In a first for Rhode Island, a local Narragansett homeowner has decided to construct a LEED gold standard home. The new house is the first in the state designed to meet the exacting standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council. The council has created a rating system with the label of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Its acronym is more commonly recognized: LEED.
Workers have taken steps to make the home as green as possible. For instance, when it's finished, construction will have produced far less waste material, thanks to builders making a focused effort on reducing scraps. Because toxic paints and glues were not used, the air inside should be healthier than in many buildings.
The house will be heated with radiant piping embedded in its floors. The source of the heat will be water drawn from a 750-foot well, engineered to produce a steady supply of 50-degree water. An electric-powered heat pump will pull energy from the groundwater and pump it into the heating system at temperatures that could range up to 100 degrees. In the summer, that same source will cool the house.
To prevent storm water from flowing off the property, the builders installed a collection system and placed a 2,000-gallon cistern in the ground. Water can be pumped back out to water the yard. Overflows from the cistern and the grounds are piped downhill to what was the basement of the old cottage — now filled with gravel — allowing the water to seep back into the ground.
To minimize waste during construction, the builders ordered boards and beams as close to what was needed as possible. LEED allows no more than 10-percent waste to be generated, much less than conventional building projects.
To reduce energy use, every effort was made to buy locally.
Building the walls and roof with preformed panels of plywood and foam insulation is reducing labor and material costs. In conventional construction, builders first frame a house, sheathe it in plywood and then insulate it.
The photovoltaic cells on the roof should provide all the electricity the house will need, particularly because those needs have been reduced by the use of energy efficient appliances and LED lighting, which consumes a tiny fraction of the energy required by conventional lighting. The design should help the house consume about 50 to 60 percent of the energy used in a conventional house.
When the house is complete this summer, it should be able to operate without any outside source of electricity or heating oil.