MSN Takes Note of Deltec Homes

December 4th, 2012

Saving the best for last, MSN.com, in  a recent article about contemporary yurt-like homes, dedicated space to photos and information about Deltec Homes.

Today’s yurt is generally not the pack-and-carry variety devised thousands of years ago on the Central Asian steppes by Mongolian and Turkic nomads. Rather, today’s yurts in the U.S. and in Canada use modern engineered materials. Indeed, their best features are being incorporated into permanent homes that are not meant to be moved.

Enter Deltec Homes: manufacturer of circular, yurt-like structures, sustainably manufactured, energy efficient for the homeowner, and boasting a not-so-incidental track record against hurricanes. In fact, since Deltec began manufacturing homes in 1968, they’ve never lost a Deltec to a hurricane—a distinct advantage over more tent-like structures and other yurt-like homes.

As msn.com points out, round homes are also popular due to their design flexibility. A Deltec has no load-bearing walls, leaving the homeowner complete freedom in designing the floor plans.

Find out more at deltechomes.com

Go for the “Real” Green

October 19th, 2012

by Leigha Dickens, Green Building Coordinator, Deltec Homes
and Brenda Cooke, Communications & Creative Media, Deltec Homes

Greenwashing— v, the act of using green marketing to deceptively promote the perception that an organization’s aims and policies are environmentally friendly. Whether it is to increase profits or gain political support, greenwashing may be used to manipulate popular opinion to support otherwise questionable aims.

green wash paint canIn 1962 Rachel Carson‘s Silent Spring marked a major milestone for the sustainability movement. Over the next thirty years people began embracing the idea of choosing greener living options, and ‘green’ went from a simple color concept to a mainstream lifestyle choice. It didn’t take long for marketers to catch on—and ever since, “greenwashing” in advertising has become a nuisance you practically need a pesticide to fight against.

The construction industry is certainly not immune: from window salesmen claiming to bring you 50% energy savings with new windows to building companies claiming to be “industry leading” merely by providing insulation values that are already required by building energy code, “greenwashing” can come at hopeful homebuilders in many forms. Tristan Roberts, editor of the industry-respected Environmental Building News, details nine types of greenwashing common to the green construction industry in a great blog post at Building Green.com.

Greenwashing misleads customers and that’s wrong in itself, but the bigger problem is that it undermines the real efforts of truly sustainable products. At best it contributes useless noise to a serious conversation, and at worst it allows companies and consumers to continue to dodge responsibilities for environmental externalities. It can also quickly become a bandwagon, but a bandwagon based on marketing and hype in the place of actual substance. Amid all of that noise and hype, even well-intentioned and legitimate green product developments can feel marketed in a greenwashed way.

And consumers are starting to notice. The publication AdAge states in their Sept. 24 issue “While 93% of consumers say they have personally changed their behavior to conserve energy in their household, they’re becoming less willing to pay more for green products.” Greenwashing has become such a wide-spread a phenomenon that The Federal Trade Commission has stepped in with a revised Green Guide, released October 1 2012, which will result in increased regulatory scrutiny of marketers’ environmental benefit claims.

TerraChoice, a division of the Underwriter Laboratories who certifies all types of products for consumer protection, maintains an informative website on how to spot greenwashing, and issues a comprehensive greenwashing report every few years. Encouragingly, what they’ve found in the most recent report is that while greenwashing is a significant problem, it is also a problem that is beginning to decline. Savvy customers are pushing back against false claims, and companies are listening. And many companies who start to wade into “this green stuff” for marketing reasons stumble into real sustainability along the way.

Our response at Deltec to a growing critique of green claims? Bring it! From the homes we build clear down to the method in which we build them, we are green straight through to our core, and have been since our beginnings in 1968. The difference in “genuine green” means looking at the environmental sustainability of practices we follow in our everyday operations. It means evaluating the “greenness” of our products on many environmental fronts, not just picking the one aspect that is green and ignoring other negative environmental implications. It means going above and beyond what building codes and environmental laws require, not touting simple compliance with regulation as something that is praiseworthy. And it means educating our customers about the way construction interacts with environmental issues in all kinds of ways—from ozone-depleting refrigerants and what truly constitutes “industry leading” insulation levels to understanding what it means to be free of volatile organic compounds. The kind of education we do daily with this blog and with our green department consultations with our customers.

