We ventured into the 100 degree heat to gawk and gander at cool houses. Yep, it was Cool House Tour 2011 in Austin today, and we visited one shy of half dozen of the 16 homes on the tour (it takes a long time per house when you have lots of questions…). Put on every year by the Texas Solar Energy Society and the Austin Energy Green Building Program, it’s a great way to get inspired to be energy efficient (and save a little green!).
The homes are the listed attraction, but the real hoot is interacting with the owners who are pleasantly obsessed with the energy efficiency and greenery of their homes and are more than eager to talk in detail about it (crowds would literally form about these folks). Plus, I got into a friendly argument with a woodworker about geothermal (me: “I have a degree in geophysics and have concerns about heat transfer in dense chalk.” he: “I did experiments in high school. I know it works.”).
Stuff we learned:
- You can get motorized windows for your clerestory (assuming you have one).
- Our current countertop choice looks awesome.
- Kohler make a nice cubist bathroom sink.
- There’s some nice composite planking out there.
- Pervious plastic paving material is pretty darn cool (and it’s pervious!)
- One homeowner said to use blown-in-wall cellulose in walls and spray foam in attic (this said from a waste perspective since spray foam in the wall has to be cut back and the waste can’t be used).
- If you get a multi-zone HVAC, get one with three lead dampers because the interface is badass. The homeowner said he could send heat to one room and AC to another if he wanted to through a Star Trek-like touch screen interface. However, because of compatibility problems with his system, he was downgraded to two-lead dampers. Not. As. Cool.
- Tall ceilings just feel right.
- Oak plywood, edge-up, looks freakin’ awesome on steps.
- Base trim that consists of, from the bottom up, 1”x4” wood, then a 1” gap, then 1”x1” wood looks pretty cool and modern.
- If your bathroom consists of three walls of glass block on the south side of your five-star house, it gets a little warm in there.
- You can now hook rainwater up to your toilets (visited the first house in Texas to have (legal) dual plumbing [city and rainwater]).
- It’s a good idea to have a single shutoff for all of your external hose bibs for when it freezes.
- You prolly should worry about heat gain and loss through the edge of your slab (if you are on a slab).
- Aline the vertical relief seams in stucco with each vertical edge of the windows and doors else you will get cracks.