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Pump Pump It Up : How do Air Source Heat Pumps stack up against other systems?

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Imagine a world where you can heat (and cool) your home without a “furnace”. Seems too good to be true, right? It’s not! There is a huge list of systems to choose from when it comes to heating your home. When you start to consider the various factors such as heating requirements, cost, and energy efficiency, we understand why you may feel overwhelmed by these decisions.  To make any educated decision about something as important as your home, it should be well researched. Getting it wrong can cost a lot of money and cause headaches. We are here to share our knowledge and help inform your decisions towards heating your home furnace- and fossil fuel-free with an air source heat pump.

 

Why use them?

1.     They offer flexibility

The small amount of equipment required and simple wall mounting system frees up space on your floor plan and allows climate control in different zones of your home.

2.     They save you money

Traditional forced air systems have large and loud mechanical elements which use a lot more electricity or fossil fuels to run and use precious square footage on your floor plan. (Cha-ching!) Other systems risk loss of heat when delivering the heated or cooled air to a space. (Cha-ching!) Air Source Heat Pumps deliver air directly into the desired zones.

3.     They are quick and easy to install

A ductless system only requires enough room for a 3” conduit to connect between the interior unit and the exterior compressor. This makes installation faster and headache-free.

4.     They lower your carbon footprint…and help save the world

These electric systems run with much greater energy efficiency. Whether you decide to put a solar array on your home to provide for the home’s overall electricity demands or not, you are not using fossil fuels and therefore reducing your carbon output drastically. Win!

 

The first step towards achieving a thermally comfortable environment is to build an air tight envelope. This means taking measures to ensure that every crack, hole, and seam during construction is properly sealed so that conditioned air does not escape. It’s one of the tenets of high-performance building. Not only does a high-performance home offer advantages like lower maintenance and operating costs, material efficiency, and energy efficiency, one of the most significant advantages is its superior ability to maintain a healthy and comfortable indoor environment by way of a well-sealed exterior shell + filtered air exchange. While high-performance construction does most of your temperature control for you passively, you’ll want some way to either heat or cool your home during temperature extremes.

So now that we’ve wrapped up unnecessary heat loss, let’s compare some of the different systems out there.

Fossil Fuel-based Systems

We feel that one of the biggest mistakes that can be made while designing a home is installing a heating system fueled by propane, oil, or gas without considering an electric heat pump. Heating with fossil fuels can cost owners thousands of dollars a year in energy bills more than needed. The fuel truck pulls up to your drive way, fills up the tank and then drives away with all of your money in tow. Fuel costs can unexpectedly spike and are constantly in flux, leaving bills on your desk with charges that are unpredictable.  Burning fossil fuel is bad for the environment, and this central heating system doesn’t provide you with the additional advantages like air filtration and cooling that an air source heat pump system can.  Air source heat pumps do require electricity to run, but they can convert energy to heat at a rate of up to 3:1 versus the comparatively small conversion of your average furnace. It’s simply way more bang for your buck. And…if you add a solar array to your home your heat bills go to zero!

Ground Source Heat Pumps

Both air source and ground source heat pumps are environmentally friendly alternatives to central heating because they extract the heat from the surrounding environment and move it from one place to another, rather than combusting fuel to generate heat. But geothermal does have a few big drawbacks you might consider. Geothermal systems require underground tubing loops to harness the Earth’s natural heat. When the ground temperature is warmer than the air, the system delivers the warmer temperature to the house, and when the ground temperature is cooler than the air the system delivers the cooler temperature to the house. It’s a fantastic idea in theory, but the design of the system is extensive and expenses and maintenance can outweigh the efficiency advantages in certain climates. Ground source systems are incredibly dependent on factors such as climate, soil conditions, available land and local installation costs at the site, leaving many windows open for error (remember we warned you about those big holes in your home). One of the biggest risks with a ground-source heat pump is the fact that it's a one-off design. The size of the system is designed for the heating demands of the building and then buried in the ground. Forever. It’s a common industry practice to install a bigger pump than needed to compensate for any possible errors in design or installation. This guarantees functionality, but is overpowering for the requirements which will cost you efficiency and money. Air source heat pumps, while using the same technology are simpler systems that are entirely above ground. Issues in refrigerant loops or other system maintenance is all accessible and not as costly to repair/address.

