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House of the Future

What does the future of home construction look like? Green building consultant and author Robin Pharo is blazing a new trail, and soon the entire building industry may be following in her footsteps.

Pharo and her team were determined to prove that energy-efficient homes were possible without significantly raising the cost of home construction. They adopted a “best of” approach, identifying as many different energy-saving ideas as they could find that were already in common practice and didn’t come with a hefty price tag. They called it the “House of the Future,” and they just might be right. What they designed was a stylish, modern, affordable home with yearly heating and cooling costs projected at only $700 or less. And it wasn’t just for show. Pharo herself planned to move into the home when it was ready.

Teaming up with Encore Construction and Windsor Building Systems, Pharo launched construction of the House of the Future just outside of Madison, Wisconsin. An important part of the construction process was the use of engineered wood products. In particular, Pharo specified LP® SmartSide® Trim & Siding for the exterior paneling, trim, soffit, and fascia for both environmental and trim and siding performance reasons. LP® Building Products became a sponsor for the project.

“I personally love SmartSide and the story behind it,” said Pharo. “I know that LP uses wood sourced from SFI certified forest management and fiber sourcing systems, which is important to me. Plus, LP uses the whole log in their manufacturing process so there’s minimal waste.”

Pharo also noted that all LP SmartSide products in the home were produced locally at a manufacturing facility in Tomahawk, Wis., so that the carbon footprint of transporting the building materials was kept to a minimum as well.

Next, Pharo and her team tested out 16 different wall assemblies to determine the optimal thermal resistance at the best cost. The result, Pharo explained, was a unique R37.9 design that would add only $3,000 total cost to a 2,000 sq. ft. home. Included in the wall assembly were LP® SolidStart® Laminated Strand Lumber (manufactured in Maine) and LP® OSB sheathing. “The wall assembly is a huge win for us,” said Pharo. “We’ll be using it in almost all of our projects going forward.”

Windsor Building Systems was responsible for framing the home, including the sub-flooring, wall panels, roof trusses, floor and roof sheathing, and more. Engineered wood products were utilized in every area, including LP® TopNotch® Sub-Flooring.

“This project is bringing new awareness of what can be accomplished right here and right now,” said Virgil Waugh, president of Windsor Building Systems. “If a homebuilder takes just one idea from this home and puts it to work, that’s one step further along the road to environmentally sound home construction.”

Beyond the building materials, Pharo selected a geothermal system capable of both heating and cooling the home for only three cents per kilowatt-hour according to her calculations. And she incorporated an iPad application that centralized control of the home’s many mechanical and electrical systems into the palm of her hand.

Pharo is now at home in her “House of the Future,” hosting numerous open houses and other events to showcase its unique architecture and construction process. Numerous articles have already appeared in construction industry and green living magazines, with more on the way. Perhaps most importantly, the affordable building practices demonstrated here will soon be replicated in other homes.

Visit Pharo's website!

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