As green demolition contractors we are always on the lookout for innovative residential construction projects. By understanding new construction approaches, we can better understand industrial and commercial demolition services at the other end of a building’s life span. Today we’re taking a look at how one engineer created an incredibly resilient, comfortable concrete home. This project is especially interesting to us as concrete demolition contractors.
Eric Kessler, a retired Defense Department engineer and his wife, Chris, sought to build their perfect house, complete with their desired features, superior durability, and a small carbon footprint. Through scrupulous research the Kesslers’ quest was realized. The home they developed used the Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) method. Their new home can withstand nature’s harshest conditions, while providing a nearly flawless, extremely energy efficient indoor environment.
Building a Passive House
“I’m an engineer, not an architect,” reports Kessler. Thus, he meticulously considered his options and deeply explored the most up-to-date, energy efficient methods. He decided to model his house according to the conceptual framework of the German–U.S. group, the Passive House Institute.
The Passive House concept is among today’s most rigorous energy standards. It can slash heating and cooling energy consumption by up to 90%. One of the key features is geopositioning the house to maximize energy efficiency.
Kessler mapped the sun’s positioning in relation to the house location throughout the year. Thanks to extended, 2-foot window overhangs, windows will have 100 percent exposure to the sun on the shortest day of the year, to welcome in the sun’s heat, but will have zero exposure on the longest day of the year, to block it. He also added a row of trees that will keep the house cool and shaded in summer, but allow the sun’s warmth to heat it up in the summer.
Materials and Methods: Insulated Concrete Minimizes Energy Use
To apply the Insulated Concrete Forms method, Kessler decided to use polystyrene foam forms. These forms were 2.5 inches thick and designed to hold plastic spacers that keep the steel rebar in place. The forms were then filled with pumped concrete from the top down. Similar construction in the ceilings and floors creates a living space that is encapsulated in steel-reinforced, insulating foam-covered concrete.
Of course, the tightness of the resulting building envelope impacts the home’s interior. To create the ideal indoor environment, Kessler installed heating and cooling units that maintain a set temperature indoors all year. These units regulate the exchange of outside air with heated or cooled indoor air. Humidity is also controlled at this point in the passive house design. The concrete construction approach also allows for radiant floor heat, which Kessler opted to install. Finally, as the air exchange is filtered, the home is perfect for those with allergies, asthma, and other respiratory ailments. The air filter prevents most irritants from entering the home.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Recycling Concrete and Other Asset Recovery Methods.
Not only can recycled concrete make a fantastic house like the Kesslers’, it can also be used in new concrete, noise barriers, pavement base, drainage features, and steppingstones for raised garden beds, retaining walls and more.
Elder Demolition is one of the biggest concrete recyclers on the West Coast. By recycling thousands of tons of concrete from our demolition projects, we reduce buildings’ environmental impact while also providing value to our clients. Crushed concrete can be used for multiple purposes on site, from pipe bedding to road foundation material. To recycle concrete we removed it from buildings in giant pieces; rebar and other non-concrete components are then removed. While other demolition companies send concrete to recycling plants, we minimize fuel by recycling on site with our concrete crusher.
As cradle-to-cradle construction methods gain steam, we are excited to contribute to a greener construction/demolition cycle.