Duct-less vs. Ducted Heat Pumps

Ducted and duct-less systems both work on the same principles. The big difference is in how the conditioned air is delivered. A duct-less unit delivers air to its designated zone in the home (one unit per zone). A ducted system will deliver air from one large unit through a network of ducts running in the walls. In a side by side comparison of duct-less and ducted heat pump (same heating load and air volume output) a ductless head is typically the more cost-effective system but depending on location, design and other factors, this may not always be the case. When a ducted heat pump system is applied in a high-performance house containing lots of insulation in the roof and walls, the ducts running in these areas are also well insulated, reducing heat-loss. The determination of whether to go with duct-less or ducted heat pumps is ultimately based on what environment you’re looking for in the individual spaces within your home. Duct-less units provide the ability to deliver individually controlled temperatures to each zone of the house they supply and can be shut off to conserve energy when desired. But too may single heads in a high-performance home can significantly impact the efficiency of the overall system. A ducted system will deliver one uniform temperature to the whole house. In cases where a duct-less unit is too powerful for zones that may have a lower load requirement than the rated size of the unit, a ducted system may be the option for you.

For more information contact us at info@brightbuilthome.com

Cooking Up Indoor Air Pollution?

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A few weeks ago, we discussed indoor air quality in high performance homes in our blog post, Breathe In, Breathe Out. We identified many of the indoor air pollutants that are prevalent in our homes, and now we want to address one of the most common (but very preventable) pollutants of them all: Cooking! 

While some construction materials do negatively affect overall air quality, it is often the daily activities of the occupants that significantly contribute to indoor air pollution. Assuming you cook 2-3 meals every day (it adds up quickly doesn’t it?), whether you’re making doughnuts for 100 or pasta puttanesca for one, what happens in the kitchen greatly affects the quality of air you breathe. 

So, what exactly is happening when you turn on your range and cook something up? Well, a range of things! If the cooktop you’re using is burning natural gas or propane, gasses such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde are expelled before a flame even ignites, and continue to feed it as you cook. On both gas and electric ranges, ultrafine particles of food can be left behind on burners and when heated become an unhealthy component of your air. For this reason, induction ranges are a great alternative option. They help to avoid both of these hazards - they heat the metal cookware directly which avoids burning any residual food particles and they can be powered by renewably sourced electricity! Even if you do switch out your standard appliance with an induction range, the food you’re cooking can still release water vapor, particles, and chemicals into the air too. Did you know that when you fry an egg in the morning, you’re also releasing hydrogen sulfide gas? No matter how you cook it up, you’re going to need a good solution to all this pollution. 

So, now what do you do? One answer is literally right in front of you! You know that appliance above your range that you occasionally bump your head on and makes some noise in the kitchen as you cook? It’s called a range hood and it exhausts the particles and polluted air right out of your kitchen... if you, don’t forget to turn it on! A study conducted by the Berkeley National Laboratory on Indoor Air Quality revealed that only 13% of people use the kitchen exhaust fan most of the time. Ten percent never use it and 21% don’t even have an exhaust fan. Only about a third of the participants in the study used the exhaust fan half the time or more. The most common reasons the participants gave for not using an exhaust fan was they thought it wasn’t necessary (48%). The next most common reason was noise (21%). 

In high performance homes, you need not rely on a range hood alone. In fact, you need not have one at all! ERVs or HRVs are continuously ventilating the air that moves throughout the house. As such, they remove air from kitchen spaces continuously. Yes, at a lower (and much much quieter!) rate than your average range hood, but continuously. So, unless you’re standing in front of the stove ready to prove you’re fit for The Great British Baking Show, you can rest assured that the ERV (or HRV) will do all the ventilating you need - and without that extra hole in your carefully-crafted, mindfully-sealed exterior walls. 

If you cook with a lot of grease, or you simply feel that you can’t live without a range hood, you do have a few options when it comes to choosing one that efficiently ventilates your kitchen without compromising your air balance. A recirculating hood is ductless, filtering out particulates from food and smoke, and returns the filtered air back into the house. This strategy does not require any penetrations in the exterior walls and allows for more flexibility with the placement of the appliance in the kitchen. The recirculating hood will maintain a consistent temperature and volume of air in your home as you cook, working in harmony with the high performance systems in the house. This option does require that you clean the filter frequently in order for it to be effective. However, placing the filter in the dishwasher often does the trick. 

Ducted hoods are more effective for getting rid of humidity and steam in addition to particulates because they exhaust out of the house completely. These hoods can exhaust air at various rates (measured in CFM, cubic feet per minute), and should be sized according to the size of the range you are using. Every time an exhaust fan removes air from your house, an equal volume of air must enter. In a high-performance home, where careful measures have been taken to seal the house’s envelope, too powerful a range hood can lead to depressurization, which is basically an air-flow imbalance. 

