Net-zero, post-frame go global

When it comes to building green post-frame houses, what works in Nappanee, Ind., can work equally well in villages in Ukraine and bordering East European countries Moldova and Belarus.

 For Borkholder Buildings, it’s this type of green-movement thinking that helped it earn NFBA’s Most Unique Post-Frame Application Award at the 2010 Frame Building Expo in Louisville, Ky.

Borkholder Buildings, a 47-year-old business with a New Energy Homes division, has introduced its zero-energy homes in the United States and the concept is being explored by international housing organizations.

Currently, the firm is working with The Fuller Center for Housing and Grace International to design and ship small, economical and energy-efficient post-frame houses to these Eastern European countries, as well as earthquake-ravaged Haiti, where immediate housing is needed. In Haiti, solar energy is being explored because of the lack of infrastructure needed to provide new homes with lighting and water.

“The proposed houses will be 20 x 20 houses with framing, insulations and steel exterior that will provide secure and attractive homes in rural areas,” says Dwayne Borkholder, the company’s president. Plans call for building sustainable villages with 200 to 400 net-zero energy homes, he said.

Net-zero buildings produce as much energy and power as they use. They are based on the concept of solar tri-generation, the simultaneous generation of cooling, heating and power using only energy from the sun. Features of a net-zero home include 10-inch-thick sidewalls, geothermal heating and cooling systems, a solar system that is integrated into a steel roof, insulation with high-recycled content, and reflective foils on all sides of the structure.

Borkholder says the company is currently working on two other features to improve homeowners’ standard of living worldwide.
A common fiberglass kitchen/bathroom wall will have built-in features, including a stool, sinks, drains and water supply lines. Moreover, a mini low-voltage solar system will run a circulating pump for water, a small refrigerator and water heater and compact fluorescent lights (CFL) or light-emitting diode (LED) lights.

Post-frame technology is not new to these Eastern European countries. Borkholder Buildings has been helping build post-frame churches, community buildings and houses there for more than 10 years.

Borkholder says that, particularly in Ukraine, post-frame construction “has a tremendous advantage” over traditional construction methods because concrete is not only expensive but highly controlled throughout the country.

“The net-zero home is designed to be low energy with a photovoltaic system,” says Borkholder. “Yet it is in an affordable price range, making it a green leader in all aspects. Post-frame keeps the framing affordable, provides large cavities for insulation, makes labor more efficient, and is unique from its competitors. To me, this is the ultimate in post-frame construction.”

Details make a difference

Main features:
• State-of-the-art, grid-tied solar
• Geothermal heating-cooling system
• Low-E insulated windows
• Materials with high recycled content
• 10-inch wall cavities
• Reflective foils on all sides of house 
• Steel roof, “cool color” paint system
• Energy Star,  “Green Ready” certified
• 80% fewer thermal breaks in walls
• Insulated concrete slab retains heat
Other features:
• Insulation uses reflective foils and insulations with 80% recyclable content.
• High-energy heel trusses
• All ductwork is in conditioned (not attic) space. Attic trusses designed to maximize space.
• Geothermal system uses one-third the energy of  98%-efficient gas furnace.
• Solar panels, detached two-car garage  not visible from the street.

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