HGA - Fossil Fuel Free Home

The Hamptons Green Alliance announced its next project will have a goal to be Fossil Fuel Free. The project is experimental, a proof of concept, implementing unique means and methods of construction and incorporating emerging technologies, demonstrating their effectiveness. The electric grid is currently fossil fuel, we will unplug from the grid. Since this project is experimental, it is fitting that I take the risk to build it at my house. The project will include a 30' X 44' addition, three dormers to expand the second floor and a whole-house makeover, upgrading a home I built for our family 31 years ago.

Unplugging from the grid will be a rebellious demonstration, first to show it is possible in the luxurious environs of the Hamptons. Second, to draw attention to the project itself, the new means, methods and technologies implemented for a fossil fuel free, energy independent home. As we move from a transmitted electric grid to a distributed grid it is better homes stay connected to the grid so the electricity being generated during the day when no one is home will go onto the grid to feed electrons to commercial uses and shave off peak demand during the afternoon in the summer months when air conditioners are consuming the most electricity.

As Chair of the Town of East Hampton Energy Sustainability Committee, I led the Town to unanimously adopt a community wide 100% Renewable Goal. The DeepWater Wind 90 MW offshore wind project is projected to generate more electricity than the Town of East Hampton consumes thus achieving the 100% Renewable in Electricity Goal around 2022. When that occurs we will reconnect to the grid because the grid will no longer be generating its electricity from fossil fuels. The electricity will be generated by wind turbines 30 miles offshore in combination with electrical storage facilities to level out the intermittent production of electricity from wind turbines and shave off peak demand.

My inspiration for this project came from reading works written on Homeostasis in Buildings and TABS, Thermally Activated Building Systems by Dr. Lin-Shu Wang, an Associate Professor at Stony Brook University, One night Dr. Wang and I were brainstorming these concepts together I stopped and said, "I know how to build that." We were talking about biomimicry, how the body maintains temperature by circulating fluids. How the mass of the building can act as an energy reservoir, an energy battery both in heating and cooling. I immediately imagined combining certain technologies and construction means and methods in a unique way. At that time I was in the process of solving lessons learned from building the HGA House. With the solar thermal hot water system we were thinking about storing hot water. When there was not enough hot water we added another hot water storage tank. But it's not about storing hot water, we should have been thinking about storing heat, storing heat in the thermal mass of the building. In the summer we can store cooling in the mass of the building. Everything immediately became clear. This project will demonstrate the viability of these ideas.

The project commenced by pouring a geo-slab for the addition, a shallow frost protected, floating slab. This will provide thermal isolation from the ground. Embedded in the slab is an air system allowing hot air and cool air to circulate in 4" tubes throughout the reinforced 8" concrete slab. We will continue construction with a 6 3/4" high density foam, ICF, Insulated Concrete Forming system allowing the 8" concrete walls to be exposed on the inside to transmit the heating and cooling. Embedded in the concrete walls will be PEX tube for radiant heating and cooling. The roof system will be 12 1/2" SIPs Roof System, Structural Insulated Panels. The ICF and SIP will provide thermal isolation from the outside air environment. There will be no thermal bridging thus maximizing the thermal efficiency of the building. Heating will be provided by a solar thermal hot air system and a solar thermal hot water system. Cooling will be provided by groundwater, not mechanical cooling equipment, just circulating groundwater. We believe the groundwater will be too cold and will be heated up about ten degrees to maintain an absent 70 ℉. To prevent condensation from cooling, a whole-house dehumidification and ventilation system will be used. The ventilation will circulate fresh air for a healthy air exchange. This concept will indeed define a System Integrated Home as we defined it when we built the HGA House.

We have requested the trades and manufacturers provide content in more detail as construction proceeds. We wish to explain WHAT we are doing and HOW we do it. We hope this will become an inspiration to others in the building industry. We also hope this will become a more efficient standard in building. While certainly these systems are more sustainable, they also contribute to more resilient buildings. While ocean temperatures are increasing, from thermal expansion alone, sea levels will rise, storms will increasingly become stronger and more frequent. Building in the Hamptons and being surrounded by the ocean, our wind codes just increased from 110 MPH to 140 MPH. We are more conscience of building homes with increased structural integrity. This unique building system will be able to provide higher energy efficiency, higher structural integrity making them more sustainable, more resilient at an affordable cost.