Most importantly, a genuine quest for sustainability means being honest, introspective, and humble. It doesn’t mean being 100% free of any environmental impact in everything that you do—because it may be impossible to mitigate environmental harm on every single level—but it does mean asking tough questions and constantly striving to improve upon the sustainable steps you have already succeeded at implementing. In short, learning by doing.

Free Download: “Building the Home of Tomorrow, Today”

October 10th, 2012

As you know from our previous post, we participated this year, for the first time, in the hugely popular Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs, Pennsylvania.

We also sponsored the Fair, but that still wasn’t enough: Deltec Homes president Steve Linton presented (twice) a talk to appreciative, attentive audiences, “Building the Home of Tomorrow, Today.” Many attendees afterwards asked for the Powerpoint file of the presentation. While it’s not the same as seeing it in person, we hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity to download the presentation.

It was great to see the Deltec logo, up first on the Sponsors list.

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

Feeling at Home, at the Mother Earth News Fair

September 24th, 2012

Exhausted but happy, Steve Linton, President of Deltec Homes and and Joe Schlenk, Director of Marketing at Deltec, are making their way back to North Carolina from Seven Springs, Pennsylvania after Deltec’s first-time participation in that phenomenon known as The Mother Earth News Fair.

“It was well worth the effort,” said Linton. “There was an incredible response by fair-goers to Deltec Homes, all of whom are familiar with Deltec’s signature round home.” Added Linton, “The fair far exceeded our expectations.”

visitors at Deltec's booth at the Mother Earth News Fair

Left, center: Visitors at the Deltec Homes booth at Mother Earth News Fair. Right: Steve Linton, President of Deltec Homes, talks zero energy with a visitor.

Visitors to the Mother Earth News Fair are well educated about building sustainably. They are passionate about working with a company that not only sells, but also manufactures, homes in a sustainable manner. “Devotees of Mother Earth News are working towards the goal of reducing their impact on the environment, and reducing the ongoing energy costs associated with owning a home. We were thrilled at the interest shown in our zero energy round home,” stated Linton.

There was also considerable interest in Deltec’s newest offering: the Solar Homestead, a solar powered, net-zero energy home designed by students from Appalachian State University (ASU). The home was ASU’s entry in the 2011 U.S. Department of Energy’s international Solar Decathlon home design and construction competition featuring 20 teams from around the world. The Solar Homestead received the competition’s People’s Choice Award. Deltec has licensed with ASU to market and produce the Solar Homestead.

Through the agreement with ASU, Deltec Homes will pay royalties that support the Department of Technology and Environmental Design’s next large-scale, sustainable design-build project and other research and creative activities at the university.

Says Schlenk, “The response to Deltec Homes at the fair has been overwhelming. Visitors showed incredible knowledge and passion about building sustainably.  We have given away several thousand booklets and brochures, and almost as many DVDs. It’s been a memorable experience.”

Deltec’s drawing for a free ‘TED® The Energy Detective Give-Away,’ a $200 value, garnered lively participation. TED® is an in-home electricity monitor that provides real-time data and gives you instant feedback on your electricity usage. Congratulations to ‘Miss Nancy’ in Hardy, Virginia, who won this coveted tool!

Left: The calm before the storm—waiting the arrival of the fair visitors. Right: filled to capacity for Steve Linton's presentation "Building the Home of Tomorrow, Today."

During the fair, Linton took time away from the Deltec Homes booth to present “Building the Home of Tomorrow, Today” twice to enthusiastic, full-capacity crowds—well over 400 people total—at the Renewable Energy Stage. Said Linton with a smile, “Mother Earth News Fair in 2013? We’ll be there.”

Deltec Homes Markets Award-Winning Solar Decathlon Home

September 24th, 2012

Deltec Homes, leading home builder for over forty years, has signed an agreement with Appalachian State University (ASU) to market and manufacture The Solar Homestead, a solar powered, net-zero energy home designed by students and professors at ASU for entry into the 2011 Solar Decathlon in Washington D.C. The home won the competition’s People’s Choice Award.

The Solar Homestead, a Net-Zero Energy Home

Steve Linton, President of Deltec Homes, stated, “The collaboration between ASU and Deltec Homes has been truly inspiring. We have all pushed our limits, gained knowledge, and developed a relationship that provides in-depth experience for the students and a design that has a profound impact on the future of home building—a home that produces as much energy as it consumes.”

