BASF Opens Near-Zero Energy Home

July 17, 2006
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A REHAU radiant floor heating system is integrated into the poured concrete floor systems supported by insulated, lightweight EPS forms on the first and second floors.
PATERSON, N.J. - The BASF Corp. recently hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate its Near-Zero Energy Home, Paterson, N.J. The home is a demonstration that BASF describes as "80 percent more energy efficient, more durable, and faster to construct than conventionally built homes."

BASF, along with more than 150 of its customers and strategic allies, built the Near-Zero Energy Home to exemplify how BASF chemistry helps further energy saving, durable, sustainable, and affordable building practices. The project was designed to achieve a 95.5 Home Energy Rating Systems Energy Star® score and is a prototype for the U.S. Green Building Council's newly launched rating system for the energy efficiency and environmental impact of homes.

"We have constructed this home in order to inspire home-owners, builders, and architects locally, as well as nationally," said Klaus Peter Löbbe, chairman and CEO of BASF Corp. "We want them to know that sustainable, energy efficient, and disaster resistant homes are not a concept of the future, but a reality today.

"Homes based on the technologies demonstrated here are accessible to real people at affordable prices."

Löbbe explained that this project is part of BASF's international Better Home, Better Planet Initiative aimed at creating similar models of excellence in building and construction worldwide.

"Today, from here in Paterson, N.J., we are extending the reach of BASF's Better Home, Better Planet Initiative," he said.

"We have partnered with the United Nations to provide similar technologies for tsunami relief projects in Sri Lanka and India, and are working in the U.S. Gulf Coast region to provide energy-saving, disaster-resistant buildings to replace those lost in hurricane-ravaged areas."

MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT

The Near-Zero Energy Home features an HVAC system designed by Steven Winter Associates Inc., Norwalk, Conn. The system includes a Viessmann high-efficiency condensing boiler, which provides heat to the radiant floor, as well as to an indirect water heater (when solar heat is insufficient).

"We had worked with BASF in the past, usually involving building systems research, new products, market needs, etc., mostly with foam plastic insulation and various building related applications," said William Zoeller, senior architect at Steven Winter Associates Inc.

"They approached us with the concept house idea and asked if we were interested. We actually did much more than the HVAC and consulted on all the building design and material issues as well.

"We did implement many of the lessons we have learned on advanced systems over the years including architecture/systems integration and compact distribution (better building envelopes allow smaller more compact distribution), but this was mostly a custom application."

Workers install a network of cross-linked polyethylene (PEXa) on the basement floor before the concrete slab is poured. The radiant floor heating system works by circulating warm water through pipes placed in the floor, radiating heat evenly and consistently throughout the rooms.
A REHAU Inc. radiant floor heating system is integrated into the poured concrete floor systems supported by insulated, lightweight expandable polystyrene forms on the first and second floors, as well as in the concrete slab in the basement. The radiant floor heating system works by circulating warm water through a network of cross-linked polyethylene (PEXa) pipes placed in the floor. The surface area of the floor gently radiates heat evenly and consistently throughout the room.

Also from REHAU, is a plastic plumbing manifold that acts as a control center to feed hot and cold water through flexible supply lines to individual fixtures. Together with flexible plastic piping, plastic manifolds offer installation-related cost advantages over conventional plumbing systems.

The home features a two-stage, variable-speed Amana air conditioning system and UltimateAir® RecoupAerator® whole-house energy recovery ventilator (ERV) with carbon dioxide control and outdoor air filtration. The ERV improves IAQ by continually supplying clean, fresh air while helping to control indoor temperature and humidity levels.

"Radiant appeals to mainstream thinking because comfort is needed during the heating system and there isn't always a need or desire for a central cooling system," Zoeller said.

"It is a more expensive option than other hydronic distributions, but is more comfortable, and being compatible with condensing gas boilers, can be more efficient than systems using standard boilers."

A Siemens automated home control and security system with touchscreen programming has been installed to allow the occupants to control the heating, cooling, and other systems within the house.

The Near-Zero Energy Home in Paterson N.J. during its construction phase.

