NEW HOLLAND, PA. – If you live in Pennsylvania, or 26 other states that have adopted building codes with energy requirements, you want to know a person like Chaz Steffen from Ideal Living Environments Inc. A certified Home Energy Rating Systems (HERS) rater, Steffen regularly performs tests to help builders assure that homes under construction meet local and state energy codes.
“Programs like ENERGY STAR®, DOE Zero Ready Energy Home and utility-incentives all reward builders for constructing energy efficient homes,” says Steffen, with Ideal Living Environments, Inc. out of Millheim, PA. “We help builders qualify for these programs. These qualifications then help builders create more comfortable, durable and healthy homes. This is a win-win for both the builders and the homeowners.”
Start with Precast Concrete Panels
Steffen encourages builders to construct with energy efficiency in mind from the ground up. “I recommend builders look for foundation products that already have a thermal barrier built in, like the Superior Walls® Xi™ and Superior Walls® Xi Plus™ wall systems,” says Steffen. “With the thermal barrier already in place in these precast concrete foundations, the basement is easy to condition. This helps eliminate many steps that would be needed to meet the code requirements in other kinds of basements.”
In Pennsylvania, Steffen has had a strong relationship for several years with the team at Advanced Concrete Systems. The company, like other Superior Walls licensees, produces the patented design and construction features of the Xi and Xi Plus wall systems that include full height basement insulation to help ensure energy efficiency in the home. Facing against the environment, the panels have a concrete face shell backed by more than two inches of insulation in the Xi wall system and five inches of insulation in the Xi Plus wall system.
According to Steffan, he’s seen that builders can benefit from working with Advanced Concrete and other Superior Walls licensees to incorporate Superior Walls Xi and Xi Plus foundation systems into home projects to create an energy-efficient foundation. The precast panels are concrete cavity wall panels with concrete studs at 24 inches on center attached at the top and bottom with bond beams. The entire assembly is constructed with an integral concrete face shell. The wall is reinforced with rebar and polypropylene fibers providing additional structural strength.
In addition, superior strength is built into each panel based on the 5,000+ PSI concrete that is used during construction of the panel. The concrete used in Superior Walls products provides lifetime protection against freeze/thaw cycles and water vapor transmission while the urethane sealant used between panels provides superior protection against sidewall water penetration. The high-strength low-water concrete mix is poured for solid structural integrity and reinforced with steel rebar and polypropylene fibers. Each panel also includes horizontal steel rebar inside top and bottom beams and vertical steel rebar inside each stud.
Building for the Future
“I think potential homeowners need to understand that a conditioned basement, like a Superior Walls basement, has many advantages over unconditioned space,” says Steffan. “First of all it helps meet code requirements. Second, the conditioned space is more comfortable and durable for the long-term. Then finally, the homeowner can count on seeing reductions in their yearly heating and cooling costs when they have a solid, conditioned basement.
“For builders, the benefits include qualifying for local utility incentive programs and constructing a more energy efficient home.”
During the past several years Steffan has worked with a variety of builders using Superior Walls products to gain more energy efficiency in their homes. These builders include Bridlewood Builders, Brookside Homes, Hutch Homes, River Valley Builders, Shrawder Builders and Excavating, and Tamanini & Company.
According to experts at Ideal Living Environments, energy codes are here to stay. “I think more states will make changes in the future to adopt energy efficiency codes,” says Steffan. “The smart builder — and homeowner — embraces the challenge of creating a home that is highly energy efficient.” Visit https://up.codes/viewer/pennsylvania/ibc-2015 for more information on the Building Code 2015 of Pennsylvania. And, for more information on energy-efficient Superior Walls products visit www.superiorwalls.com.