Deltec was a lead contributor to ASU’s Solar Homestead project, providing the student-led team with hands-on experience constructing wall panels and roof systems, as well as working collaboratively with them on the engineering aspects of the project.

Through the agreement with ASU, Deltec Homes will pay royalties that support the Department of Technology and Environmental Design’s next large-scale, sustainable design-build project and other research and creative activities at the university.

The Solar Homestead is a self-sustaining, net-zero energy house inspired by the traditional homesteads of early mountain settlers. The homestead utilizes a highly energy-efficient building envelope, incorporating renewable resources and innovative technology into a prototype that is adaptable, self-sufficient, affordable and attractive. It features a 2- or 3-bedroom floor plan and additional outbuilding modules for additional living and storage space, arranged according to your needs. Chad Everhart, Associate Professor, ASU Department of Technology and Environmental Design, said confidently, “The Solar Homestead is a house people can grow into, and add on to at a later date.”

Jamie Russell, Assistant Professor, Department of Technology and Environmental Design, Appalachian State University, remarked “This is a great example of our department working with local industry to bring sustainable solutions to the people of North Carolina and beyond. It is a great step forward, bringing energy efficient housing to a large consumer base.” Added Russell, “The licensing agreement also validates the many hours of dedication and hard work of students and faculty that went into The Solar Homestead project.”

The project now moves out of the classroom and into the real world—interest in the Solar Homestead is high home builders who want to dramatically reduce their impact on the environment while living in a cutting-edge home. Commented Linton, “We are proud to offer the new Solar Homestead nationally as a panelized building shell, or turn-keyed locally through Deltec Building Company.”

For more information call 800-642-2508

Energy Management Applications Any Organization Can Afford

September 20th, 2012
Ashley Halligan, an analyst at Software Advice, recently shared another article with Deltec demonstrating energy management and environmental performance applications that any organization can implement and afford.
With increased emphasis in building performance and higher expectations for lowering consumption and demonstrating a commitment to higher performance, energy management technologies are becoming more and more popular. Furthermore, with new state laws requiring buildings to benchmark and report their ENERGY STAR scores, more operators and managers are being forced to take a look at their overall performance–and address inefficiencies in their operations.
Halligan’s article outlines three applications that do three entirely different things that can help your organization benchmark performance—and at very reasonable (or free) prices: MelonPower.org (ENERGY STAR benchmarking), HVAC ASHRAE 62.1-2010 (measures air quality and minimum ventilation rates) and ecoInsight Mobile Audit for iPad (performs energy audits).Read the remainder of Halligan’s article here.

MelonPower.org has powerful analytical tools to identify ways to save energy, as well as tools to help you complete Energy Star Benchmarking on your buildings

A Book for All Times

September 3rd, 2012

Orson Squire Fowler  (1809 – 1887) is a name which is seldom recognized today. Fowler popularized the ‘octagon house’ movement in America. In his book “The Octagon House: A Home For All”, published in 1848, he praised the advantages of octagonal homes over rectangular or square. Fowler believed octagon structures were less expensive to build, permitted additional living area by using every inch of space, received more natural light through their large windows, were easier to heat, and remained cooler in the summer. A spiral staircase in the center of the house led to the floors above. In the winter this would allow the heat from wood or coal burning stoves to rise, thus heating the upper floors. In the summer, the windows that surrounded almost the entire structure were opened to provide a breeze that would be circulated throughout the house via the stairwell as well.

Cover of "The Octagon House: A Home for All," and the author, Orson Squire Fowler

Cover of the book "The Octagon House: A Home for All," and author Orson Squire Fowler

Fowler made his mark on American architecture. The idea of octagon-shaped houses swept the nation, and his book went through nine printings. Hundreds of octagonal houses were built from the 1850s in New York, New England, Wisconsin, and elsewhere, until the onset of the Civil War. About 2,000 octagonal house still stand today, with the most notable now museums open to the public.

