: a completely separate structure might require special permitting, or could be denied. Deltec offers two solutions to this issue: either an added wing as an independent living area, or a second circular model with a ‘Deltec connect’ between it and the main circular structure.

Says Schlenk, “With planning and foresight, you can make the transition to multigenerational living in a home environment more comfortable and accommodating for everyone involved.”

Three Steps Your Organization Can Take to Achieve Zero-Waste

December 11th, 2012
Deltec Homes not only manufactures sustainable homes, we do it in a sustainable way.  Our manufacturing processes drastically reduces waste when compared to stick built construction—but we don’t stop there. Our goal is to become a zero-landfill facility within the next few years. The path to get to where we are today—producing a home with 78% less waste than stick-built—has taught us a great deal, and it is heartening to see more and more manufacturing plants from all industries tackling zero-waste as an end goal.

Deltec engineer Ben Poss talks recycling and sustainable manufacturing at a Deltec Homes seminar.

Ashley Halligan, of Software Advice, recently published an article outlining the trends of organizations undertaking zero-waste initiatives—specifically, diverting all of their waste from landfills through a series of efforts ultimately tackling their waste stream.

In Halligan’s article, she interviewed several industry experts to find out how organizations can go about undertaking this type of goal.

Kirk Varga, Chief Sales Office of the International Environmental Alliance, says, “A zero-waste initiative is a great way for a facility to stay ahead of the sustainability curve, enhance positive visibility, and save money.”

Experts from Waste Management Sustainability Services, RecycleMatch, and theZero Waste Alliance also chime in with the necessary steps and suggestions for a company to prove successful in their efforts. Because this is a growing trend, both private and government entities are getting involved in its progression–along with the support of numerous nonprofit organizations coast-to-coast.

The experts all agree on three essential steps for beginning and implementing such an initiative:

  • Determine and Define Your Goal: Eric Dixon, VP of Waste Management Sustainability Services, says, “There is no minimum standard to define what constitutes zero-waste in the U.S.—a goal can’t be achieved if it hasn’t been defined… Success in attaining the ultimate goal depends on the types of non-product outputs produced—some are more easily recyclable than others.”
  • Engage Your Employees: Without employee engagement, meeting any kind of performance goal—environmental or otherwise—is not only a bigger challenge, but it also becomes merely impossible. Varga adds, “Most people want to do the right thing for the environment–but aren’t always sure how to help or don’t want to do more work than necessary.”
  • Lastly, Audit and Tackle Your Waste Stream: This process first involves identifying where waste can be reduced within an organization; from there, an organization can determine the route for the remaining waste stream—that is, reuse, recycle, or sell byproducts to organizations who can find value in them.

So what else did the experts have to say? Read the remainder of Halligan’s article here.