A standard range will call for a standard hood exhausting at a rate of 300 CFM or less. If a larger or commercial range is desired in the kitchen, it should be paired with a range hood that can keep up. This is where your decisions can impact the effectiveness of your high- performance systems. The IRC (international residential code) requires a makeup-air system for houses with 400+ CFM range hoods. This system does fix the air imbalance but it also creates more penetrations in the home’s envelope risking heat loss. A powered makeup-air system will temper the air that it brings in for a comfortable environment but will have a have a significant impact on your energy use and your wallet. 

Ultimately, the pieces of this cooking puzzle are up to you as a homeowner. If you want to keep your high performance home running as it was designed to, but you are exhausted by all of the options out there and you’d prefer to keep the formula simple, just remember: Recirculating or Ducted 300 CFM range hood + induction range = Healthy, clean air in your home!

Pre-fab-ulous: Why Pre-fab is just better!

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Have you heard about the guy who comes to your house after you’ve purchased a car and builds it in your driveway?

We haven’t either. Because it never happens.

We know cars are built on assembly lines in factories, and that assures us of consistency, quality, and pricing that is known at the outset of our purchase.

So why don’t we apply the same thought process to houses as well?  

Modular homes – built in pieces in factories and then transported and put together on site – are a good idea for similar reasons. And they’re certainly not the new house on the block! One of the earliest English settlements in the Americas was made up of structures that had been fabricated in pieces in England and then sent over on boats to what is now known as Massachusetts.

Yet since the 1600s, the United States has lagged behind other countries in production of pre-fabricated housing. The suburban sprawl style in the States has long supported an affordable and robust site-built housing market. Site-built may be popular, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right or best way for everyone. With the construction market constantly in flux, particularly these days, modular housing is quickly rising to the top. 

Okay then – what makes modular houses better?

Let’s go back to the climate-controlled factory. Inside this protected space, every day is the same as every other day. There won’t be moldy wood lurking in an interior wall or soaked insulation that has to be thrown away because it was left out in a rainstorm. The specifications that factory building allow for are incredibly precise. Consistency is easier to achieve in a controlled environment. Material purchases can be exact and any excess can be put to use elsewhere.

And what about the people actually doing the building? In a factory there are benefits and safety regulations not available on construction sites. There is a stable workforce with greater oversight and no delays because of weather or lack of people. Modular building provides a safer work environment with a more uniform and secure product.

While we’re discussing better working conditions, we might as well drive home the point that assembling a home indoors ultimately translates to superior home performance. Want your home to hit those passive house or net-zero standards? Building indoors grants a greater likelihood because, well, it essentially boils down to two questions… How thorough is that carpenter when standing out in the pouring rain? And how well does that tape or glue adhere when it’s -5 degrees out? From this perspective, the corollary between thorough, controlled construction and superior performance is clear.

The preposition “pre” means “previous to; before.” So yes, a modular house is fabricated before it arrives on its site and foundation. But “pre” is relevant to the rest of the pre-fabricated process as well – including the cost. The various features of modular building add up to a more predictable price of your new home purchase. On a site-built project, materials may have to be replaced, workers might not show up, and the whole thing can drag on and then add line after line to your final invoice. By nature of an assembly line, many of the unknowns that can add costs to a site-built home are eliminated.

When comparing apples to apples, modular housing is generally a more affordable way to build a new house. Factories allow for efficient working conditions and bulk purchasing (think buying power), so costs associated with materials, labor, waste, and fuel/transport are all minimized, which ultimately translates to savings for you. This means you can add more options from your wish list, get more house for your money, or invest in the sustainable features that will save you even more money in the long run.

And while the shipment of houses from England to the Massachusetts colony probably took an incredibly long time, in modern times, once it has been designed and constructed, your modular home will arrive on site very quickly! What’s that old saying about time being money?

When you’re moved in, with the money and time you’ve saved on your pre-fabricated house, then you can get to work helping to build the car in your driveway! 

Cumberland, Maine Open House on June 23rd from 1-4 pm

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We welcome you to tour our Foxbird model just minutes from Portland. The Foxbird is one of our newer ranch models and comes with an impressive vaulted ceiling in the living space. 

Location: Cumberland, Maine 
Date: Sunday, June 23rd
Time: 1 - 4 PM 

Foxbird gets it all on one floor with an open-plan living-dining-kitchen plus large walk-in pantry, mudroom entry, 3 large bedrooms including a master suite, plus a cozy office and same floor laundry. Indeed, empty-nesters and ranch-lovers gravitate toward this design that makes the best use of an efficient layout, and offers a substantial amount of added square footage for any family seeking to expand into a daylight or walkout basement, which is great ‘bang-for-your-buck” space that nearly doubles the size of the home.

