Tuesday, March 31, 2009

LEED for Homes

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most well-known, visible rating system for energy efficient, high performance buildings today. A program of the US Green Building Council, LEED is taking the lead in educating professionals and consumers in the green building movement.

LEED for Homes was officially launched in February 2008, promoting the design and construction of high-performance green homes. As of March 2009, 1,504 homes had received LEED for Homes certification, and 8,993 had registered their intent to seek certification in one of its four progressive levels of green: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.

The LEED for Homes system awards certification based on point totals in eight categories. Categories include:

  • Innovation & Design Process
  • Location & Linkages
  • Sustainable Sites
  • Water Efficiency
  • Energy & Atmosphere
  • Materials and Resources
  • Indoor Environmental Quality
  • Awareness & Education
An important first step in building a LEED home is to interview and hire a LEED architect registered in your state to design your green home. After you have a home plan, your architect will help you find a qualified builder to construct the home and document certification points throughout the construction process. When the home is completed, a certified Rater inspects, tests, and certifies the home as Certified (45.0 points), Silver (60.0 points), Gold (75.0 points) and Platinum (90.0 points).

Energy savings is just one of the benefits of a LEED certified home. A green home that reaches a LEED Certified or LEED Silver status will enjoy a 30% reduction in energy usage over a conventional home. A LEED Gold home increases that savings significantly, using 48% less energy, while a LEED Platinum status home can see the biggest energy reduction - 50%-60%. (Home Energy Rating System (HERS) scores compared with International Energy Conservation Code standards).


Registered in NH, VT, ME, MA, NY, RI, and PA

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ragged Mountain Green Day

Bonin Architects was invited by the Ragged Mountain Resort to participate in their second annual Green Day Event March 14th.

Ragged Mountain is located in Danbury, NH, just an hour and a half drive from Boston. Established in 1964, Ragged Mountain is now positioned to be one of the fastest growing ski resorts and real estate development in New Hampshire with a master plan in place to develop the ski area into a four-season resort community which now includes 2000 acres.

The Green Day Event highlighted the steps Ragged Mountain Resort has done and is doing to provide an enjoyable skiing experience while being environmentally friendly and to provide general information on the daily impact a person makes on the environment. Environmentally-conscious businesses and vendors were invited to attend to educate guests on ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

Ragged Mountain is the only property in New Hampshire to have partnered with Audubon International to develop a comprehensive Natural Resources Management Plan to conserve biodiversity, promote sustainability, and maximize ecosystem management and ecological restoration. Over the next several years, Ragged Mountain will strive to become fully-certified as an Audubon International "Signature" Property.

We met many people at the Green Day event interested in learning more about sustainable design options in new green home construction utilizing options such as structural insulated panels, geothermal and solar techniques. If you missed seeing Bonin Architects at Ragged Mountain, visit us at another Green Event!

Photos courtesy of Ragged Mountain Resort

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Green Homes Outperform Conventional Homes

Green homes stem from an overall concert for their environment. Their design, materials, and systems set them apart from conventional homes. For example, green homes outperform conventional homes these areas:

Environment / Site: Landscaping which focuses on using native plants has a positive effect on the site by reducing irrigation, pesticides, and fertilizers. Tree selection and preservation can reduce energy costs by creating buffers from winter winds and providing shade for summer.

Home Design: Using passive solar design techniques such as maximizing southern exposure and south-facing windows helps keep the home warm in winter and increases natural light. Green homes have a minimal footprint, which keep energy costs low.

Exterior Shell: Energy efficient materials such as SIPs panels (structural insulated panels) and ICF (insulated concrete form) foundations provide a thermal barrier against winter cold and summer heat. Energy efficient windows with low-E coatings reflect infrared light which helps heat the home in winter and cool the home in summer.

Building Materials: Durable, low maintenance, recycled materials for the roof, siding, decks, porches, trim, and fencing reduce replacement costs, save money on installation, protect against water and insects, and provide longer warranties. Purchasing pre-built factory components uses raw materials efficiently, reduces on-site waste, and energy costs to deliver materials to the site.

