The following list details the PATH innovations incorporated into the NextGen 2004 Demonstration Home. For more information, click on a technology.
Bamboo Flooring and Panels
Besides the environmental benefits of this sustainable, fast-growing resource, bamboo makes an attractive, stable alternative to wood or laminate flooring. Botanically classified as a grass, bamboo matures into a merchantable size in three to five years, compared with 50 to 100 years for most hardwood species. The appearance of bamboo is very similar to wood flooring. It comes in vertical and flat-grain patterns and generally is offered in a light, honey or natural color and a darker, amber "carbonized" color. Bamboo flooring can be nailed or floated and its strength and dimensional stability compare very well with traditional wood flooring. It is often advertised as being dent resistant, which is good for foot traffic. While many bamboo flooring products are dent resistant, others may not be, so check with the manufacturers. The cost for prefinished bamboo flooring typically ranges from $4 to $8 per square foot.
Cellular PVC Lumber
Imagine intricate exterior detailing that keeps its shape and never needs painting. Cellular PVC is a solid, extruded material that has the working characteristics of wood, and is used for interior trim, exterior trim, and paneling as well as windows and doors, blinds, and furniture. It avoids many potential problems of wood, such as rot, split, water absorption, peeling paint, and termites. It can be left unfinished, or with a color-matched permanent finish. At approximately $3 per lineal foot, cellular PVC costs less than redwood or cedar. Limited warranties vary from 10 to 20 years. In the NextGen Home, look for cellular PVC in the interior trim.
Central Air Purification/Ventilation/Dehumidification System
EPA studies show that levels of indoor air pollutants can reach more than 100 times that of outdoor air pollutants. Indoor air pollutants such as dust mites, bacteria, and pollen come from almost everything in our homes including cleaning supplies, smoke, dust, molds, paint, carpets, drapes, upholstery, furnaces, gas burners, wood, and other building materials. Central air purification systems help improve indoor air quality by reducing indoor air pollutants. People suffering from allergies may especially reap the benefits of cleaner air. In addition, dehumidification can reduce mold and mildew and the musty smell associated with them.
ENERGY STAR Qualified Appliances
When buying an appliance, remember that it has two price tags: what you pay to take it home and what you pay for the energy and water it uses. ENERGY STAR qualified appliances incorporate advanced technologies that use 10-50% less energy and water than standard models. The money you save on your utility bills can more than make up for the cost of a more expensive but more efficient ENERGY STAR model.
ENERGY STAR Qualified Lighting
If every household in the U.S. replaced one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR® qualified compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), it would prevent enough pollution to equal removing one million cars from the road. CFLs provide high-quality light, smart technology, and design, requiring 66% less energy while lasting up to ten times longer than typical incandescent bulbs. ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs provide the same amount of light (lumens) as standard incandescent bulbs, but have lower wattage ratings. Lighting fixtures that have earned the ENERGY STAR combine high performance, attractive design, and highest levels of energy efficiency, so they save energy, save money on utility bills, and help protect the environment.
Engineered Wood Wall Framing
The decreasing supply of large diameter, old-growth trees has resulted in an increased popularity of engineered wood materials--those that are processed from young, small diameter trees into strands and reassembled into panels, boards, and framing material. Engineered wood wall framing is used as a replacement of traditional 2 x 4 and 2 x 6 dimensional lumber, installed with the same process, tools, and fasteners. A manufacturer of engineered wood framing states that its product is superior in strength, stability, and uniformity to standard lumber, and is comparable in cost. Wall studs are purported to not bow, warp, twist, or shrink once they are installed. They have few defects, such as cracking, splitting, knots, and wane, that would result in material waste. The manufacturing process helps conserve our natural resources because the trees used are fast-growing, plentiful lumber species, reducing the amount of old-growth timber that is harvested.
Fiber Cement Siding
For homeowners that want the look of wood but don't want the hassles and costs associated with it, fiber-cement siding may be a satisfactory alternative. This product is available from several manufacturers in a variety of textures that are said to provide the appearance of wood. Fiber-cement siding should be more durable than wood--it is termite-resistant, non-combustible, and warranted to last 50 years. Manufacturers emphasize that fiber-cement siding is appropriate for hot and humid climates because it is resistant to rot, fungus, and termite infestation; it also has excellent weathering characteristics, strength, and impact resistance. The installed costs of fiber-cement are reported to be less than traditional masonry or synthetic stucco and equal to or less than hardboard siding.
Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic Exterior Deck
A new decking material is available that needs no maintenance and doesn't crack, split, or warp. This exceptionally durable exterior decking material is made from fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) that is both attractive and expected to last the life of the home without routine maintenance. FRP decking systems are designed to allow easy installation for do-it-yourselfers using standard carpentry tools. It is also highly scratch and impact resistant and is colored throughout, which allows it to retain its looks with only periodic washing. It does not stain or mildew. Because FRP decking does not shrink and expand as do other decking materials, gaps are not required between joints and seams. It has no exposed fasteners to mar the finished appearance. Unlike unreinforced plastics, it permanently holds it shape and does not become brittle in the cold, or soft in the sun.
Greywater Reuse System
Greywater is wastewater from baths, sinks, washing machines, and dishwashers. Because it contains far less organic material than blackwater (toilet wastewater), it does not require the same treatment process. By designing plumbing systems to separate it from blackwater, greywater can be recycled for irrigation, toilets, and exterior washing, resulting in water conservation. When planned into new residential construction, the home's wastewater treatment system can be significantly reduced, resulting in cost and space savings. In addition, separation of the plumbing lines will be simpler and less costly than in a retrofit installation.
High Efficiency HVAC System
Rules of thumb that are often used to size HVAC equipment can result in improperly sized equipment and unsatisfied customers. Proper sizing of HVAC equipment can mean savings in initial and operating cost of mechanical equipment and increased comfort to occupants. Equipment oversizing causes frequent cycling of equipment and poor dehumidification during cooling. Decreased cost of HVAC equipment from proper sizing can offset increases in cost associated with increasing the energy efficiency of a home.
Low or No VOC Paints
Today, alternative manufacturing techniques have allowed the development of low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints that do not release significant pollutants and are virtually odor free. Because low- or no-VOC paints have less odor, and less impact on air quality, they are excellent for use in buildings where it is desirable to have very low levels of toxicity, such as hospitals, schools, or the homes and workplaces of those who are chemically sensitive. Soap and water are all that is needed to clean up equipment and spills when latex formula coatings are used. Since VOC emissions may contribute to higher ozone levels, use of low-VOC paints may improve overall air quality. Costs of low-VOC paints are comparable to that of conventional paint.
Low-E, ENERGY STAR Qualified Windows
Low-emissivity (low-e) coatings may be applied to glass used in double-pane assemblies to control thermal radiation. The type and placement of the coatings varying according to the climate where the window will be used. Tints or reflective surfaces may also be incorporated to achieve better performance. Spectrally Selective Glazing incorporates technical advances in low-e coatings that filter out the heat producing portions of the solar spectrum, but still allow the greatest possible visible light transmittance. Windows with spectrally selective glazing allow more natural light into homes or other buildings, while controlling radiated heat, providing maximum energy efficiency and reducing heat loads in areas where cooling costs are high. If all residential windows in the United States were replaced with ENERGY STAR qualifying models, the nation would save $134 billion in energy costs over the next 15 years. Using new technology in frame materials, glass coatings, design, and gas fills, today's ENERGY STAR qualified window products help achieve significant heating and cooling cost savings.
Low-Flow Plumbing Fixtures
It's not just low flow, it's the law. In 1995, the National Energy Policy Act mandated the use of toilets that use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush. Since then, low-flow plumbing fixtures including toilets, faucet aerators and showerheads have been developed that save substantial amounts of water compared to conventional fixtures while providing the same utility. Easy installation procedures make low-flow plumbing fixtures feasible for retrofitting. It is estimated that low-flow toilets alone could save up to 22,000 gallons of water per year for a family of four. Low-flow plumbing fixtures are available in all the styles and colors of conventional fixtures. Low-flow faucet aerators and showerheads are available at little additional cost. Installation of low-flow plumbing fixtures is similar to that of conventional fixtures. The majority of these fixtures require no special connections or fittings.
