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A smorgasbord of green home tech

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Just as there are many shades of green, so too are there many versions of “green” homes. New Mexico, with its sunny reputation and proactive homebuilders’ association, can boast of some of the most innovative green technology in the country. Every summer, the association’s Green Building Council sponsors a two-day tour that shows off not only the latest green technology, but the tried-and-true classics that have kept the state in the forefront of the green scene.

From cooling ponds to strawbale construction, super insulation levels to underground rain catchment cisterns, or reclaimed woods to grid-tied photovoltaic systems, the annual GreenBuilt tour offers a smorgasbord of technology that can be incorporated into many home styles, according to tour co-chair Rita Von Stange.

Attendees will see examples of passive solar design, and construction with strawbales and pumicecrete. Innovative heating and cooling systems include geothermal systems, cooled slabs, and whole-house ventilation strategies, as well as homes that integrate renewable onsite energy production.

Several homes in the 2013 parade are designed for zero net energy use, which means there is as much or more electricity generated by alternative energy sources as is used by the homeowners. In such cases, the monthly energy bill essentially is “zero.” An example is the new home of Steve Hamlin and Linda Bonniksen-Hamlin, a 2,550 square foot, single-story home at 6909 Rim Rock Circle NW tucked against the boundaries of Albuquerque’s Petroglyph Monument National Park.

Greenbuilt Tour
What: 14th annual GreenBuilt Tour sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council, New Mexico chapter. The theme is “The Green Revue” and the purpose of the tour is to highlight sustainable residential building practices that are attractive, practical and affordable.When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, June 8, and Sunday, June 9.

Description: A two-day, self- guided tour of 18 innovative new homes, remodels, and additions that demonstrate green living techniques to reduce energy use.

Where: The homes are clustered throughout Albuquerque, Placitas, and Santa Fe, as well as one each in Rio Rancho, Abiquiu, the East Mountains, Lamy and Valdez.

Cost: $2 per home visited, or $15 for two-day admission pass to all homes.

Tickets: Online guidebook with maps, addresses, and descriptions of featured homes can be found at www.usgbcnm.org/GBT2013 or picked up at La Montanita or Whole Foods grocery outlets in Albuquerque or Santa Fe. Maps are available at tour homes, including several locations listed in the accompanying story.

The Hamlin home, built with the expertise of Sterling Architecture, LLC, and builder Robert Ruth of Sunbelt Properties, is described by its owner as a “square doughnut,” according to homeowner Steve Hamlin. The home, with plentiful screened windows and doors, essentially wraps around a central courtyard that provides cooling of the house in the summer with breezes blowing across an ankle-deep pond – a swamp cooler, of sorts – but a cool, gurgling feast for eyes and ears. Views in the all-electric home, powered by a PV array, look across the courtyard pond to the river, the city buildings, and the mountains beyond. Two buried cisterns, each capable of holding 1,250 gallons of rain runoff from the roof, keep water on site for native plantings fed by a drip irrigation system.

The Duranes neighborhood, one of the city’s oldest, features a remodel nearly doubled in size by new construction at 2925 Juliet Court. The home is in a family compound. Built by contractor Rose Morin of Earth and Straw Inc., this passive solar home is considered an infill project.

The smallest home on the tour – a renovated 980 square foot adobe at 1215 7th NW in the Sawmill/Wells Park neighborhood – started as a condemned and abandoned home purchased and remodeled by a first-time homeowner.

Blown-in insulation, low-e windows, airtight envelopes, movable shade structures, combo Energy Star heat and cooling units, and advanced framing techniques reduce the amount of lumber in many of the homes in the tour. Other common building techniques include recycled or salvaged building materials, rainwater harvesting, blower door tests, fresh air ventilation and healthy indoor air quality, solar tubes, and low-flow plumbing.

Says Morin of the Duranes neighborhood home, “What is most unique is the incredible amount of insulation on the home’s exterior and roof.”

Both old and new portions of the home are wrapped with two inches of R13 rigid insulation. The roof and ceiling combined offers R-60 insulation, compared to the more common standard of R-38. As a result, the heating and cooling loads are minimal.

Water efficiency is also a high expectation in our arid environment. The canales on the home built by Rose Morin, for example, drain to a new gravel swale for infiltration and tree watering. Pervious surfaces replace paving, and low-flow water fixtures are standard.

Similarly, recycled or salvaged materials have reduced the need for dumpsters on many new building sites. Local materials were selected for low maintenance at the Joanne Calkins residence at 3699 Anderson SE designed by Cadmon Whitty. Straw bales wrap the original home to facilitate reduced heating and cooling. Recycled wood, some picked up on Craig’s List, has been used for stairs, decks, doors and cabinets.

Each of the featured homes in the GreenBuilt tour has been green-certified. Some of the homes meet criteria for Green NM or the LEED for Homes rating systems.

Pre-tour activities include a reception, ceremony, and music from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, ($25) at the Southwest Green Building Center. Reservations are required at www.usgbcnm.org, then click on “chapter events.”

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