Heating, Cooling, and Water Systems: Green homes use less energy than conventional homes. Having heating and cooling equipment and water systems correctly sized for the home saves money. Water conservation techniques such as reducing overall consumption by specifying low-flow water fixtures, low-flush or composting toilets, installing aerators on all taps and nozzles and installing grey water systems reduces energy costs and water usage. Solar and geothermal systems heat and cool the space in green homes and provide hot water, reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

Interior: Green homes include natural interior products such as Marmoleum (made with flax, rosins, and wood fiber), wood, concrete, wool carpet, tile, local slate, and cork. Also, low odor / low VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and environmentally-friendly finishes for wood and stone help create a healthy indoor environment. ENERGY STAR appliances contribute, using an average of 30% less energy over standard appliances.

Green homes are designed to combine systems, materials, and features reduce energy and impact to the surrounding environment. Naturally you have questions. Consult with a green architect to design an energy efficient home you will be able to enjoy for years to come.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

ENERGY STAR® Architect – Home Plan Designer

Most Americans planning to build or buy a home are concerned with energy efficiency – and rightly so. In response to this need, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy joined together to develop the ENERGY STAR® program, which works with over 12,000 public and private sector organizations that ensure energy efficient products and practices to help reduce energy bills, improve comfort, and help protect the environment.

Recognizing an energy efficient home starts with a good home design, ENERGY STAR recently formed a new partnership with Architects and Home Plan Designers who are qualified to design homes to earn the ENERGY STAR label. Bonin Architects became an ENERGY STAR Architect / Home Plan Designer partner in December.

All ENERGY STAR homes include energy-efficient details and specifications for features such as tight construction and duct systems, properly-installed insulation, high performance windows, efficient heating and cooling equipment, and ENERGY STAR qualified lighting and appliances to reduce energy costs by 20 to 30 percent.

After the home is built, an independent ENERGY STAR Rater calculates and tests the energy efficiency of the home and submits the results to ENERGY STAR for approval, and you enjoy the savings!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tax Credits for New Green Homes

Tax credits for new green homes are better than ever! A 30% tax credit (including labor and installation), with no upper limit, is available for consumers building new homes (through 2016) for:
  • Photovoltaics
  • Solar Water Heaters
  • Geothermal Heat Pumps
  • Small Wind Energy Systems
  • Fuel Cells (for primary residences only)
The credit for photovoltaic, solar water heaters, geothermal heat pumps, and small wind energy systems does not have to be for your principal residence; so, rental units, second homes, etc... are all eligible.

For more information, see
2008 IRS Form 5695 to help you further with this provision.

There is a $2,000 tax credit for building a new energy efficient home, but it is ONLY available to "eligible contractors"; therefore, owner/builders may not receive the builder tax credit unless employed as eligible contractors.

See Energy Star and the IRS for more information.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

NH Timber Frame Open House

Mark your calendar!
Newbury / Mt. Sunapee, NH
Saturday, March 21, 2009
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM

We're teaming up with Timberpeg® next weekend for an Open House Tour, which will start at 12:30 PM and be open for tours until 2:00. You'll be envious of its location - a lakefront lot on gorgeous Lake Sunapee and love the efficiency in the home's 2100 square feet. Designed for one-floor living, sustainability, and to capture views of the lake, the owner will be able to enjoy the home for years to come, well into retirement. Two guest bedrooms are located on the second floor with a center section loft sitting area that also feature views of the lake from the cathedral great room windows.

Designed for people planning to build energy efficient homes, our Free Green Home Seminar (yes, free!) will give you detailed information on green home design, energy efficient SIPs panels, timber frame homes, solar energy systems, geothermal heating, and current information on financing a new home. Directions to the Open House (minutes from the seminar) will be given out following the seminar.
Best Western Sunapee Lake Lodge
Saturday, March 21, 2009
10:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Bring your thoughts, ideas, and sketches (even if they're more like doodles) and we'll be happy to answer any questions before or after the seminar (and at the open house) to help you start thinking about your home design and what energy efficient materials and features you would like to put in your home.

Both events are free with registration - so give us a call or register online today! Still not sure you should attend? Check out the highlights of our last green seminar!

Timber frame home photo courtesy of Timberpeg®

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


There is a lot of talk about energy efficient homes and ENERGY STAR®. ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy that provides information, training, and certification of products and practices to help homeowners save money and protect the environment.

By making your green home compliant with ENERGY STAR standards, you will enjoy a savings of at least 20%-30% in energy costs (more if you use structural insulated panels), and create a healthy indoor environment for your family while reducing air pollutants, dust, and drafts, and increasing the value of your home.

