DPO Construction LC

"Green homes for the rest of us."
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  • Energy-Efficient Home Building, 2017 Day 2

    Posted on April 23rd, 2017 resourcesforlife No comments

    Below are the presentation slides from Day 2 of the Energy-Efficient Home Building course.

  • Energy-Efficient Home Building, 2017 Day 1

    Posted on March 21st, 2017 resourcesforlife No comments

    Below are the presentation slides from Day 1 of the Energy-Efficient Home Building course.

  • Energy Efficient Home Building Courses – February and March 2017

    Posted on January 7th, 2017 don No comments

    Winter 2016/2017 Schedule

    Energy Efficient Home Building

    You don’t have to build a tiny house to have tiny utility bills, and you don’t have to be rich to afford an energy-efficient home. This two-day course provides an excellent overview of what you need to know to build an energy-efficient home, from upgrades costing only a few hundred dollars, up to a Net-Zero home.

    Course Description

    Small homes are in growing demand among people looking for less maintenance, homes that fit their budgets, or simply want to make a lower impact on the environment. New this year will be a discussion on small homes (about 1,000 square feet) and how they live bigger than they are.

    DAY 1 – The first day focuses on design, space planning, and the building science that make a home efficient.

    DAY 2 – The second day focuses on building techniques, materials, performance testing, and how to manage lender appraisals. See and feel samples of alternative high-performance materials and get a feel for how they work.

    Course Registration and Dates

    Course registration is through Kirkwood Community College. See course listing links below, and click the register link, then add to cart to pay the college directly.

    • 6 and 8 February 2017, Monday and Wednesday, 6PM – 7:30PM, Kirkwood Regional Center at University of Iowa Oakdale Campus near Coralville, Iowa. [Register]
    • 20 and 22 February 2017, Monday and Wednesday, 6PM – 7:30PM, Cedar Rapids, Iowa – Kirkwood Center for Lifelong Learning. [Register]
    • 14 and 16 March 2017, Tuesday and Thursday, 6PM – 7:30PM, Cedar Rapids, Iowa – Kirkwood Center for Lifelong Learning. [Register]
    • 21 and 23 March 2017, Tuesday and Thursday, 6PM – 7:30PM, Kirkwood Regional Center at University of Iowa Oakdale Campus near Coralville, Iowa. [Register]


  • Green Building in Tough Economic Times

    Posted on February 8th, 2011 don No comments

    Below are slides from a presentation I delivered recently on the topic of building green in tough economic times. As you’ll see in the presentation, many aspects of building green result in a savings of money on construction costs and ownership.

    Click a slide below to enlarge it.

  • Green Building Pyramid by GreenBuilderMag.com

    Posted on December 31st, 2010 don No comments

    Green Builder Magazine has developed the Green Building Pyramid (below) as an exceptional visual diagram showing the core elements of green building.

    Click the image below to see the enlarged version.

  • Big Living in Small Home – Home completed in 2010

    Posted on December 31st, 2010 don No comments

    In 2010, I built a home for owners who wanted a small home that lives big. We combined the uses of space so that one could see across the home, from the kitchen, through the bar, dining and living areas, and through to the outside. There’s a laundry-powder room off the kitchen, and the rest of the main level is taken up with the master bedroom and master bath. A screened porch is off the back, and accessible from the kitchen.

    The lower level is unfinished, but will allow two more bedrooms, another bath, a game room and lots of storage space. The owners achieved more-useful storage by installing access doors above regular doors in closets, rather than from just inside the closets.

    To make the compact floor plan (1172 sq ft footprint) feel even bigger, we raised the ceilings to 9 ft.

    The owners used unconventional finish materials: corrugated metal lines the entry nook, the eat-in bar and the stairway; they also refinished old doors salvaged from the Habitat Re-Store for the coat closet and pantry.

    Energy efficiency is achieved by exceptional envelope tightness, sprayed urethane foam insulation, an energy-recovery ventilation system, and geothermal heating and cooling, along with Energy Star appliances and electronic compact fluorescent fixtures. The Energy Star Report estimates that the home will heat and cool for under $150 a year, and reduce emissions by over 50%.

    The exterior is clad in fibercement in a board-and-batten style reminiscent of the home in Grant Wood’s “American Gothic”. The building site required a large retainer wall, and the owners chose massive limestone boulders, that required no mortar, and were quarried nearby.

    Click on any image below to enlarge.

  • Building Science and the Elements of Sustainable Home Design and Construction

    Posted on July 21st, 2010 don No comments

    It’s easier to follow someone else’s prescription for achieving our goals (like building a sustainable home) than doing the hard work of making the thousands of decisions that suit our lifestyle and fit our budgets. If you’re up to the task of a custom design, here are a few of my own rules to guide you in building a successful home:

    Follow physics;
    Support your senses; and,
    Don’t do stupid stuff.


