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Model dwelling constructed at Appalachian to test energy-efficient construction methods

E3House_t.jpgBOONE—Students in the building science and appropriate technology programs at Appalachian State University are constructing a 500-square-foot house to test innovative technologies and building practices.  The structure is called the ASU E3 House. E3 stands for environment, economy and ecology.

Construction of the model house is a joint project of the Department of Technology and the Energy Center at Appalachian. Representatives from Better Building Products LLC and Huber Engineered Woods are assisting with the construction.

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Paul A. Brown with Better Building Products LLC, left, Appalachian State University graduate student Nick Hurst and Stuart C. Brock with Huber Engineered Woods, are part of a project to construct an energy efficient house that could be used in disaster relief settings. Called the ASU E3 House, the 500-square foot structure will be self-sufficient, generating electricity from solar panels, recapturing greywater, and collecting rainwater from the roof. (Photo by University Photographer Marie Freeman)

Graduate student Nick Hurst is the project manager. “The structure was initially envisioned as an alternative to trailers that were used for relief after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans,” he said. “The prototype dwelling has been designed for use in remote or disaster relief situations where electricity and access to public sanitation are unavailable.”

Unlike most compact and transportable shelters, the structure is designed to be self-sufficient, and adaptable to a variety of environmental and cultural situations. The design incorporates a blend of Structural Insulated Panels for assembly speed and strength combined with local construction techniques to create an energy-efficient envelope. It also can accommodate up to five occupants.

The building’s energy-efficient features include use of structural insulated panels (SIPs) for the building’s exterior walls and roof. The panels have an insulation R-value of 30, compared to an R-19 in typical home construction. The building also will have solar panels, which will generate energy needs for the occupants, a system to collect rainwater from the roof and low-flow plumbing fixtures.

“The building will be off the grid and totally self-sustaining,” Hurst said. “The goal is to construct something that could be taken into a disaster relief situation.”

In January, Neal Wilkinson, Better Building Products LLC product manager, and Paul A. Brown, company vice president, conducted a class on Structural Insulated Panels for students in  Appalachian’s chapter of the National Association of Homebuilders Student Builders.

More than 30 students attended the class where they saw samples of the SIP building materials and a PowerPoint presentation of the product’s applications.

After the Department of Technology expressed interest in using the materials for a possible structure on campus, Better Building Products LLC asked their suppliers to participate in the ASU E3 House project.  The structure’s green water resistive ZIP System Board exterior skin from Huber Engineered Woods of Charlotte was one of the many items donated to Appalachian’s Department of Technology to assist with the project. The SIP panels were constructed and donated by Better Building Products LLC, a North Carolina-based SIP manufacturer.

Hurst said students and faculty plan to take what they learn from the ASU E3 House and submit a project for inclusion in a future Solar Decathlon competition, held every two years in Washington, D.C.

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