Hardly surprising for such an independent thinker, Fowler was a forward thinking in more than just architecture: he proposed equality for women at a time when women had virtually no legal rights in the United States as well as children’s rights when child labor was considered quite acceptable in the fast-growing industrial world; he proposed ideas on how to discover the ideal mate, on marriage counseling, sex education and hydropathy. He also condemned the use of tobacco by men and tight corsets for women. He was also author of one of the more notorious sex manuals in Victorian times!

Back to the book: We like how Fowler suggested some general structural principles, and encouraged readers to invent the house details for themselves (somewhat similar to adapting a Deltec floorplan and making it your own!) Only a few home examples are offered, and apart from plans, the book has only two illustrations to show how an octagonal house might look. Fowler’s design foresaw a flat roof to collect rainwater, with built-in cisterns to collect and distribute the water (especially interesting in light of today’s sustainability movement), rainwater filtering using filter beds made up of alternating layers of sand and activated charcoal; central heating by distributing hot air from a furnace in the basement; flues, air ducts and speaking tubes built into the thickness of walls.

For Fowler, “beauty and utility were inseparable” (thus anticipating the famous “form follows function” of the designers of the Bauhaus movement in Germany and the United States in the twentieth century by quite a few years). The idea of octagon-shaped houses caught on at once, and his book went through nine printings. Fowler’s “monumental” four-story, 60 room house built during 1848–1853, Fowler’s Folly in Fishkill, New York, contributed to this nation-wide fad. Hundreds of octagonal houses were built from the 1850s in New York, New England, Wisconsin, and elsewhere, until the onset of the Civil War. About 2,000 octagonal house still stand today, with the most notable now museums open to the public.

Fowler was a man of universal reform who preached for education, temperance, and equality—a true a nineteenth century individualist in the Victorian age of orthodoxy, piety, and conformity. Dover republished the book in 1973, 125 years after its original printing, and included many black-and-white photographs of historic octagon homes.

References
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orson_Squire_Fowler#References
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_octagon_houses
http://www.crookedlakereview.com/books/saints_sinners/martin12.html

Deltec Builds…Community

August 16th, 2012

Deltec Homes’ staff has kept busy over the summer with community projects. In July, we paired up with community partners Wild South to serve beer at the renown Bele Chere street fest in Asheville, North Carolina. The day was hot, the beers were icy, the customers were happy, and the DJ’s music next door was loud and great for dancing. Proceeds went to Wild South.

Team Deltec Volunteers for Wild South at Bele Chere

Team Deltec volunteers help community partner Wild South at Bele Chere, Asheville's biggest street fair.

In August, Deltec Green Building Coordinator and occasional blog-post author Leigha Dickens, and Deltec sales consultant Dallam Hart swam in a 2-mile long open water swim race for fun and for charity. This was their second year competing in the 4th annual Douglas Lake Swim-A-Thon, with proceeds from the event going to a local food pantry and children’s support center. Dallam took third place in the men’s individual standings. Both swimmers improved their overall performance, compared to last year.

Deltec staff members Leigha and Dallam swim for good

Deltec staff members Leigha and Dallam swim for a cause.

Go, Team Deltec!

Recommended reading: “Breaking Down Net Zero Building: Reality or Wishful Thinking?”

June 26th, 2012

We are pleased to share a summary of a recently published article by Ashley Halligan, analyst at Software Advice, entitled Breaking Down Net Zero Building: Reality or Wishful Thinking?—outlining the true stipulations of “net zero”, as well as considerations on the undertaking of a net zero project.

Halligan begins with the premise that it is essential to understand that net zero indicates that over the course of a year, a building has generated as much energy as it’s consumed.

The article goes on to provide an example of an existing facility—a 363,000 square foot distribution center for the food conglomerate McCormick—that underwent a sustainability initiative that ultimately resulted in not only zero energy consumption, but also ended the 12-month benchmarking period with a surplus.

Next, Halligan discusses tips from experts (including Brian Anderson, Founding Partner of Anderson Porter Design, Dru B. Crawley, former Commercial Buildings Team Lead for the Department of Energy and current Director of Building Performance at Bentley Systems, and Blake Bisson, VP of Sales & Marketing at Ekotrope) for those considering creating a from-scratch net zero building or project.

Halligan wraps up the article with Crawley’s thoughts on whether net zero is truly obtainable on a wide-scale.

We encourage you to read Halligan’s original article here.