    Regardless of the size of your home, energy still crosses the building envelope in the same three ways, and those are addressed by preventing air leakage, insulating everywhere, and installing good-quality, well-sited windows. And even if we choose to fight them, water and gravity still win, regardless of our socio-economic status. So install flashing where you need it to keep water out, and provide enough insulation to keep water vapor from condensing on cold surfaces.

    If you think we can ignore those rules, physics will do what physics does—rot the materials, make your house uncomfortable, expensive to heat and cool, and send a lot more pollutants into the air than it otherwise would.

    Hey folks, I’m looking at you eyeball to eyeball. This should be where we start; nothing less will do.

    Support your senses

    Do you think saving energy and being kind to the environment are the most important goals in building a home? Then how about all the human comfort factors that affect the way we feel in our homes, like:

    space planning, ceiling height, sight lines, daylight, contrast, color, views, privacy, openness, intimacy, public spaces, texture, and sound.

    But how do you design a home that covers all that? I think that including an interior designer along with the home designer make a superb team. To find one, ask your designer, your builder, or go to furniture stores or paint stores. Chat with them to find one who has a portfolio and a personality you like.

    Bonus Insight: The Cost of Walls vs Floors

    Compared to walls, floor space is relatively inexpensive to build: you have joists, subfloor, often some underlayment, and finish flooring. To be complete, let’s add the ceiling, which consists of framing, drywall & paint, and a roof.

    Walls are a lot more complex: there’s not just siding, house wrap, sheathing, framing, insulation, drywall, paint, but plumbing, wiring, windows & doors, outside trim, extension jambs, inside casing, baseboard, and finishing. But that’s not all—the more angles in the walls, the more complex, expensive, and leakage-prone, the roof.

    • TAKE-HOME LESSON: what you save on the home’s footprint you can spend on more luxurious interiors or energy upgrades.
    • A SUGGESTION: Experiment with interior colors to balance out daylighting; try darker colors on the south rooms and lighter on the north. Use your imagination, allow yourself to make a mistake. Paint is cheap.

    Don’t do stupid stuff

    Of course, we’d never do anything dumb, so let’s wag our fingers at others’ mistakes. These are from homes I’ve investigated myself.

    An architect designs a home with a spacious solar green house for winter heat gain and natural light. Even on a cloudy day, the wonderful natural light goes deep into the house. But unfortunately, the architect forgot that the sun shines in the summer, too, and without shading, the house costs twice as much to cool as to heat.

    One home with multiple furnaces simply couldn’t keep up in either heating or cooling, so a third heating system was added, without much improvement. Only when we measured the airflow in the ductwork did we find that the return air was only half of what it should have been.

    Another new home had two furnaces, but one of them was noisy, making a wheezing sound. Again, on measuring the pressures of the airflow, we discovered a dramatic negative pressure in the return ducts, even though the amount of air was adequate. To provide that airflow, contractors often install a grille high on the wall between two studs, and cut out the plate in the floor between the studs, opening up an air path to the furnace. In this case, only a few small holes had been drilled in the plate, where the whole plate should have been cut out. And second, even though there was an adequate amount of airflow, the furnace fan installed was two and a half times as powerful as it should have been. It was like making a Marathon runner breathe in through a straw.


    * Click on the category or tag links below for related articles.

  • Real World Money Savings From Reduced Energy Use Through Green Efficient Sustainable Home Design

    Posted on July 21st, 2010 don No comments

    Perhaps the most tangible way to convey the value of green home design is in the measurable savings on the annual utility bills. The most recent home I constructed is a good example. A photo gallery is below.

    Through a combination of ingenious design, energy conservation, and efficient energy production, the heating and cooling costs are projected to be less than $150 per year in a region where temperatures can go from -30F to 100F from one season to the next.

    If you’re a tree hugger like me, the emissions report demonstrates that paying attention to energy conservation and efficient production can dramatically reduce emissions.

    See the following reports for a detailed analysis from an independent peer reviewed energy and environmental rating company.

    Photo Gallery. Below are photos of the home described above. Click on any image for a larger view.


    * Click on the category or tag links below for related articles.

  • Structural Insulated Panels SIPs (Video)

    Posted on March 8th, 2009 don No comments

    Below is a video from the Alliant Energy PowerHouse series about Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs).

  • Sprayed Polyurethane Foam Insulation Installation and Benefits (Video)

    Posted on March 8th, 2009 don No comments

    Below is a video from the Alliant Energy PowerHouse series about the cost saving benefits sprayed polyurethane foam insulation.