Award Winning Samish Solar Home Case Study

Award Winning Samish Solar Home Case Study

Written by: Nicole Miller

The U.S. Department of Energy announced that the submission for the Samish Solar Home from Powerhouse Designs and TC Legend Homes has been selected as a 2023 Housing Innovation Awards Winner!

Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready Home Housing Innovation Awards 2023 Winner official poster. 
"Powerhouse Design & TC Legend Homes" 
"Samish Solar Home, Bellingham, WA. TCLegendHomes.com." 
Photographed is the home that has won the award. It is a south-facing home with clearstory design, painted a forest green on the exterior with sunroom and covered porch and separate entry between the main house and the garage. 
“This is by far the most e cient, nicest, and most comfortable house we have lived in!” Homeowner
"Project Data
Layout: 4 bdrm, 3.5 bath, 2 fl s, 2,345 ft
• Climate: IECC 4C, marine
• Completed: June 2023
• Category: Custom for Buyer
MODELED PERFORMANCE DATA
• HERS Index: without PV 33; with PV
-20
• Annual Energy Costs: without PV
$650; with PV $-300
• Annual Energy Cost Savings: (vs
typical new homes) without PV $1,500;
with PV $2,450
• Annual Energy Savings: without PV
11,550 kWh; with PV 23,100 kWh
• Savings in the First 30 Years: without
PV $62,400; with PV $101,800" 
"Key Features
Walls: SIPs, R-29 total: 6.5" graphite EPS SIP with OSB sides. House wrap, fi ber cement lap
siding. Aerosolized acrylic whole-house air sealing.
• Roof: SIP roof, 10.25" R-49 graphite EPS SIP roof, insulated splines. Synthetic
underlayment, metal roofi ng with cool roof index of 32.
• Attic: Unvented vaulted ceilings.
• Foundation: Slab-on-grade foundation; R-23 ICF stem walls; R-20 closed-cell spray foam
under slab.
• Windows: Triple-pane, U=0.16-0.18, SHGC=0.32-0.50, low-e3, argon-fi ll, vinyl-framed.
Shading: extended eaves, landscaping for shade, half of sunroom roof is opaque metal.
• Air Sealing: 0.27 ACH50, all SIP panel joints sealed with double bead of mastic and tape.
Windows and doors are foamed in. Whole house aerosolized acrylic sealant.
• Ventilation: HRV, continuous at 30 cfm, humidistat and CO sensored for boost. Also
mobile phone alert to IAQ sensors. HRV has HEPA fi lter.
• HVAC: Air-to-water heat pump, 3.92 COP for heating and 6.75 for cooling; 23.02 EER.
Radiant fl oor heat downstairs, fan coil upstairs. Designed for passive heating.
• Hot Water: Powered by the same air-to-water heat pump that heats and cools the home.
• Lighting and Appliances: LED lighting. ENERGY STAR appliances, induction cooktop.
• Solar: 10.8-kWh PV.
• Energy Management System: IAQ sensor controls for ventilation.
• Other: PV designed for house load + electric vehicle charging."

This national award represents a significant achievement, recognizing the most impressive and advanced homes among leading DOE Zero Energy Ready Home builders. Our standard-setting leadership serves as an example of what every homebuyer in the nation should come to expect and demand from their home.

US Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready Home Housing Innovation Awards Winner. "Powerhouse Designs & TC Legend Homes"
"Bellingham, WA
TCLegendHomes.com
Project: Samish Solar Home
Bellingham, WA"
"2,345 sqft, 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath, 2 floors. 4C Marine, Custom for Buyer." 
"HERS -20. This home's score with PV" - Indicates the HERS overachieves beyond the point of being just a Net Zero home which has a HERS of 0. The average new home as a HERS of 90 and the average existing home has a HERS of 140. 
"$-20 Average Monthly Energy Bill. Calculated." 
"$2,450 Annual Savings. Calculated versus typical new homes."
"$101,800 Saved in the first 30 years. Includes fuel escalation rate, 2021 EIA Energy Outlook."

The Housing Innovation Awards helps us celebrate our success in providing our customers with the best in energy efficiency, indoor air quality, comfort, and construction quality. Awardees this year are being recognized for innovative use of off-the-shelf technologies and strategies to achieve advanced performance; innovative use of leading-edge technologies and strategies to achieve advanced performance; market transformation through education efforts; and innovative implementation of decarbonization strategies.

"Powerhouse Designs & TC Legend Homes, Samish Solar Home, 2023"
A floor plan of the winning home.

Find Out More About the HIA Awards Here.

