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Sustainable Long Lasting Materials

How we use materials

At Greenovision, we strongly believe that your home should be built to last. Creating a long-lasting home requires thoughtful design, detailing, construction methods, and quality materials. Sustainability is achieved through these mindful processes. Greenovision designs focus on using fewer, yet better-quality materials that create a healthier, more efficient home with fewer maintenance needs. All building materials are carefully evaluated for performance, longevity, durability, sustainability, comfort, and beauty. Knowing when and where to use materials with higher embodied energy and expense or even when to use less expensive alternatives are all issues we focus on in order to meet the goals of each project.

It takes energy and material no matter what is built, however, energy and material is saved and reduced by preventing the future need to demolish, throw away, or recycle. Such prevention is developed from the continual observation and analyzation of home design and construction and by studying the successes and failures of past architecture. At Greenovision, we’re inspired to never to repeat the mistakes of the past which motivates us to develop better ways to design homes that are more efficient, functional, durable, and cost-effective, all while providing an optimal living experience.

The Importance of a High-Performance Building Envelope

In addition to longevity, sustainability, comfort, and beauty, one of the ultimate goals for the materials and methods used in the construction of your home is to create a “high-performance building envelope.” This is done by constructing walls, roofs, and floors that are very well-sealed and insulated, the cornerstone for a green, energy-efficient home. A high-performance building envelope prevents heat loss during the colder months and heat gain during the warmer months, promoting energy-efficiency within your home during all seasons.

Tree species and wood types

Although it is sometimes argued that using wood to build homes is unsustainable, North America has plentiful amounts of wood of all different types that can be locally and sustainably harvested. The modern day wood product and forestry industry is very effective and efficient in utilizing smaller, quick growth timber to mill 2x4 &2x6 studs. The remnants and scraps of the logs are chipped and laid into what is called oriented strand board, which is used for producing sheets like plywood. This material is also used making the structural webs I-joists, which are straight and true and can be produced in very long lengths that are handy for long rafter spans and floor layouts. The wood products industry also is able to manufacture plywood and veneers using smaller dimensioned logs. Many of the beams and door and window headers use such materials, which is called laminated veneer lumber or LVL. LVL is also a way of making large structural beams and columns out of smaller logs.

What needs to be taken into account is the usage of large timbers from large old growth trees for beams and columns. Greenovision is careful to be sparing in its usage of such old growth materials. We utilize glue laminated beams, which again, are produced from smaller layered 2x4 or 2x6 wood laminations. In recent years the wood products industry has been working toward making healthier glue for this product. The glue types and the amounts used in the manufacturing process are forever being designed and modified to be less toxic and used more sparingly.

Of course, some wood types and products are unsustainable and we at Greenovision are very careful to not support these industries. We do not condone use of entire large trees that is commonly used as an aesthetic in many rugged, log-cabin style Montana homes. With careful design, style, and structural engineering, the wasteful use of entire large, old growth trees can be avoided.

Framing

Spruce, pine, and fir for “stick framing” construction are commonly used to frame walls due to their affordable and readily available nature. One reason this building technique is affordable is because of the numbers of builders, carpenters, and contractors that are well-versed in this method of construction as opposed to straw bale, rammed earth, or masonry methods, which are less common. Another benefit to wood frame construction has much to do with insulation requirements in northern climates.  Stick framing in itself creates a framework that can be filled with insulation.

Pine ceilings

We use frequently use untreated pine tongue-and-groove boards as a ceiling material.  The light coloration and it’s easy installation make this a beautiful, bright, and natural-feeling ceiling.

Hemlock Beams

In certain locations, we have designed homes for the use of locally harvested and milled hemlock. This  a sustainable, strong, durable, and beautiful material that needs no cover up and looks great exposed to the interior of a home.

White Cedar

White cedar is well known for its beauty, color, and ability to resist rot, mildew, mold, and insects.  We commonly use this material for siding, fencing, and exterior trim details.

White Cedar Battens

On the Werkhaus shop we used cedar battens which came from local forests and mills. Locally produced materials support local economy and have a lower carbon footprint due to less associated transportation.

Hemlock and Barnboard

Hemlock is a beautiful wood for interior trim-work, casing, and door veneer. It’s light brown, fine grain juxtaposed against a rugged reclaimed barnboard creates a beautiful contrast.