Please RSVP below for details and directions.  We hope to see you there! 

What's In A Name?

Post card from another era of mobile home marketing.

Post card from another era of mobile home marketing.

It’s a mobile home! No, it’s manufactured! Wait, is it modular?

Mobile, manufactured, and modular tend to be used interchangeably when talking about pre-fabricated houses (that is to say, homes that are built off-site in a factory and then transported and set on their location). And two of them actually can be used to describe the same sort of house, while the third term is different.

Would you like to hazard a guess at which two are the same?

If you said “mobile and manufactured,” you are correct. Mobile home is the term used pre-1976 to describe a home built in a factory that could be set but with the possibility of somewhat easily being moved at a later time. As their popularity increased (they are an incredibly affordable way for someone to own their own home), the Department of Housing and Urban Development updated their regulations regarding the building of these homes to ensure quality and safety. The name of these homes was changed to “manufactured” in order to delineate homes that had been built according to the new code set forth by HUD. Pre-1976 styles of this home are still referred to as “mobile.” 

Manufactured homes are built in a factory – now with stricter codes and regulations to ensure their safety and durability – and then transported to their set location. They are built as one piece, and while they can be set on a basement, more often they are placed on a solid foundation, metal piers, or wooden pillars. These days, manufactured homes tend not to be moved frequently but there are special contractors who can pick them up and place them elsewhere.

So then what is modular?

Modular homes are also built off-site in a factory. Yet modular homes are built in multiple pieces, meaning the range of customization options is (almost) endless. Once transported to their designated site, the pieces are set next to and layered on top of each other to create the full home. After all the pieces are joined, modular homes often end up looking exactly like stick-built houses. The only true indicator that you are in a modular home one of the walls in the house is extra thick. Depending on the floor plan, it might take some sleuthing to find!

The bottom line is this: mobile and manufactured homes are, in effect, vehicles, while modular homes are, truly, HOUSES. This distinction means that a mobile/manufactured home need not meet the same strict regulatory, code, and performance standards of structural homes, but a modular home does – and then some.  In the case of BrightBuilt Home’s High Performance wall assembly, our homes – built in modules - are particularly robust and high quality homes. They are built in a protected environment so they arrive to the site weather-tight and ready to endure all the wind, rain, freezing, scorching, and raw elements that the environment can dish out.

First floor modules of a modular-built BrightBuilt Home coming together on set day. Two second-floor modules were set above these, for a completed 4 bedroom, 3 1/2 bath, 2900 square foot home.

First floor modules of a modular-built BrightBuilt Home coming together on set day. Two second-floor modules were set above these, for a completed 4 bedroom, 3 1/2 bath, 2900 square foot home.

Breathe In | Breathe Out 

High-performance homes are not only energy efficient, they also allow for "rooms to breathe"

When someone says “air pollution,” is the picture that comes to mind cars spewing exhaust? Maybe smoke billowing out of a factory? Or is it smog hanging above a city? In all of these scenarios, the air pollution is outside, but recently more research has been done to understand what air pollution looks like inside. And it doesn’t look good.
 
On average, humans today spend 90% of their time indoors. (Ninety Percent!) We work inside. We workout inside. We eat, sleep, and socialize inside. Our light comes from artificial sources…inside.
 
A recent New Yorker article follows a group of scientists who are studying exactly what indoor air pollution looks like. It comes from gas stove igniters, cooking fumes, cleaning chemicals, body sprays, and particles tracked in when we enter from outside. This recipe of indoor pollutants is made worse by keeping windows and doors closed tight, which we often do in an attempt to keep heat either in or out of our homes. When indoor climates also have excess moisture, the climate is ripe for mold and other insidious invaders, making our indoor air quality up to 5x more toxic than the outdoor air we’d presumed to be more hazardous.
 
Since we’ve imagined air pollution to exist in the outdoors for so long, our indoor spaces have come to be seen as healthy havens free from the most dangerous contaminants. Yet turning on the stove to cook or taking a long relaxing bath are not innocent activities. They in turn affect the indoor air quality – the air you are breathing 90% of the time.
 
