By: Paul Weideman
Published online: Sunday, January 06, 2013
Appeared in: Home, Santa Fe Real Estate Guide
Edition: January 2013 Vol. 15 No. 10
The living room in Maxine Chelini’s new house offers great views of the Ricardo Legorreta-designed Zocalo condominium community and beyond to Cerro Gordo, Atalaya, Pichaco Peak, and Sun and Moon mountains. The handsome, scored-concrete floors are warmed with a radiant-heating system.
The open-feeling kitchen is outfitted with beautiful, and sustainable, horizontal-grain bamboo cabinets, and glass-tile backsplashes. Shower surrounds and vanities in slate tile grace the bathrooms. The contemporary design of the home includes well-placed windows for views and daylighting.
And it’s an affordable, zero-energy house.
The goal of such houses is to use no imported energy, averaged over the year. That can be achieved through the employment of energy-efficient lighting and appliances, a super-insulated building envelope, photovoltaic and solar-heated-water systems, good design (including making use of passive-solar gain for wintertime heating), and conservative utility use by the homeowner.
Developer Alan Hoffman and contractor Dennis Niedermier built the Chelini home in the Piñon Bluff development on Santa Fe’s north side.
“We had an architect helping on the drainage and grading,” said Chelini, who moved in Dec. 5. “There’s a six-foot drop on the site. At first they wanted me to do it all at the front door and I said if we do that, my friends will never be able to visit me when they get older. So we divided it into two levels: the garage and living level and the kitchen-bedroom level.
“We used Alan’s basic plan, but shifted it so that it forms an irregular rectangle and gives you interesting spaces inside.”
The home of a little over 1,500 square feet includes a closet holding compact, efficient utilities: a Lochinvar condensing modulating boiler and a Kubix whole-house heat-recovery ventilator.
“These houses are so tight they would become toxic if they didn’t have whole-house ventilators,” Hoffman said. “And the heat exchanges: it takes the warmth from the stale air and transfers it to the fresh air, reducing your energy use.”
Hoffman, a longtime advocate of New Urbanist planning and green homes, was the developer of the 470-acre Oshara Village project near Santa Fe Community College. That project had its grand opening in August 2007, when Hoffman envisioned building more than 700 homes in two years. The recession halted progress, and Hoffman filed for bankruptcy last summer.
But he has never wavered in his commitment to sustainable building.
The Chelini house is certified under the Build Green New Mexico program. Niedermier’s super-insulated, tight building envelope, energy-efficient appliances and lighting, and 1.7-kilowatt photovoltaic system on the roof is all designed to dramatically minimize annual energy costs.
Another important aspect of these houses is the employment of nontoxic materials, such as soy-based insulating foam and low- or no-VOC paints and finishes.
On Dec. 2, State Sen. Peter Wirth visited the site and spoke to about 40 people about the virtues of sustainable construction. He quoted a recent Albuquerque Journal story that reported, “Green home construction has gone mainstream in Albuquerque, where 67 percent of all permits issued for single-family homes from Jan. 1 through Sept. 26, 2012, were green-certified.”
Wirth, Hoffman, and Santa Fe resident and arts educator Amy Summa were guests on a KSFR radio show in December. Summa praised the performance of her zero-energy home, built by Niedermier in 2010-2011.
At the Chelini house, the owner has added handmade touches here and there, including the fruits of a welding class she took at Santa Fe Community College. These include patio vine structures and a steel fence woven with willow branches.
“I looked for a home for six months and couldn’t find anything I liked,” Chelini said. “Now I have a zero-energy home, the way I wanted it, and it was in my affordability bracket. This is under $400,000.”
Hoffman has three other zero-energy houses going up in Santa Fe. ”If you’re a mass producer and you design a green home and train your crews to built it, it’s the exact same price as an energy-wasting home,” he said.
Perhaps more importantly, these houses promise to be less expensive to live in.
“Everybody who’s bought my houses so far, they were all happy about the environmental thing, but when I ran the savings for them, it was like, ‘Let’s do it,’” Hoffman said. “No one’s going to complain about lower heating bills.”
For more information, see newvillage.com.