Douglas Fir Beams and Columns

We like to use  fir beams and columns as natural accent elements in our designs.  Douglas fir is known for it’s strength and it’s orange wood tones.

Birch veneer panels, Pine, and Lvl

Birch plywood cabinets, a pine ceiling, and laminated veneer lumber make for a light and airy wood background. Natural wood elements make a home feel organic, natural, and healthy.

Douglas Fir Veneer Cabinets and Trim

The orange tones of Douglas fir when lit by natural light make for a beautiful simple, clean, and modern look without feeling sterile.

Douglas Fir column with Glued Laminate beam

This post and beam interior configuration holds up a main bearing glued laminate roof beam. Glued laminate beams can be made to look rough or smooth. This is a sustainable method of wood post and beam construction as it sparingly avoids using large old growth timber and still looks great.

Basswood ceiling

In this project, our clients coming from Minnesota brought along basswood tongue and groove board, a local material in that region, to clad their ceilings.

Basswood ceiling

We wish basswood was a local material here in Montana as it’s a simply stunning ceiling material.

Tile and Floorings

Tile and concrete not only are durable, but also add mass to the interior of a home, assisting in keeping your home's interior temperature stable. Passive solar homes favor concrete or tiled flooring along the southern, solar collection areas, however, other flooring options can be used in the northern areas of your home. Throw rugs can be used for comfort and color as needed.

Concrete Slab floors

Concrete floors can be simple, easy to clean, durable floors that reduce time and material consuming floor layering that is seen in traditional flooring. This image is of a concrete floor that is simply troweled then sealed. No stain involved. We typically use such floors in areas of the home facing the south to capture and store the sun’s energy as part of the passive solar strategy.

Stained Concrete floors

Concrete floors can also be finished with an environmentally-friendly stain; this stain is a brown-red that was then sealed.

Porcelain tile over gypcrete

This image shows a porcelain tile, that looks like weathered wood planks, next to a typical concrete troweled slab floor. We often design such tile floors over gypcrete, which is heat-storing mass source poured over the radiant floor tubing. This flooring method is all laid over a typical wood subfloor over floor joists. This type of floor makes sense where there is plumbing within the floor.

12×12 inch floor tiles over Gypcrete

There are many styles and types of floor tile; every client has their own taste and preference. The gypcete underneath the tile at this home was made from locally-harvested sand.

Shower and Bath tile

Tiled showers do cost a bit more, but are durable, easy to clean, and look great. The radiant floor heating system runs beneath the showers in all of our home designs, creating a warm and even heat that radiates from the floor. No more cold feet in the shower!

River Stone floor tile

This type of tile provides a natural and organic feeling to a room.

Kitchen Back splash

In this kitchen, the back splash tile beautifully compliments the stainless steel appliances. The cabinets are constructed with a hemlock veneer.

Custom concrete mantel and tile fireplace

The client had a vision of river rock running through the concrete mantle piece and hearth. This was custom crafted using stones collected from the nearby Yellowstone River.

Siding and Roofing Materials

We believe strongly that investing in quality, long-lasting exterior materials significantly saves money, time, and waste in the long run. Conventional housing materials require costly and wasteful remodeling every 10-20 years. Although there is a slightly higher upfront cost for quality materials, paying up front now and avoids costly updates and remodels latter on. Your roof is the biggest asset to your home, helping to keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer as well as protecting your interiors from rain, snow, ice, and other harsh weather. The roof overhangs help protect the siding from moisture damage on the exterior walls, windows, and doors. We carefully select siding materials for longevity, but also to help your home compliment and fit in with its surroundings. Using durable siding materials at ground level protects your home from moisture damage from snow build-up and rain back-splash.

Long lasting Metal siding

Metal siding handles the weather in Montana very well, has a long life, sheds water and snow, does not rot, and looks great!

Metal Fascia and Corrugated Siding

Metal fascia makes so much sense. Wood fascia is susceptible to rot due to roof run off and requires painting every 5-10 years in areas that are difficult to access. Metal fascia is durable and requires no painting. Bonderized corrugated siding looks beautiful and lasts over twice as long as typical wood siding, maybe even longer. Corrugated siding also promotes drainage behind the siding and gives a airspace that allows the wall behind the siding to dry. There are so many benefits to this type of exterior.