Here at BrightBuilt Home, part of our tag-line reads “You can breathe clean air,” and we’re not kidding about that. All BrightBuilt homes are designed with air exchange systems, which effectively means the home is equipped with a healthy set of lungs that breathe out the toxins of your home and breathe in filtered fresh air. Historically, homes have relied on draftiness around windows, doors, and through chimneys for the inside air to exchange with the outside air.  For anyone living in a home of older vintage, one can only imagine what that air is passing by before reaching the interior spaces, and next, our lungs.   
 
High-performance homes are thoughtfully and well-crafted objects unto themselves. Walls are tight and insulated, along with close-fit windows and doors. This allows for ventilation to be more focused and controlled. There aren’t unexpected holes that air can enter and exit. Heat Recovery Ventilators and Energy Recovery Ventilators control the filtration and ventilation of air in both directions for a more streamlined and clean exchange of air.
 
We have designed our homes to be places that invigorate, spaces that feel fresh, and rooms that quell allergies or asthma rather than induce them. Plenty of sources of natural light and warmth from the sun help foster a strong visual and emotional connection to the outdoors, while the efficient heating, cooling and air exchange systems maintain thermal comfort. Home should be somewhere you feel happy and comfortable, not worried about toxins in the air. Cooking is going to happen. Baths should be a luxurious and calming experience. In a BrightBuilt home, you can do this and more, all while breathing good, clean air.

To learn more about how a home constructed using sustainable building practices can keep your indoor air clean and healthy, read our free Introductory Guide to Building a Green Home in New England.

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Next Open House - May 19th! Come see this stunning work-in-progress!

While the image above is from this house's day of assembly, we assure you the house will have more than just a roof when we open it to walk-throughs on Sunday, May 19th. 

Location: Cape Elizabeth, Maine 
Date: Sunday, May 19th 
Time: 10 AM - 1 PM 

With expansive views out to the gorgeous surroundings, the first floor features an open concept living-dining-kitchen, mudroom and powder room, and a cozy away room for quiet movie nights.  Upstairs, 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, and a laundry room make for both good living and good functionality.  With the addition of a partially finished basement, there will be much to explore, and many ways to envision different options for a possible future version of your own BrightBuilt Home! 

Please RSVP below for details and directions.  We hope to see you there! 

More on the Sebago Ranch

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We rolled out our new Sebago Ranch design a few weeks ago, and we were thrilled to see a very enthusiastic response.  Some follow-up questions are answered below!

I like a more contemporary look, is that possible? 
Indeed!  As indicated by the very different renderings shown above, you can "dress up" your Sebago in the clothing (or cladding!) that befits your style.  Whether you prefer a steeper-pitched roof with more cottage or classic lines, or a sleeker, low-slung frame with clean contemporary lines, we want you to have the aesthetic you like best.  Between the renderings above, the basic floor plan of the home is largely unchanged - showing the potential in simply changing the exterior look & feel of this design. 

How many square feet? 
The design offers 1,345 square feet of efficient living space. It is compact and smart, while still offering the rooms and amenities you would expect in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home.  

What is the footprint? 
As a ranch, it's long and trim. Our footprint falls within 28' x 72', with the garage in-line with the house. The footprint lands within 52' x48', if the garage is adjacent to the north (as in the third rendering above).

Can the mudroom and kitchen be swapped? Or bath 2 made smaller for a larger laundry area? Or can a closet be added by the garage entry? 
You bet! We're here to help align our designs with your needs and your site orientation. Modifications to interior layouts are always an option. 

How much does it cost? 
While there are many variables when it comes to building a new home (it's kind of like trying to get a price on "a bag of groceries"!), we anticipate this design will be one of our most cost-effective offerings, starting in the mid-$300k range. The final cost depends greatly on your site conditions and your finish choices, but if you're looking for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, net-zero home + 2 car-garage for under $400k, this might be a great fit for you!  Give us a holler today to see if it is indeed aligned with your budget and/or your site. 

The Top 3 Financial Incentives For You to Build Green Now

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For many homeowners, the decision whether to build a high-performance home is a financial one. If you have to make the decision between installing solar panels or getting a few more of the amenities on your wish list, it can be a difficult choice to make. However, if you look at your home as the long-term investment that it is, building green just makes sense.

If you compare two homes with the exact same layout and finishes, the high-performance one will indeed cost a little more to build than the less efficient home. One reason for this is that it requires more materials to construct super-insulated walls and to tightly seal the home to prevent air leaks. However, your overall savings in other areas make going green a good financial investment. Here we list the top 3 reasons why building green makes financial sense.