Manufactured Housing Ground Anchor System
Manufactured homes are not usually installed with permanent foundations, but instead sit on short piers that resist mostly gravity loads. Ground anchors are plates or augers imbedded in the soil that limit lateral building movement down through tension members tied back to the home's chassis. In this way, high wind (hurricane, tornado), earthquake, and flood forces are resisted through the coherent mass of the earth acting with the anchors. Properly applied, these systems are a cost-effective way to limit structural failure compared to conventional manufactured housing foundations, saving lives and property.
Mini-Duct Air Distribution System
Many owners of older homes without forced-air HVAC systems would like to add central air conditioning and/or heating ducts, but are daunted by the cost and difficulty of the installation process. Installation of ductwork may require removing large sections of walls, floors or ceilings, or adding unsightly box chases. However, high velocity heating and cooling systems minimize these alterations by using small diameter ducts that can be more easily threaded through floor, ceiling, and wall cavities. According to the manufacturers, these high velocity systems operate quietly and improve dehumidification, room air mixing, and energy efficiency over standard air-delivery duct systems.
Modular Home Construction
New Generation OSB Sub-Flooring
Oriented strand board (OSB) is rapidly displacing plywood as the most common sheathing material for walls, roofs, and floors. OSB's advantages include lower cost, greater stiffness, and uniform strength. OSB products have been well accepted by builders because they are less expensive and more consistent than the plywood products they replace. The main benefit of New Generation OSB products is their improved durability and resistance to swelling and delamination when exposed to rain before they are enclosed. One manufacturer offers a 50-year guarantee against manufacturing defects. There are environmental advantages to OSB as well. Plywood places a large demand on mature forests because it requires large diameter trees for veneer slicers to efficiently operate; OSB can be created from low-value, small-diameter trees, saving higher-valued species and older-growth forest.
Plastic Plumbing Manifold
Radiant Barrier Sheathing
Radiant barriers are materials that are installed in buildings to reduce summer heat gain and winter heat loss. They reduce building heating and cooling energy usage. A radiant barrier reflects as much as 97% of radiant heat back towards its source. Installation in new or existing homes is relatively easy. The radiant barrier material is clean, lightweight, easy to handle, non-toxic, resistant to harsh environments, and durable. Once installed, it is virtually maintenance-free. The installation of radiant barriers can help reduce utility costs for a home. Some studies have shown that radiant barriers can reduce cooling costs by between 10 and 20 percent. They can increase comfort and improve thermal performance in hot climates without substantially increasing building envelope thickness.
Spray Foam Insulation
Spray foam insulation is typically easier to install, safer to the environment, and more energy-efficient than traditional batt insulation. It is used in the same places as traditional insulation, but instead of being stuffed and crammed into place, it's sprayed into place and expands into even the smallest cavities. Since spray foam forms both an insulation and an air barrier, it can be cost competitive with batt insulation because it eliminates the steps for air-tightness detailing. As a result, it also reduces construction time and the number of specialized contractors. Foam insulation can have twice the R-value per inch of traditional batt, making it more energy-efficient in a smaller space.
Structured Wiring System
A structured wiring system provides upgraded telephone and video wiring (typically category-5 and RG-6) with a home-run design that allows greater flexibility than standard telephone and video wiring. Although the principle benefits of Category 5 wiring are networking capabilities and high-speed internet access, it can also provide low voltage sensing and communications functions that can become the basis for more extensive automation systems. As the Internet continues to provide more services and many useful home automation devices become available, homeowners may consider it to be more of a necessity than a luxury.
Tankless Water Heaters
Universal Design Shower
Accessible products accommodate people with disabilities, and Universal Design takes accessibility a step further, asserting that all homes should accommodate all people, including those of different ability, height, and age. Universal design means true accessibility. Roll-in or transfer shower modules provide accessible bathing environments that can be used by any members of the household, not just those with physical disabilities. An investment in Universal Design can make your homes stand out from the rest by adding value that today's homebuyers appreciate. In the NextGen Home, look for universal design features in the second bath.
Ventilation Control System
Economical and affordable ventilation control systems are ideal for use with exhaust fans, air handlers, heat recovery ventilators, intermittent whole-house exhaust systems, or anywhere specific ventilation rates are desired. Mixing the house air can increase energy efficiency, reduce moisture condensation problems, and increase indoor air quality.
Water Shut-Off and Anti-Flood System
Content updated on 3/23/2006