Corrugated Cor-Ten Steel

For locations that have relatively dry conditions, Cor-Ten steel is a good siding solution especially because it provides a rustic and natural look. This steel material starts off looking like steel, but weathers and rusts over time, building a patina that can fit into most any landscape.

Horizontal cedar over rain screen & Polycarbonate panel

White Cedar is a beautiful siding material that functions wonderfully when combined with a rain screen design. A rain screen is a waterproof barrier behind the siding with vertical spacers to hold the siding off of the screen. This prevents the siding from sitting in moisture and allows it to dry on both sides preventing rot as well as warping and cupping of the exposed finish siding.

Concrete Siding

This is the entry to the Hawk Ridge Home, which is clad with concrete siding. This is a readily available material most familiarly known as “Hardie Board.” Hardie panels offer rot and fire residence to a home’s exterior. This material does need proper detailing in flashing design so that it sheds water correctly.  There are pre-painted or paintable options. This example was painted onsite.

Standing Seam Metal Roof paired with a polycarbonate Awning roof

Standing seam metal roofing has so many benefits as a roofing material.  For one it is durable and will easily outlast any asphalt shingled roof by at least twice as long. This roofing is tough against hail, snow, and high winds. The roof panels come in different widths, thicknesses, and colors.

Standing seam roofing on low pitch roofs

For many of our passive solar designs, it is critical that we keep roof overhangs low in order to prevent unwanted solar heat gain from entering the home during the warmer months. This is achieved through lower pitched roofs which must be clad with metal rather than asphalt shingles in order to promote snow and rain drainage. With proper detailing and underlayment, standing seam metal roofing can be used on pitches as low as 1/2″ up to 12″. The only other roofing material that does this is EDPM rubber, which doesn’t have the longevity, is not fireproof , and isn’t as attractive as a standing seam roof.

No external Fasteners

The biggest advantage that a standing seam metal roof has over a screw down metal roofs is that there are no external fasteners. External screw down roofing panels have many problems. A screw down roof relies on screws that seal with EPDM grommets. These grommets sit on baking hot metal, day in and day out, which over time dries out causing them to no longer seal.

No external Fasteners (Part 2)

Over time, the grommet seals shrink and the roof begins to leak. This happens slowly and without indication until the roof deck beneath the metal finally rots out to a point where the screw threading no longer holds. This is a costly replacement. The alternative is to replace the screws on the entire roof every so many years, which in essence defeats why you would have a metal roof- for low maintenance. Also, the beauty of a metal panel without screw holes is just that- NO HOLES!

Grey standing seam roof

Standing seam metal roofing is available in a variety of colors. We carefully select these colors to help your home blend in with and compliment its surrounding environment. This photo shows an example of a grey colored roof with ribs pressed into the panels to prevent oil canning.

High Performance Building Envelope & Insulation

Since 49% of home energy usage in Montana is for the heating of home spaces, reducing the total amount of heat required within a home is an important energy-efficiency approach. One of the best ways to use less heat is to prevent heat created in the building from leaving the building. This is done by constructing the walls and roofs to be well-sealed and insulated. There are different design and construction methods as well as material choices for creating better thermal barriers and fewer air leaks, but this is usually done by creating an envelope that has a high R-value (R-value is a measurement of the resistance of a material to conduct heat or cold. The higher the R value the more insulative the material). We then typically combine a combination of strategies for the heating of your home (learn about our “Sun Smart” strategy). Aside from which strategies are used to heat your home, a home with high performance building envelope requires less heat than a home with a traditional building envelope.

The insulation of a home is more technical than may think and is it's not just about stuffing a stud bay with fiberglass batten insulation. There are many issues that go beyond just R-value. Conductive heat losses or gains are one of the biggest issues we face in home design as we strive to keep your home efficiently warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Typical framed homes with 2x4 or 2x6 stud walls with insulation infilling are no longer considered adequate. Conduction of heat and cold occurs through those studs and if you are observant, you can actually see those framing members in the wall of roof on a cold winter day. Various ``advanced`` construction methods can be utilized to prevent “thermal conduct” (heat gain and loss) through the wall studs. In addition, naturally occurring condensation within wall and roof cavities can cause moisture damage to these cavities due incorrect insulating values and techniques as well as incorrect construction. With the advancement of high performance materials and insulation, the correct usage of these materials is a science.

