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Why Build Better: A Look at the Layers of Energy Star Homes

"Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works." -Steve Jobs

Laying the foundation at 630 S River Street

When we were in the planning and design phase of our build at 630 S River Street in Hailey, ID, we were certain from the beginning that we wanted this home to be Energy Star Certified. But what does that mean? How do you know when you walk into an Energy Star Certified home that the home is green? Like Jobs' quote, being Energy Star has everything to do with how the home works and less with how it looks. As an owner of an Energy Star home, you will notice improved comfort in your home's temperature, air quality, and monthly utility bills that are well below average. But how does the home achieve those characteristics?

Several systems within a home must all work together to achieve Energy Star Certification. Some of those systems we can see, like high-performing windows, efficient LED lighting and Energy Star appliances. But behind the walls, and below the surface are other systems that contribute to a home's efficiency. Here is a brief highlight of one of those systems and how it helps you achieve that comfortable, low-cost and efficient atmosphere.

Thermal Enclosure System

Let's start with some basics. When we heat a home, we want that warm air to stay indoors. We don't want it to escape through the walls. Likewise, and depending on where you live, you don't want hot air creeping into your cool, conditioned, interior space. An Energy Star Certified home minimizes the amount of heat being exchanged between the interior and exterior of a home. Here's one way how:

Insulated Concrete Forms

Insulated Concrete Forms (ICFs) provide a permanent thermal framework for a home's foundation and walls. The forms are like building blocks (or Legos) that are linked together. Rebar is placed inside the ICFs to provide structural strength, and then the forms are filled with concrete.

Insulated concrete forms are used here for the home's foundation.

Here at River Street, we used Build Block ICFs to greatly reduce the amount of heat that gets transferred between the home's exterior and interior. This system, along with advanced framing techniques, raised heel roof trusses and ZIP System plywood sheathing result is a quieter, more temperate and efficient home.

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