An ENERGY STAR home has five major components that a conventional home might not have:

1. High performance insulation: probably the biggest savings in energy costs in your home. We recommend using structural insulated panels, which create a continuous thermal building envelope.

2. Energy efficient windows

3. Tight Building Envelope: sealing heating & cooling duct systems

4. Efficient Heating and Cooling Systems

5. Efficient Products.
ENERGY STAR products and appliances make a significant contribution toward energy savings in a green home.

Make sure you hire a "green architect" who is knowledgeable in green home design, the Energy star program, and energy efficient products. After the home is built, you will need to have an independent ENERGY STAR qualified Home Energy Rater evaluate your home to be certified as an ENERY STAR home. After approval, the only thing left to do is to enjoy the comfort of your new energy efficient home, marvel at your low energy bills, and admire your ENERGY STAR label on your home’s breaker box!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Green Events: Home Design & Building Seminars

Green is all the rave – everywhere you look you can find information on green materials and building products. Most of the people we meet at home shows are looking to build the most energy efficient home they can afford, but, in their efforts to research energy efficient homes, have been besieged with green systems, green technologies, green materials, and green businesses and services who will install them.

Our philosophy is that anything that can be done better and is financially feasible, should be done. In order to encourage and promote green building and sustainable construction practices, technologies, materials and energy conservation, we team with builders and renewable energy experts to host seminars on designing and building green homes.

Our seminars feature specific topics: Green Home Design, SIP panels (structural insulated panels), Timber Frame Homes, and Renewable Energy Systems. We emphasize the fact that a green home starts with a green home design, and so naturally the first topic discusses the aspects of green home design and what it means to be “sustainable”. This presentation includes passive and active design, guiding principles, and the phases of home design.

We recommend using SIP panels to clients, whether or not they are interested in building a timber frame home. SIP panels create a high performance, continuous thermal envelope which keeps the home warm in winter and cold in summer. Timber frames, a specialty green building system, are not only energy efficient but beautiful as well. Hybrid homes (utilizing two or more building systems, i.e. a home with a timber frame main section and SIP panel wings for bedrooms, bathroom, etc.) are very popular, as they create visual interest in specific areas of the home for generally less money.

What have our guests said about our seminars? Here are two comments we received:

“We have been attending home shows, seminars, and visiting log cabin / timber frame manufacturers for the past eight years and have not gotten half as much out of the time as we did from your seminar.”

“Thank you for preparing such a well-organized, informational day. We really enjoyed all of the speakers and learned so much.”

We also have guests tell us they were not going to use an architect for their home design, but the seminar showed them the benefits of working with a design professional:

“Jeremy's presentation was brilliant and made more sense than all the reading and on-line investigating I've been doing. I had not been considering working with an architect before, but am convinced now that I should."

For a list of our upcoming seminars on building a green home, visit our green events page. Together we can make a difference – one green home at a time.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

What is a "Green Home"?

Green homes enjoy significant savings over conventional homes – but what makes a home green?

Typically, a green home is an energy efficient home that at minimum saves 30% in energy costs versus a conventional new home (and savings can be significantly higher), conserves water, protects the surrounding site environment, uses non-toxic paints and finishes, and thus creates a healthy living space for you and your family.

Most important in building a green home is to hire professionals who are experts in the field. Consider working with an architect who is a LEED accredited professional, even if you are not looking to have your new home LEED certified. A green home starts with a green home design, or "sustainable" design, which addresses the elements of geography, site, water efficiency, energy, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality, and a
LEED architect has expertise in these areas.

A key benefit of working with an architect focused on the sustainable aspects of design & construction is that the home will be designed to maximize spatial requirements as well as energy and water consumption while limiting the negative impact of the building on the immediate environment. Also, a green architect will discuss with you various green technologies, renewable energy systems, green building products, and energy efficient building systems that will match your goals and budget.

Also, you will want to interview builders and visit homes, both completed and under construction. Ask what makes their show house green, as well as specific questions about the systems and materials in the home. An experienced green builder will be able to offer simple explanations and give recommendations as to best products to use.

Throughout the home building process, your architect and builder will educate you on the operation and maintenance of the green materials and systems you selected for your home. The benefits and savings will begin during the construction process and continue for the life of the home.