1. Reduce Your Monthly Expenses

High-performance homes provide immediate and significant savings on utility bills. In recent years, there’s been an upward trend in fossil fuel costs and, correspondingly, utility and electricity expenses. Oil prices have more than tripled in the past 20 years. And the oil we use to heat the majority of homes in New England is not likely to get any cheaper. Likewise, in just 14 years, the average price for residential electricity has increased by 65%—and it continues to trend upward.

If you have a typical home that uses an oil furnace and gets electricity from a grid that is fueled by coal, you can’t predict what your utility costs will be, but you know they are going to continue to increase over time as those resources get depleted. On the other hand, if you have a home that is powered by the infinite, free power of the sun, the monthly costs to heat, cool, and power your home will be predictably low as long as you live there.

2. The Technology is More Affordable

Early adopters of green home technology did pay more for the many benefits of a green home and took some risks on its performance. However, energy efficiency and solar technology have improved dramatically in the past couple decades, so this is no longer a valid excuse—the technology is proven, it’s better, and it’s more affordable.

Air-source heat pumps—the most common heating and cooling system for high-performance homes—can now operate at outdoor temperatures well below zero. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, they can deliver one and-a-half to three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes. You can’t say this about your oil furnace.

Solar panels have also vastly improved in their capacity for power production, while the cost to purchase and install them has decreased. These improvements have made building green not only affordable, but also potentially less expensive than a comparable newly built home that meets only code-minimum energy standards.

For a family of four, a net-zero home—a home that generates as much electricity as it uses—would offer an estimated savings of $400 per month, or $4,800 per year (based on the Department of Energy’s calculations for average energy costs for New England). Considering that the average time homeowners stay in their homes is 10-13 years, the cash savings over that time period is between $48,000 and $62,000. If factored over the life of a 30-year mortgage, the accumulated savings would equal $144,000 to $186,000 (not adjusted for inflation or compounding interest).

Given these projected savings, and assuming 10-year ownership, a net-zero homebuyer would have an additional $50,000 for the project at the outset. In other words, you get an extra $50,000 to spend up front, and yet you’ll still be spending the same as you would monthly if you had built a comparably sized home to code-minimum standards. This also assumes that there will be no change in fuel and electricity prices over these 10 years, which is an unlikely scenario.

This sum also does not account for the added lifestyle value of building green: filtered fresh air, consistent interior temperatures, and the peace and quiet of a well insulated home, to name a few.

3. Boost Your Home’s Resale Value

Several studies have shown that green homes for sale capture an average of 8%, and up to a whopping 30%, of added value over a conventionally built home of comparable size and location. That means that in the current market, high-performance homes are selling at a premium. Given that code-minimum home construction continues to outpace construction of high-performance homes, it stands to reason that high-performance homes will likely gain further value in years to come.

If you’re planning to build a new home and financial concerns are holding you back from going green, it’s time to let those concerns go and take a closer look at the true value of a high-performance home. Contact Brightbuilt Home today and find out how we can make your green home dreams a reality.

 

Features from our Latest Photo Shoot

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We've been having some fun with drone photography lately, and are gaining an entirely new perspective on our designs and net-zero in general.  We thought it would be fun to share some of these recent bird's eye views (and of course some pretty shots of the interiors, too!). 

If you'd like to learn more about this design, check out our Little Diamond online - where you'll see images from a different variation on the interior layout for this BrightBuilt Home.  Just goes to show that our base plans are simply a starting point - after which you can go in the direction that best suits your needs and lifestyle. 

Every single one of our homes is different. We've never built the same exact version of our plans twice! 

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Ask BrightBuilt

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Janis G. asked BrightBuilt: 
Do you have one level houses?

And BrightBuilt is delighted to say: 
Thank you for this great question, Janis! We do indeed have 3 designs that are specifically one level, and another 4 that are primarily geared toward single-level living, with ground floor master suites. Some examples of these designs are shown in the images above, and to learn more about each of them, you may see more images and download plans via the links below.  

Our original ranch, the Foxbird, makes good use of its 1700 square feet of space, with an open concept kitchen-living-dining area, 3 bedrooms (including a master suite with walk-in closet), second full bath, a sunny office nook, and generous mudroom. 

We’ve also recently launched our new Sebago Ranch. This design fits nearly the same amount of program as the Foxbird into a more modest package, for those homeowners who are seeking a comfortably sized family home in a tidier bundle.

And of course, the grandaddy of BrightBuilt Home, the BrightBuilt Barn was designed around the concept of compact, simple, prefab living. Within this design's typology, we offer studio, one bedroom, and 2 bedroom options, ranging from 670 square feet to 960 square feet of smart living space.   