Core Green Design Part 5: Efficient Heating and Cooling Design

June 11th, 2012

Heating and cooling is the largest energy expenditure of the average home, so it makes sense to reduce energy bills by getting efficient equipment to do that heating and cooling for you—especially when you’re building a “Pretty Good Home” that incorporates passive solar design and super insulation.

When building such a home in the southeastern US, you can’t get more efficient than an air (or ground) -source heat pump for heating your home efficiently, and affordably. And if you’re going to have a heat pump, odds are you are going to have cooling too, because it’s hot out, and an air conditioner is just a heat pump running in reverse. (There’s some simple physics behind why air source heat pumps are so efficient a choice in mild climates.)  A high efficiency heat pump and air conditioning isn’t the only energy efficient choice in this climate and it isn’t the only green choice either, but as far as cost to install and operating costs are concerned, it becomes one of the most practical choices. An air conditioner is also an important consideration in a climate that is particularly humid—as ours often is—because the process of cooling air with an air conditioner also dehumidifies it, keeping excess moisture from building up in the house to damage interior materials and making the occupants much more comfortable.

There are three ingredients to an efficient heating and cooling system worthy of the performance of a “Pretty Good House” and only the first ingredient is the efficiency of the unit itself.  Toward that end; however, look for a heat pump with a heating season efficiency of 9.0 HSPF or greater, and a cooling season efficiency of 16 SEER or greater.  There will be a premium to be paid for units that are quite this efficient compared to the base efficiencies available, but considering that this system will last a decade or two, the ongoing efficiency is worth it.

The second ingredient is getting a system that is properly matched to your home design.  There is a lot of physics involved in the heat flow of your home, and things like how much insulation, what type of windows, what direction your windows are facing, matter a great deal, especially when you’ve built a home that has more efficient windows and more insulation than average. Heat pumps and air conditioners are typically sized in “tons,” a measure of the amount of heat or cool they can produce, and homes are given a system with a certain number of tons of capacity based on how much heat and cool the HVAC installer determines that they’ll need. A larger home will require more tons than a smaller home, and a well insulated home will require fewer tons than a same-sized home that does not have as much insulation. Getting the precise amount of tons that you need right, without overdoing it, is important since installing a 3 ton system costs more than installing a 2 ton system or even a 2.5 ton system.  An over-sized system uses more energy than is needed to get the home to the desired temperature, and can also be uncomfortable. Air conditioners that are overpowered for their homes will turn on, bring the house to temperature quickly, and turn off again, waiting for the house to warm up substantially before turning on very briefly once again.  This short amount of run time doesn’t give the air conditioner enough time to properly dehumidify the air, as well as cool it, making the occupants continue to feel warm even though the air has been cooled.

The solution is to make sure the equipment has been sized to match the needs of the home by asking your contractor to perform what is called  Manual J calculation, which looks at the actual home design to calculate how much heating and cooling energy the home actually needs. Any HVAC contractor should be able to do one if asked to, but may not automatically do one otherwise—and just because a Manual J calculation is done doesn’t mean that the energy efficiency of the home has been fully considered, especially if the heating and cooling contractor doesn’t know much about what’s going on in the rest of the house. It can also be a good idea to enlist a third party energy professional to the cause, and look to get your home certified under a program such as Energy Star for Homes.  Under most green programs, heating and cooling system design must be highly scrutinized to ensure the energy efficient features of the home are taken into account, and that the system is not over-sized.

The third ingredient is the way that the heated and cooled air is distributed, typically through air ducts connecting to all the rooms in the house.  This duct-work is often run through an attic, crawlspace, or basement—and may or may not be installed in a way that is airtight and avoids being overly restrictive of airflow. You could have the most energy efficient heat pump in the world—but if it’s forcing air into your house through ducts that leak half of their content into your crawlspace and tie themselves in knots on the way to your living room, that energy efficient heat pump will have to operate way more than it needs to in order for you to actually feel warm air.

This, again, is where a third party certification program such as Energy Star can help out, as these programs also often involve visual inspection and testing of duct-work by an energy professional.

Really, as far as heating and cooling goes, even those who don’t want to certify (and remember, the idea behind a “Pretty Good House” is to build green without following the dictates of a certification) do receive an important quality assurance benefit from hiring a third party professional. Oversight on Manual J calculations and duct-work installation are two common green building certification program requirements that can make a big difference in how the home performs.