In our last post we introduced you to our educational series of what makes smarter homes inherently better, future proof and really the only homes you should consider buying. In this post we will talk about some of the most important differences with a key component of any house – the foundation.
It seems obvious how important a strong foundation is when building a home. Unfortunately foundations are often built to the minimums specified by building code, corners cut where possible and the finished imperfections covered with cheap flooring such as tile or carpet. Fortunately recent science, products and research has given the industry many tested ways to build foundations that lead to outstanding durability, comfort, health and a lower environmental footprint. Below are the top 6 biggest differences you will find in smarter built homes like VALI when comparing to “green” homes.
1| full vapor and radon protection
As homes are built more energy efficient the responsibility to better control indoor air quality constantly increases. Integral to efficiency is air tightness. The more air tight a home the better the interior air can be controlled. With the right combination this means 24 hour near perfect air to breath, no dust, no chemicals, no radon exposure, ect. A big part of this system often overlooked in residential construction is the under slab vapor barrier with integrated vent piping.
We go straight to the gold standard of vapor barriers with the 15mil Stego barrier. It’s easy to spot by the extreme thickness and hard to miss bright yellow color. Simply put if you’re building a house make sure this goes under it, it’s that important. The barrier lets virtually zero moisture, air and radon through. These all migrate with ease through the soil and into the interior of most homes leading to increased risk of mold, poor air quality and radon exposure.
2| permanent pest control
Toxic chemicals are typically sprayed on the soil under a foundation for around 10 years of termite and other pest protection. Using the Stego barrier from #1 allows us to fully seal this barrier to any penetrations such as plumbing pipes. This combination creates a permanent and more reliable physical barrier to pests while keeping toxic chemicals out of the soil and out of our homes. After framing we treat all wood with a non toxic material called Bora Care as a preventative backup.
3| custom concrete mix
It’s been a long and detailed process but we worked directly with the staff of our concrete supplier to create our own custom mix designs. After getting a few potential winners we did some test pours to see which ones the concrete finishers liked working with best. In the end there was a clear winner, scoring maximum points all around.
Our finished mix is a combination of old school craftsmanship and deep knowledge combined with only the best of the newfangled additives such as our Stealth Fibers and a tested amount of fly ash to reduced the cement content, since it is the most toxic component.
4| continuous insulation and ground heat sink
Ground to foundation contact is one area where huge amounts of monthly dollars are lost on heating and cooling yet it gets very little attention in the average home. The concrete in a slab on grade foundation also has a large amount of mass which adds potential to increase comfort and shift energy use to off peak times if properly insulated from the outside. To do this we have 2 layers of continuous insulation; 1 around the perimeter to stop the majority of heat transfer and another between the stem wall and interior finished slab on the East and West walls as a backup for the hottest days. This keeps the interior floor the same temperature as the interior air making for amazing comfort.
In very cold climates huge amounts of foam insulation are often used on all sides and below a home to disconnect it from the cold ground. Our climate is very unique in that a number of feet down our earth is a similar temperature to a comfortable interior climate. This is also true of shaded ground underneath a house. We used some fancy modeling software to design a system that actually works with the ground under a house to buffer temperatures and greatly reduce peak heating and cooling loads. This boosts comfort, reduces electric bills and eases impact to the utility grid, especially during the highest use times.
5| recessed windows and doors
All our windows and doors have been recessed into the finished concrete floor to give a custom look and function along with increased protection from air and water getting inside. This lets us use doors that score top points in the energy geek category while still keeping a sleek appearance and near zero door threshold. The recession also gives a secondary seal along the bottom and most vulnerable edge of a window or door.
6| beautiful and permanent floors
There’s something to be said for letting a material show its natural character and little does this better than polished concrete. It starts with that custom mix and amazing concrete craftsmanship. Polished concrete is only as good as the starting surface (and that’s part of why you rarely see it in a home). From there a long process involving an 800 pound gorilla and a densifying material actually uses the concrete material itself to close the tiny open spaces, seal and smooth the surface and bring the only permanent, beautiful, chemical and maintenance free flooring available for your house.
If you have questions about anything above or want to know even more feel free to get in touch with us. Our next topic will be our framing. We’ve done some really great things here to integrate minimal modern design with energy geek super insulated walls.