SOLAR IS A KEY COMPONENT

The Near-Zero Energy Home also harnesses the power of the sun to generate electricity and heat water. As a result, the home draws almost no power from the grid, greatly reducing utility costs. Two solar energy systems are integrated into the BASF ULTRA-Cool® coated metal roof from Englert.

Ovonic Solar photovoltaic (PV) laminates are flexible, light-weight, and made durable by encapsulation in UV stabilized polymers. The Englert metal roof has a uniformly flat surface, allowing for custom paint colors to match the laminates.

When the installation is completed, the building integrated photovoltaic panels (BIPV) system will generate an average of 10-12 kWh of electricity each day from solar energy. If the BIPV system supplies more electricity than the house requires, solar electricity will turn the utility meter backwards and reduce or eliminate the utility bill allowing the home to be Near-Zero Energy.

The Dawn Solar Thermal System building is mounted under the south facing roof above the second floor. The entire system is positioned between the attic roof and the outside roof covering.

The home’s interior features radiant floor heat, provided to in-floor tubing by a Viessmann high-efficiency condensing boiler.
The steel standing-seam roof becomes a component of the solar collector, heating the water-glycol mixture that is circulated through the crosslinked polyethylene tubing. On sunny days, the water normally warms to between 60° and 80°F above the ambient air temperature, which is a lower temperature than those produced by traditional, externally mounted, glazed solar collectors.

The system will harvest solar energy as heat, whenever available, to offset the fossil fuels and electricity used for heating domestic hot water. Additionally, the solar thermal system and the solar electric (PV) system interact synergistically, with the PV system's performance improving as a result of the solar thermal system cooling the PV system as it (the solar thermal system) moves the heat energy from the roof to the solar storage tank.

Zoeller commented on the ideal scenario for using solar power. "To truly be economically viable, PV needs four things: expensive electricity; time-of-use electric rates; net-metering; and subsidies (given current product costs)," he said.

"California comes closest to matching these requirements, therefore that's where most of the PV in the United States is located. It is doubtful if the product cost will lower significantly, or if product efficiency will rise significantly, so market penetration will be dictated by the listed factors."

The home’s hybrid mechanical system also includes a Dawn Solar Thermal System, a two-stage, variable-speed Amana air-conditioning system, and UltimateAir® RecoupAerator® whole-house energy recovery ventilator (ERV).

ADVANTAGES OF HYBRID

The project showed that building owners could realize immediate benefits from the reliability and operational simplicity of these modern integrated mechanical systems. Meanwhile, building science professionals can gain potential Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDâ„¢) points and minimize - if not eliminate - project complexities associated with aesthetic design issues, design approvals, homeowners' association compliance, regulatory issues, permits, or interconnection into the power grid.

"In this home, the hybrid system refers to radiant floor heating and ducted cooling," said Zoeller. "In this case the drivers are energy efficiency and comfort. Radiant heating is the best for comfort, but radiant cooling doesn't dehumidify, so a more conventional cooling approach was used, albeit a very efficient one [16 SEER]. The radiant floor heating uses a condensing gas boiler, which will only operate under peak efficiency with lower operating temperatures, which is compatible with radiant heating."

The Near-Zero Energy Home will be the site for a number of seminars and tours to architects, builders, government officials, homeowners, realtors, financial institutions, and other interested parties throughout the summer of 2006.

Once the demonstration phases are completed, the home will be donated to St. Michael's Housing Corp. This organization will then turn over the home to a local family with a quadriplegic boy. As such, the project is also designed to showcase elements of accessible design.

Strategic allies of the BASF Better Home, Better Planet Initiative: Near-Zero Energy Home -Paterson, N.J., include: Chrisner Group; City of Paterson, Environmental Design + Construction, GRAD Associates, Green Ideasâ„¢, Insulspan, KBI Contractors, MBDC, New Jersey Energy Star Program, American Polysteel, St. Michael Housing Authority, Steven Winter and Associates, Sustainable Buildings Industry Council, New Jersey Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, U.S. Housing and Urban Development's PATH Program, and the U.S. Department of Energy. For more information, visit www.betterhomebetterplanet.com.

BASF, headquartered in New Jersey, is the North American affiliate of BASF AG, Ludwigshafen, Germany. For more information about BASF's North American operations visit www.basf.com/usa.

Publication date: 07/17/2006

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