To start designing your very own potential future Housing Innovation Awards winning home, contact us today!

Net zero development: Which way to run the streets

Net zero development: Which way to run the streets

Written by: Jake Evans

Which way do you run the streets to maximize solar exposure for dense Net Zero development?

A street view of a row of colorful houses. The center blue house is a Net Zero house designed by Powerhouse Designs and built by TC Legend Homes.

Common wisdom states that the optimal streets run east west, which makes sense if you’re the house on the north side of the street, because there’s nothing shading your house, garden or solar panels. However, living on the south side of the street, you suffer from north facing gardens and probably some shading unless the lots are 5000sf or greater.

Critically, 10 dwelling units (du) per acre is the density with enough inhabitants to support a bus service (*1), a key part of the sustainable urbanist vision for transit, pedestrian & bike use, rather than private cars. An acre is 43500sf.

My conclusion is that the common wisdom is wrong for dense, Net Zero development, that the streets should run north-south.

A Net-Zero house has most of the windows on the south side of the house because south facing windows can be effectively shaded from summertime overheating, and can harvest wintertime solar energy.

Because all the windows are on the south walls, we can’t have another 2-story house immediately to the south as shown in ‘East-West 3700’ below, or the valuable direct wintertime sunlight will be prevented from entering & you’ll have a house that is gloomy all winter.

Sure, if the lots are big, we can keep the southern house away, as shown in ‘East-West 4500’ below, but then we end up with less than 10 du/ acre (du/a) and there’s no bus & everyone’s driving cars.

The ‘North-South 3800’ drawing below shows a 1-story neighbor garage to the south, avoiding shade. Bingo! That’s a 3800sf lot, and offers 11.34 du/a. Additionally the frontage length is reduced which lowers roadway & utility development costs.

Street Orientation Option 1 North-South 3800. A drawing showing a block of houses on streets oriented north to south and situated on their lots with garages on the north side and the long side of the house on the north and south side, allowing solar gain on the south side while not being blocked by the roofline of the neighboring house. Text says "2000 sf house with dbl garage. 3835 sf lot. 59' frontage / du = 11.34, du/a = density supports bus OK. Winter light = 100%. Equal solar exposure for all houses."
Street Orientation Option 2 East-West 3700. A drawing showing a block of houses on streets oriented east to west and situated on their lots with garages to one side of the house and the long side of the house on the north and south side. The two houses to the north of the block have garages on the west side and the southern two houses have garages on the east side mimicking the layout. The orientation allows solar gain on the south side but the diagram shows that 40% of the northern houses will be blocked by the roofline of the neighboring southern house. Text says "2000 sf house with dbl garage. 3700 sf lot. 74' frontage / du = 11.76, du/a = density supports bus OK. Winter light = 60% @ northern houses."
Street Orientation Option 3 East-West 4500. A drawing showing a block of houses on streets oriented east to west and situated on their lots with garages to one side of the house and the long side of the house on the north and south side. The two houses to the north of the block have garages on the west side and the southern two houses have garages on the east side mimicking the layout. The orientation allows solar gain on the south side while not being blocked by the roofline of the neighboring southern house. However the houses are visibly farther apart. Text says "2000 sf house with dbl garage. 4505 sf lot. 74' frontage / du = 9.66, du/a = density ~ supports bus OK. Winter light = 100%."

(*1) Transit modes related to residential density (Boris Pushkarev & Jeffry M Zupan)

Plans-for-Sale Powerhouse Designs Website is Now LIVE

Plans-for-Sale Powerhouse Designs Website is Now LIVE

Plans-for-Sale Powerhouse Designs Website is Now LIVE

Written by: Senna Scott

You asked and we listened!

We are so excited to announce that our Plans for Sale website in now officially LIVE!

Our Design team, Powerhouse Designs, have been working tirelessly at rendering our old & new plans, and working out the bugs back end to make a smooth purchasing experience!


Know of anyone looking to build a net-zero energy home? They can now skip the design phase by purchasing one of our plan-sets and get to building! Saving them thousands on design and getting to shovel-ready even quicker! If local to Bellingham, TC Legend Homes has availability for 2024 – 2025 home builds!

Powerhouse Designs now offers consultation and design services on purchased plans, helping you to customize the plans for your needs! Consultation slots are purchasable on the website.

In addition, Powerhouse Designs now offers NEW SERVICES!

  • Embodied Carbon Calculations
  • Built Green Certification Consultation 
  • Net-Zero Design Consultation 

Are you looking to calculate your carbon footprint or apply for a certification? Are you a contractor that needs to outsource this work for your clients or need support on making your plans more green? Our staff at Powerhouse Designs now offers Embodied Carbon Calculation Consultations, Built Green Certification and Net-Zero Design Consultation services!