A high performance building envelope not only prevents heat loss in the colder months, it also prevents heat gain in the hotter moths. A well-sealed and insulated home does require an energy-efficient, mechanical air exchange system in order to introduce fresh air and prevent moisture build-up during the winter when opening windows would be counterintuitive. As an added benefit, the air exchange unit can also be utilized in the summer when poor air quality from smoky skies can sometimes prohibit occupants from opening windows for natural ventilation. The unit can be equipped to filter smoke particles, thus keeping a steady flow of fresh, clean air into the building year round.

EPS Foam Foundation Insulation

EPS foam board is easy to identify because it’s white. It’s a great for insulating foundations and concrete slabs because it is affordable, has fewer blowing freon agents (aka, it’s healthier for our environment than SPF foam), resists water absorption, it’s recyclable (meaning remnants can be taken back to be reused), and it has the lowest life cycle energy consumption of any plastic.

Open cell foam and blown-in fiber

This wall is insulated with sprayed in open cell foam, which is easily identified by its white color. The advantage of open cell foam is that is less expensive and toxic than closed cell foam of SPF#2-#3. Closed cell foam is breathable and can allow moisture through itself to promote frame cavity drying. The roof in this photo is a combination of sprayed closed cell foam and blown-in fiber insulation. Blown-in fiber is a great way to top off framing cavities that have been spray foamed because it thoroughly fills voids, gaps, and irregularities. It is a non-toxic insulation option.

Closed Cell Spray Foam

This yellow-colored closed cell foam is the preferred option for cathedral roof insulation in rafter bays. It seals air and water out, which is crucial in a roof, and has the highest R-value per inch of any foam (R-6-6.5), staying consistent over time unlike other foam insulation. This foam is like a glue- it seals and adds strength to a structure. It does have a higher up-front cost, but this can easily be returned over time due to the lower energy needs of a well-insulated building.

EPS foam under siding

This example shows a home we designed that was constructed with typical 2×6 stud framed walls. By adhering EPS foam on the outside of the wall over the Tyvek water barrier, the conductive loses through framing members, studs, wall plates, and window & door headers is essentially cut off. This makes a significant difference in warm and cold climates alike and adds about R 3.5-4  to the entire exterior wall. EPS has a low thermal drift meaning that over time it holds its R-value.

Fiber Batten insulation

We mostly use fiber batten insulation as sound insulation in interior walls, ceilings, and floors. Walls must be filled with adequate sound insulation or they will conduct noise; this important for privacy- especially in bathrooms!  Fiberglass batten insulation is easy to apply, locally available, and a cost effective way to insulate sound spaces that are interior spaces where air infiltration is not as much of an issue. There are much healthier batten insulation options available these days than in previous decades.

Double wall framing and Insulation

We designed this home with double wall framing, a construction method that provides this home with a total wall R-Value of around R-48 and prevents wall stud conductive losses. This is the best performance wall in our opinion! The exterior wall is built with 2×6 studs using advanced framing techniques like reduced framing parts and pieces, which enlarges the cavity to accept more insulation. The 2×4 inner wall is spaced from the outer wall with a 2″ gap. The outer wall has 50% of the total R-value in closed cell spray foam or R-24. The rest of the void is then netted and filled with blown in fiber.

Blower Door Test

A blower door test is one method that energy professionals use to help determine a home’s airtightness. The results of a blower door test are measured as ACH units (air exchanges per hour). As a reference, older homes, like living in a ‘barn’” have a 10-20 ACH. “Average homes with some air sealing, but no verification and little attention to detail” have a 7-10 ACH. In the city of Bozeman, MT, an ACH of 4 or less is now required fr new homes. An ACH of 3 or lower is recommended by most green professionals and results in a very efficient building envelope.

