By George Harvey
Bob Irving, of R.H. Irving HomeBuilders in Salisbury, New Hampshire, has been building high performance homes for over thirty years. His goal for that whole time has been to build homes that are exceptionally efficient and sustainable, while being comfortable and affordable.
If you believe that makes R.H. Irving one of the most knowledgeable experts of passive or net-zero energy homes in New England, your opinion has been confirmed. NHSaves gave R.H. Irving the first place award for its 2017 Drive to Net Zero Home Competition, for work completed on a home in Cornish, New Hampshire. NHSaves was created by the utilities to provide the information, support, and incentives so customers could save energy, reduce costs, and protect the environment. The awards it gives are intended to help further those goals. This is the first time this particular award has been given.
As with most buildings, the Cornish house was an effort undertaken by a number of people and organizations. Kaplan Thompson Architects of Portland Maine, a firm specializing in beautiful, net-zero energy buildings, provided the original design. Green Energy Times has run articles about their work, most recently in the “The ‘Greenest Building’ in Portland, Maine,” which appeared in August, 2017 (bit.ly/greenest-in-portland).
Preferred Building Systems, of Claremont, New Hampshire, produced the modules for the building in their factory. They custom build highly-efficient building modules. Readers should understand that building modules in a factory has a number of advantages over construction from scratch at the building site. Custom building modules can also mean that the design is unique to the building.
Interestingly, one of the important contributors to building the Cornish House was the owner. He took a hands-on approach in a number of building systems, including the insulation and installation of solar panels.
The problem of getting all the activities of all parties coordinated is a job that requires a good manager and is not always easy. In this case Bob Irving undertook to see the job was done right and brought it to completion. In this job, his award speaks to his success.
The award from NHSaves was based largely on its score under the Home Energy Rating System, commonly called the HERS rating. The HERS rating is based on evaluation of the house for energy use against a reference home with a HERS rating of 100. Older buildings tend to have much higher ratings, and modern, efficient houses have much lower ratings. A home using net-zero energy, so the amount of energy it uses over the course of a year is equal to the amount it produces, has a rating of 0.
The Cornish House has a HERS rating of -16. That means that the home’s utility bill might well be negative, even offsetting the cost of connect fees. If batteries are installed, the house could go off the grid without much difficulty.
R.H. Irving’s award does not tell the full story, however, so there are a few things left to add. Cornish House is pretty enough that Bob Irving says it is one of his favorites. The owners have said they are delighted. And we at Green Energy Times are impressed.
R.H. Irving’s web page is rhirvinghomebuilders.com