The three designs that are not "strictly" one level, but feature ground floor master suites and thus can be primarily geared toward single-floor living include the Little Diamond, the Bungalow, the Appledore, and the Cushing.

And of course, if you're looking for something specific, and you're not seeing exactly what you need in our design portfolio, you can always work with us to develop a custom design (as featured in the right-hand smaller image of the photos above).  

Bottom line is that we're here to help, and we look forward to finding you your perfect fit. 

Rolling out our NEW Ranch!

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The Sebago Ranch has arrived.

We've had numerous inquiries for a smaller 3 BR, 2 bath home, and well...we hear ya!  We've been working hard to maximize on efficiency and affordability, while keeping the design fresh and contemporary.   

We would like to introduce our new ranch design, compact yet comfortable, and cost-effective.  With a 28'x48' footprint, and an attached 2-car garage, this design delivers big on amenities, but keeps it reined-in to help keep the numbers low.

Also, while we opted to go a bit more modern (pronounced mah-dairn, of course), if your leanings are more traditional, please know that we are happy to dress this plan up in a more classical coat. 

Subzero temps? No problem.

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A frigid February day and the snow was creakingly cold, but it was not a challenge for the crew!  Modules arrived, were set and connected by the end of the day.  That crane, by the way, was about 2 inches from the top of a concrete footing, now that's skillful parking! 
 
The top photo shows incoming module number 2. We always love watching the crane operator and boots on the ground maneuver the modules.  

The center photo shows the south orientation of the Living Room.  The room has been primed and is ready for finish paint.  Window and door casings are finish painted and we see a temporary ceiling, that will be opened up and, when finished, will reveal a lofty vaulted ceiling.  The windows on the floor, strapped in for transport, will be set into rough openings in the Basement Level.  

The lower photo is another fun shot of module number 2 coming in to meet the first placed unit, where you can see the Living Room on the right and a Bedroom on the left.  Pretty cool, huh?  We think so, in more ways than one!

Looking to Build? The time is now!

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The number of building permits issued post-recession has grown steadily nationwide, according to a recent article in Maine Biz. It’s not often that retirees and Millennials necessarily find themselves on common ground, but these two groups are working together to drive this trend. What does this mean for you, a forward-thinking person wanting to build a net-zero home? Open your planner, your smart phone calendar, or just grab a sharpie and write “START PLANNING OUR NEW HOME NOW!”

 

You see, according to the Census Bureau’s 2016 Survey of Construction, custom home build times are estimated to be 10-16 months, while production homes are estimated at 4-6 months.

 

That may be well and good, but as we enter this new year, certain trends in the industry may have an adverse effect on these estimated times.  For one, low unemployment – good on many fronts – has led to labor shortages in construction companies – bad on the home building front. As the Washington Post pointed out, increased tariffs on building materials means their price and availability have become less stable and less predictable. In addition, the construction industry has reported an 8% increase in backlog, meaning many companies are in the midst of finishing the old before being able to take on the new.

 

Up here in Maine we’ve experienced that many quality site-builders are booked out one to two years, and their subcontractors can be even further out. (Your house may be standing, but you’ll have no bathtub or shower for another year. Nobody wants that.)

 

Let’s also remember Mother Nature – her unpredictability is trending every year and 2019 is no exception. Weather - snow, sleet, rain, hail, excessive heat, strong winds, lightning - will happen.

 

Modular construction is subject to some of the same pressures of this year’s construction trends. As more people are enlightened to the ease, speed, and efficiency possible with modular technology, the demand for this building style has grown. There are a limited number of manufacturers making pre-fabricated buildings, and they now have a greater strain on their current capacity. The build time for a modular home will be short, but the “begin to build” could be an additional several months down the line.

Never fear! Though we don’t have a magic wand to wave and eliminate all of these pressures on the industry for you, we do have built-in solutions to help navigate around some of them. Off-site construction has the benefit of being sheltered from the elements, so production happens regardless of what Mother Nature throws our way. And even with the slightly longer waits for fabricated pieces to come out of the factories, the build time on site is not affected.

 

Trends often generate long lines. We’ve all witnessed the phenomenon of people waiting down the block to get a table at the most recent trendy brunch spot. As we’ve seen for 2019, trends in the construction industry have the same effect, but instead of waiting in line for one meal, you are waiting for the literal roof over your head! Let’s act on that note you wrote to yourself at the beginning of this article. Get in touch with us today and we’ll find a spot for you at the front of the line, helping your net-zero home become a reality this year. You can pass right by all the lines at those trendy breakfast places and make delicious waffles in the comfort of your own beautiful home.

