How To Build A Energy Efficient House


Design, materials contribute to couple’s energy efficiency goal



As Sangamon State University students in the 1970s, Harv Koplo and his future wife, Annette, had a deep interest in eco-friendly design.

Some 30 years later, after their son gradu­ated from Northwestern University, the Ko-plos decided to put that interest into practice.

The couple chose sustainable materials and “green” design techniques to build a sprawling, ranch-style home on Spaulding Orchard Road near Chatham. After years of discussion and planning, the Koplos are now

settling into their new home.

According to Jim Johnston of Sustainable Springfield Inc., the Koplos’ house is one of the first locally to include building materials and practices that have been successfully used in other parts of the country.

It wasn’t an easy process, but Harv Koplo said that with research, a little creativity and determination, an efficient, environmentally friendly home is within reach of nearly any­one.

Koplo used a photo slideshow to describe the building process from start to finish Monday night during a presentation spon­sored by Sustainable Springfield Inc., a non­profit organization that promotes environ­mental advocacy and education. More than 30 people attended the event at the Dove Conference Center in the Prairie Heart Insti­tute.

“Plan in advance so you know what you want instead of realizing what you want later

on,” Koplo advised, noting that one of the couple’s biggest goals was energy efficiency.

“We wanted to create a tight envelope so we could control the environment (inside the house) instead of leaving it up to the ele­ments,” he said.

Besides insulating the home’s foundation with 2-inch-thick extruded polystyrene, they used 2-by-6-foot studs for the frame instead of the traditional 2-by-4s to accommodate thicker insulation.

And instead of using blown fiberglass — which air passes through, Koplo said — dense wet cellulose (recycled newspaper) was put into the walls and dry cellulose in the ceilings.

For heating and cooling, they chose a pas­sive solar design. Koplo recommended the book “The Solar House” by Daniel D. Chiras for tips.

The home is oriented with large windows on the southeast, south and southwest sides

to draw in heat from the morning and after­noon sun. To avoid overheating, Koplo said, he had a cement thermal mass wall built in­side the home that assumes the temperature of the air around it, soaking up the heat and giving it off when the surrounding air be­comes cool.

There also is an open floor plan to keep air circulating.

Koplo further explained how 2-kilowatt photovoltaic panels were installed on the roof to generate the home’s electricity.

A natural gas stove/convection oven bakes food in 80 percent of the time called for in recipes, while the Koplos opted for a high-ef­ficiency heat pump heating/cooling system, ceiling fans throughout the house and an air exchanger to refresh air inside the home, among other techniques.

For hot water, a recirculation pump on the line provides it in­stantly and saves on the amount used, Koplo said. A solar hot water heater was installed on the roof, and the home’s downspouts run water into special roof wash­ers, which filter the water and run it into a cistern that already exist­ed on the property.

Some of the building materials included Lyptus wood, which grows in about 15 years and is used to replant the rain forests, for the main floor. The porch decking is made out of a wood look-a-like composed of recycled plastic bags and soda bottles.

While the floor of Harv Koplo’s in-home computer shop is made of recycled tires, the couple found a countertop made of recycled cardboard known as ShetkaStone for their master bathroom.

Koplo noted that while some techniques and materials are more expensive initially, they should pay for themselves in time.

“(Both) sustainable and afford­able can be hard to find” when se­lecting certain building materials, he admitted, adding that most contractors and subcontractors favor more traditional building methods as opposed to the less-utilized green techniques.

“Many will tell you there are a lot of things they don’t do. If they don’t, find someone else who will,” he said.

Amanda Reavy can be reached at 788-1525 or amanda. reavy @s/-r. com.


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