Obtaining Built Green certifications and implementing Embodied Carbon calculations have become a rapidly changing part of the industry. Our team has been up-to-speed and pioneering this process! They will walk you step by step through the process for a stress-free experience! 

Check our Plans-for-Sale website HERE!

Impact of Eco-Conscious Living Series: Energy Efficiency

Impact of Eco-Conscious Living Series: Energy Efficiency

Impact of Eco-Conscious Living Series: Energy Efficiency

Written by: Nicole Miller

There are many ways to achieve energy efficiency in a home, from using energy efficient products like Energy Star appliances or energy efficient windows, to designing your home with passive heating and cooling in mind.

While energy efficiency can mean lower utility bills, the results also have a great impact on the environment. Unless you are using solely renewable energy to run your house, the energy you use will be produced mostly from coal and natural gas in the majority of the USA.

In Washington state, while energy is mainly generated from hydro-electric, ~15% is still produced using fossil fuels.3 Energy derived from these fossil fuels produce greenhouse gases as well other pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter.2 According to the EPA, 31% of the total CO2 emitted by the USA in 2019 came from fossil fuel combustion for energy production and accounted for 24% of the total greenhouse gas emission in the USA.1

Greenhouse gases are the main contributor to climate change, as they trap heat in our atmosphere and raise global temperatures. Climate change is not to be disregarded as it is already having major implications across the globe and will continue to have even more extreme impacts to come if we don’t stop it. If you want to learn more about climate change and its effects, visit https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/science/key-findings#physical-science

While we know that fossil fuel use is an obvious bad choice, Hydroelectric, while considered a renewable and generally “eco-friendly” energy option, is not as environmentally friendly as we like to think as well.

While there are plenty of debates within the environmental community on what the “best” renewable energy production method is, the facts are that none of them are perfect and all of them produce some kind of pollution or harmful effects. Looking at hydroelectric as an example, the renewable energy requires a massive amount of concrete to make the dams, while concrete is known to be a huge greenhouse gas emitter. Dams also have disastrous effects on the health of the rivers and the surrounding ecosystem, including our salmon populations which are a keystone species. Not to mention the people that get displaced due to the reservoir that’s created. Then when a dam breaks, it causes even more damage downstream as it tears apart the ecosystem and towns that has grown in the absence of the natural river. 

All of this is to say, that in order to lessen our impacts on the environment, we have to lessen our energy consumption and choose which energy source we use wisely. In the instance of TC Legend Home’s net zero homes that utilize solar energy, with less overall energy usage, less solar panels will be needed on your array, saving precious materials needed to produce the panels themselves.

This will lessen your house’s overall energy carbon footprint. On the other hand, if you are producing more energy than your house consumes, then the excess electricity produced will transfer onto the grid for others to use, thereby reducing the amount of fossil fuels used by someone else. Of course, the local energy company may also reimburse you for this addition as well. 

At TC Legend Homes, in order to build highly energy efficient homes, we take a few different approaches.

Firstly, in the design of the home drafted up by our design company, Powerhouse Designs, we place the mechanical room in a central location and plan ahead to add extra space for the HRV air ducting that traditional HVAC systems don’t need.

TC Legend’s houses are designed to allow for passive solar heating in the winter and solar shade in the summer, cutting down on the need for the heating/cooling system. Instead of a traditional leaky envelope, TC utilizes high efficiency windows, SIPs and ICFs paired with aerobarrier aerosol sealant to create a super tight envelope, keeping the heated and cooled air in.

For heating, cooling and domestic hot water, TC opts for high efficiency heatpumps such as those from the Chiltrix line. For ventilation the Fantech Hero HRV is the choice as it’s also incredibly efficient. In the selection phase, TC requires appliances be Energy Star rated and lighting be LED. All of this in combination allows us to build exceptionally energy efficient, Energy Star certified homes, cutting back on the home’s energy carbon footprint. 

Want to learn more about our energy efficient designs and net-zero energy formula? Check out our Plans For Sale website to see available plans for purchase!

SOURCES:

1“Overview of Greenhouse Gases.” United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), EPA.gov, https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases. 2/14/22.

2“What is Energy Efficiency?.” Energy Star, https://www.energystar.gov/about/about_energy_efficiency. 2/14/22

3“Profile Analysis.” U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), EIA.com, https://www.eia.gov/state/analysis.php?sid=WA.