Ask BrightBuilt

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This week's question was fielded by our founder, principal, and architect extraordinaire, Phil Kaplan... 

"I sell new construction, and am seeing homes that are steeply increasing in price due to rising costs in materials. Since BrightBuilt is made in a controlled environment, does this help offset some of these increases?"
                                                                    -B. Morrison, New Hampshire
 
There are a few reasons why offsite construction can save costs, and it comes down to both materials and labor savings.
 
For one, the bulk of the construction happens indoors (as you point out) which allows tradesmen to work efficiently and with greater accuracy, particularly through our New England winters. All processes are systematized and streamlined, with consistent quality checks.
 
Also, our factories who can work on up to 30+ houses in some phase at one time, and can order supplies in bulk and use them more efficiently. Less product waste and tremendous purchasing power means some of that savings can be passed on to you.
 
And for builders, not bringing building materials to a different site each time, or having your employees drive there, particularly in more rural locales, can be a huge relief. The burden of having to coordinate quality subcontractors, who are increasingly harder and harder to book, also goes away. If the day-to-day logistical scheduling became a thing of the past, how much time would that free up? Wouldn’t you pass off some of those savings to your own clients if it meant you got to work on well-designed, net zero homes that you could be proud of, that saved the planet at the same time? That’s exactly what our best builders are doing, and they’re increasing their output at the same time.
 
So BrightBuilt Home is really a win-win-win proposition. A win for the homeowner. A win for the builder. A win for the planet.  

New Year, New Designs

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We're celebrating the new year by delivering you new designs! First up, we've converted one of our custom designs into a standard offering... Meet the new kid on the block, the Modern Farmhouse. 

Blend the simple, elegant forms of Scandinavian design, with the open, sun-filled principles of high performance, and what do you get? A home that keeps you effortlessly comfortable all year round, and captures that look that you could find featured in any design publication.  And, we've done it with a layout that is tuned to feel efficiently flexible, casually grand, homey yet cool. Of course, throw in our streamlined design and prefab build process and we've really got you covered.

This home consists of:

  • 2500 sf

  • Flexible den - great for extended living space or a master suite

  • A generous entry mudroom

  • 3-4+ Bedrooms

  • Floor to ceiling southerly windows

Stay tuned as we roll out other new designs in the coming months! Happy New Year from BrightBuilt Home.

Yarrrrrchitects!

Happy Halloween from the Sawlty Dawgs at BrightBuilt Home and Kaplan Thompson Architects (oh, right, Yarrrrrchitects) 

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Every year, we mark our calendars for a few key events that we make the most of with our in-house creative genius(es). This year, Adrienne (always up to something) and Ben (our new volunteer-in-chief) led the charge to pull together the annual Halloween ridiculousness.  Everyone of course was willing to oblige.  

With the help of the salty spirit of the crew and some handy props Parlin just happens to have lying around the house (like, ya know, a cannon), we properly transformed into scoundrelly little YARRRchitects.  Puns are always worth it. 

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A Custom Fit: Design Feature, the BrightBuilt Custom Home

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If you love our designs, but have found that, due to your site, your needs, or just your spatial preferences, the designs in our portfolio don't quite work: fret not. At BrightBuilt, we can develop a fully customized house plan for you - from scratch - to be built off site and delivered to your (potentially-particular) site, and perfect for you, your needs, and your bottom line. 

The home featured above was designed for a couple who sought to build an energy-efficient "forever home" that was befitting their interests, their routines, and their desire to comfortably host family and friends visiting the area.  

Here were some of their particulars: 

  • Light-filled, airy, and efficiently sized open concept living-dining-kitchen

  • A "conservatory" room - large enough to accomodate a grand piano and a weekly gathering of a woodwind quartet

  • Ground floor master with walk in closet and generous en-suite bath

  • Guest Bedroom

  • Guest Bedroom/Office Space

  • Guest Bathroom

  • Large walk-in Pantry

  • Entry area with ample room for a small powder room

  • Large mudroom - to include washer/dryer

  • 2 car garage

  • Workshop space - to be accessed directly from the home

  • Loft space overlooking the living area below, to be used as a sitting area and play area for visiting grandchildren

You can see the results of our design efforts above.  The clients love their new home, and they enjoyed the process of designing it as well! 

In their own words...

"Our experience with BrightBuilt was fantastic from start to finish. The creativity and attention to detail throughout the design and building phases made the entire process a pure joy."

To learn more about our process, or to find out how we can help you bring your ideas to life, please don't hesitate to get in touch!