Windows and Doors

As with all of your home’s materials, windows and doors are carefully selected for function, durability, budget, beauty, and style. This is another area of your home where investing in quality results in long-term savings. During our past remodeling work, we’ve replaced many old windows and have seen firsthand how purchasing cheap windows results in energy and material waste as well as costly remodeling. Because exterior and interior doors are sealed, cased, and trimmed into your home, it is important that they are quality from the very beginning. Quality doors and windows have good replaceable seals to reduce air infiltration from the outdoors and the exteriors must be durable against the elements and typical bangs and scrapes.

It is important to know that even quality windows and doors must be replaced in time (or sometimes accidents happen and they break), so that is we design your windows and exterior doors easy replacement. Rather than overlapping the exterior siding material over the window flange as done in traditional construction, we design trim boards to be screwed down over the flanges. If a window needs to be replaced, the trim can be unscrewed and the siding material is left untouched.

We use insulated fiberglass exterior windows and doors as they fulfill our criteria of durability. Importantly, windows and doors need the correct glass type depending on what the passive solar design strategies are in regards to either capturing radiant gain or shutting it down (using the correct solar heat gain coefficient of SHGC). Another concern is the insulative value, or U-value, of the glazing which is similar to R-value, but the inverse. Modern windows are designed for specific climate zones and need to be ordered as such, nevertheless, windows and doors are quite technical these days so we put a lot into understanding these technologies as well as the pros and cons of certain types, styles, and glazing options.

Awning window above picture window

An awning window above a picture window is a common configuration for many of our south-facing solar gain exposures. The awning up high helps exhaust heat as part of the passive cooling strategy and the picture window down low provides great views, natural lighting, and is an important component of the passive solar strategy.

Sliding windows

In this image, a deep sill is paired with sliding windows, a great option for bedrooms that need an egress window to meet code. This would be our option if we needed to escape to the outside in an emergency. They are easy to operate and look great.

Polycarbonate glazed barn door

A polycarbonate panel as an interior glazing creates a unique style, a bit of privacy, yet lets in plenty of natural light. Why bring ample natural light into your home if it is blocked out of certain spaces? The door frame is made from Douglas fir.

Durable exterior entry door

This full height glass and fiberglass exterior door brings plentiful light into this home’s foyer.

Interior pine veneer of an exterior door

When the interior side of an exterior door isn’t sold in the exact wood grains as your home’s other interior doors, it is possible to stain the door to match the color. This home’s interior doors and trim are hemlock.

Interior shaker style door

This three-paneled hemlock door style was used throughout this home. The foreground coat closet door is a birch plywood stained to match.

Polycarbonate glazed garage doors – passive solar garage!

Why not bring the light and warmth of the sun into your garage? With the correct insulation, roof overhangs, and polycarbonate glazed garage doors, your garage can be heated and lit by the sun. Your garage doesn’t have to be dark, cold, and gloomy!

The end of boring garage doors

This is the exterior one of our garage designs in which we used polycarbonate doors and siding. Let’s have some fun with your garage and use the sunlight and it’s radiant heat to your garage’s advantage!

Entry foyer doors

This foyer brings in plenty of light through a fiberglass exterior door clad with an interior of Douglas fir paired with two side windows- a beautiful and enduring combination. The interior doors are a double panel constructed of Douglas fir.

Bring on the barn doors

This custom designed and built barn door is constructed of a steel frame and is infilled with reclaimed barn board, resulting in a sturdy and handsome door. The homeowners requested reclaimed wood interior accents to compliment the other green features of their home.

A more traditional barn door

This custom designed and built barn door is constructed of rough-sawn boards.

Fiberglass frame, Maximum gain window

On the south-facing, solar gain side of our home designs we often use high solar heat gain windows. Correct design and window usage is necessary in order to not overheat a space using this passive solar strategy.

Blurry Glass Interior Door

Using a blurry glass in a Douglas fir frame hung in a pocket door creates a unique, well-lit, yet semi private work space.

Sliding glass door

One way to maximize solar radiant gain is to use sliding glass doors. We detailed this doorway to be flush with the floor rather than sticking up, an issue people have with tripping over the threshold of most sliding exterior doors. Our contractor came up with the final solution to make this happen in the concrete pour.

Flush threshold

We detailed this doorway to be flush with the floor rather than sticking up, an issue people have with tripping over the threshold of most sliding exterior doors. Our contractor came up with the final solution to make this happen in the concrete pour.