TC Legend – A Value’s Based Company – A Feminine Perspective

TC Legend – A Value’s Based Company – A Feminine Perspective

TC Legend – A Value’s Based Company – A Feminine Perspective

Written by: Senna Scott
(Edited by: Sarah DesRosiers) 

Something that we don’t hear much about in the construction industry, is the voice and perspective of the Feminine. I am grateful to say that there has been so much growth, progress, and change over the past 10 years that I’m hoping more women consider entering the industry. 

We’ve posted about many of our accomplishments, the houses we’ve built, our team wins, awards, and events.  But what is it like for a female, behind the scenes, at TC Legend?  

I’m Senna. I am the Office Manager and head of HR, at TC Legend Homes. I primarily run our finances, books, taxes, payroll, marketing, safety, employee relations and IT.  We’re still a small business, so we all wear many hats to get the job done! 

This topic is very dear to my heart and is an article I’ve been wanting to write for a long time now. For the past 12 years, I have worked in the Energy Engineering & Construction Industry, at various corporate companies.  Being a young woman employed in a male-dominated industry, I’ve had to overcome a lot of adversity.  Working for TC Legend Homes has been unlike any other experience I’ve had. 

I was the first woman to work for TC Legend back in 2015. When I started, I worked half-time on the job-site and half-time in the office. I was eager to learn how to build an energy efficient home. I remember vividly the day that I received my first tool belt from Dan, one of our crew members. I loved being a part of the crew!  While I only worked for the company for 6 months, before returning to a corporate job, a seed had been planted.  There was something different about this company compared to other jobs in the industry. This prompted me to stay in contact with Ted, TC’s founder, over the next few years. In 2019, the company went through a reorganization of management and ownership.  Norm DesRosiers became co-owner of the company and office staff was also going through a major transformation.  Life had brought me back to Bellingham, and in early 2020, Ted reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in coming back to work for TC. I agreed, eagerly! The driving force behind my decision to return to this company was that I consider it to be a heart-based company. By heart-based company, I mean we really flipping CARE!  We care about the work we do, our clients, and each other. 

I’m a very empathetic person, which means I feel the energy and people’s feelings easily. Often, I know how someone is feeling even before they do. I can sense the ‘energy’ of a person or a company’s intentions very quickly.  My sense of TC has been spot on and vastly different from that of the corporate companies I have previously been employed. It is a company that truly values equality, integrity, and a deep desire to make the world a better place.

We care about our customers. We care about our employees. We care about the earth. We care about the work we do. We care about every house we build. We care about future generations and about our kids having options to own a safe, affordable, and efficient home one day. We care about the industry and want to change how things have been! 

TC is such a contrast from other jobs I have had in the field.  Before TC, I worked among money-driven managers, employees, teams, and customers. I had hoped to do meaningful work, but I felt so drained, and even suffered health problems from over-working 50, 60, and sometimes even 70 hour work weeks. I never saw where my efforts and energy went. I have experienced work environments where bosses and general managers have belittled, made sexual implications or jokes, who have completely disregarded what I’ve said, who have taken the credit for my ideas or work, and who have even slapped a female co-worker’s bottom on my shift. Unfortunately, I know there are many women who share similar and far worse stories of misogyny in the workforce. Women have had to ‘fight’ their way to ‘prove’ themselves, particularly in this industry. Often, women in the workforce, have to choose between work and family, missing out on child rearing and homelife. TC Legend Homes is nothing like these other work experiences.  It is a safe work environment.

I feel so grateful and privileged to say that I don’t have to sacrifice time, with my kiddo, for work. TC Legend values the importance of family life and caring for our children. I am a single Mom.  As an employee at TC, I can work from home. I am able to balance work, family, and social life with ease. Plus, I love the work I do! At TC, my voice and ideas are heard and valued.

Working for this company has healed me in many ways. I have grown as an individual and shed some of my wounding after working in misogynistic work environments.  For example,  I used to swear a lot because that is how I observed men talking in the corporate world and I was trying to  “keep up with the men.” I also used to make crude jokes.  I recall Ted pointing out that I swore more than anyone else in the company.  This surprised me as I was unaware that I was doing this and it forced me to discover why I felt the need to use foul language around men.  This feedback from my boss prompted me to examine how working in a male-dominated industry had not only shaped me, but how this didn’t have to be the way I engage in a work environment anymore.  I don’t need to “keep up with the men.”  I can be me.

This is just one example of my own internalized patriarchy. The fight against sexism, which is work we all must do, regardless of gender, if we want to build a better future and a safer industry! 

At TC Legend, there is a high intolerance for unnecessary profanity. There is also a high intolerance toward misogynistic behavior and sexual harassment. We care about the safety of our employees!  

A heart-based company is only accomplished by having great leaders who are solid in their shared values and who hire passionate and value-driven employees. 

Ted is one of the most idealistic people I’ve ever met. I laugh looking back over all his soap-box speeches of the future and what we need to do to improve as an industry as well as a society. I met him at a Built Green Conference, in Seattle, back in 2014.I remember vividly his long, grown-out orange beard.  He was wearing an orange sweatshirt, with his kids’ painted hand prints. I remember thinking “I want THAT guy as a boss!”

One book Ted lives by is called Let My People Go Surfing, by Patagonia’s CEO and founder Yvon Chouinard, who shares his unique philosophy. Ted has loaned me the book before, and no, I never read it.  I’m more of an audio book type *cough* millennial *cough* , but the message is clear in the title. Take care of your employees, give them a good work/life balance, and your business will thrive. 

And this is very clear in how we operate. When there’s conflict, I have witnessed time and time again, an honest and proactive approach to find resolve, and a solution that takes care of the employee. 
 
Our crew has a Four Day work week.  Hopefully, America can one day mandate this for all . We give Ski season passes as a benefit to boost morale in the winter months. We genuinely want happy and healthy employees. I like to joke that Ted could write the book Let My People Go Skiing! 

Co-owner, Norm, is one of the most grounded (for a water sign 😉), neutral, perspective-honoring, humble, objective, and driven humans. He has an impeccable work ethic.  He’s such a great balance to Ted. Norm is also caring.  He cares deeply about our planet and lives life in alignment with the native philosophy, “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”  Norm cares about our employees and strives to manage the company and client relationships with integrity.  Norm has a lovely wife and two girls. One of my first memories of him was being on our weekly meeting call and Jake asking him what color his nails were painted that week. They were pink! He let his girls paint his nails! 

What I appreciate most about both Ted and Norm, is the level of respect they’ve given me over the years. They care about my counsel, my ideas, and look to me as an equal. They are both examples of men that honor their own ‘feminine.’ By this, I mean, they honor their own and individual’s emotions, having great respect for women, apologize when wrong, and prioritize harmony, safety and balance for themselves and their employees. 

Our not-so-spoken-about philosophy is one of balance and equality. When we recognize the strengths of our employees, regardless of gender, we all thrive. When we also honor and recognize strengths we can utilize from gender, we also thrive. When we offer equal pay, benefits, offer leveraging opportunities for women and minorities, we set a new precedent. 

Over the past couple of years, we’ve hired on two more *amazing* young women that have significantly shaped and enhanced both TC Legend Homes and our sister Design Company, Powerhouse Designs

Talia, a recent graduate from Western Washington University, with her passion for designing and building zero-energy ready homes, has learned the role of a Draftswoman at an incredible pace. She’s gotten down our formula of net-zero energy homes and is capable of leading her own clients through the Design Phase. With her love for the STEM world and all things technical, she’s even developed a whole new sector for our business, offering Consulting services for certifying Built Green (which the requirements have been changing) AND offering Embodied Carbon Calculation Services!! 

(I’ll leave it to Talia to educate us more on Embodied Carbon & her calculations in future blogs!) 

Nicole, another passionate graduate from Western Washington University with former years of experience coordinating and managing in the housing industry.  She has taken on Project Manager and Office Admin support! She supports our clients with product selections, ordering materials, making sure they arrive on site, handling contracts, draws, and profitability analysis. From applying for awards, attending events, being in the ‘know’ about regulations and code changes, she has significantly improved many of our systems! The amount of work she’s taken off of Ted & Norm, so they can spend more time managing on site, handling technical operations, doing more profit- generating tasks, and spending more time with their families is invaluable! Above all else she has significantly improved our client communication and has given our clients even more of a voice – that’s HUGE! 

And lest I forget, Jake, our head Draftsman of Powerhouse Designs, who used to be a stay-at-home Dad, is one of the warmest and most eccentric people, with a brilliant mind! He’s been another pillar of supporting myself over the years and training Talia to his level, and beyond! 

Our whole crew are brilliant, unique individuals (I’ll be show casing our construction crew in future blogs)! It’s truly an honor to work alongside such educated, progressive and value-based individuals! I know every day I am showing up to make a difference, even if it’s from behind-the-scenes. 😊   

We are one of many companies that are raising the bar – stepping in the right direction of creating a new standard. Truthfully, one that should have always been the norm. May we honor the women that have come before us in the workforce, and the men who stand beside us, lift us up, and who strive to make the world a better place for our daughters and granddaughters! 

Together, we are creating a brighter future for generations to come!