Our Point Whitehorn net-zero home was featured in @TheNorthernLight Blaine & Birch Bay’s Community Newspaper!
“Nestled adjacent to wetlands and with views of Birch Bay State Park, TC Legend Homes’ Point Whitehorn house is not your average house. The home has a 7.2kW photovoltaic system – the conversion of light into electrical energy – and is built in a highly efficient envelope, setting it up to be a net-zero energy house in Birch Bay.”
You can learn about our cost-saving measures and design challenges by reading the full article online >> HERE <<
TC Legend Homes has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a 2023 Indoor airPLUS Leader Award winner for our ongoing commitment to building homes with improved indoor air quality through participation in the Indoor airPLUS program.
“Congratulations to all 14 2023 Indoor airPLUS Leader Award winners!” said David Rowson, Director of EPA’s Indoor Environments Division.
“It is always inspiring to have the opportunity to recognize the incredible work that our partners do every day, from expanding the use of Indoor airPLUS on a national scale, to maintaining strong leadership within their local communities. On behalf of EPA and the Indoor airPLUS team, we would like to congratulate and thank the 2023 Indoor airPLUS Leader Award winners for all of their work in constructing healthier homes for the American consumer”.
This annual award recognizes market-leading organizations who promote safer, healthier, and more comfortable indoor environments by participating in the Inoor airPLUS program.
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!
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.
At TC Legend Homes, we have dedicated ourselves to pursing the vision of zero-energy homes for all. We strive to be pioneers in energy efficiency, seeking to create a healthy and clean carbon neutral future that allows the next generation to thrive. Our history of excellence in reducing or eliminating the operational emissions of our homes speaks for itself. Through extensive energy efficiency measures, quality craftsmanship, and a combination of passive solar design and rooftop photovoltaic, we have created a building model that allows us to make our affordable, zero-energy home vision a reality. Over the past 7 years, we have built more than 20 homes and ADU’s that are zero energy ready at a minimum with more than 12 of the 20 being net positive homes. Now it is time for TC Legend to expand our focus to address the other element of emissions in buildings, the embodied carbon.
The carbon footprint of any building is comprised of two elements: the commonly focused upon operational carbon and the less commonly addressed embodied carbon. Since our building model has successfully addressed the operational aspect of this footprint, we are now expanding our focus to addressing the embodied component while still maintaining excellence within the operational emissions.
What is Embodied Carbon and Why does it Matter?
You might ask, “What exactly is embodied carbon and why do we care about it?” Simply put, embodied carbon is the upfront “carbon footprint” of a product. For buildings, you can think of it as the emissions that are produced to create the parts of the building, encompassing all emissions that occur before it is functioning as a home. This includes all emissions from material production and those produced during construction. In contrast the operational carbon of a home is the emissions released to heat, cool, and electrify the home over its lifetime.
Figure 1: Carbon Foot Print Formula
Since embodied carbon emissions are “stored” in the home before it is operating, the embodied carbon sets the baseline for the total footprint of the home. Even if a house is exceptionally efficient, producing little to no operational emissions, the total carbon footprint of the house is not zero because of the upfront emissions. This is why embodied carbon matters. If we solely focus on operational carbon and the future emissions of the home, we do not consider the significant portion of emissions being released NOW. And, according to the 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, drastically reducing emissions now is what will have the greatest impact on avoiding the most severe elements of climate disaster. For years, scientists have warned of the catastrophic results to the climate and environment if the world reaches an average temperature of 1.5-2° C above prehistoric levels. The 2022 IPCC report notes that we are on a trajectory to reach the 1.5° C in the next two decades, highlighting the only way to stop this impending disaster is to focus on emission on the today-10 year timeline. Since the majority of building emissions occurring in the first 10-15 years of a highly efficient or zero-energy home are embodied emissions, these need to be our focus moving forward. While we do not want to give up operational efficiency, we need to focus on reducing the embodied carbon emissions that are produced now, and work to reduce the overall emissions of our buildings.
The below graphs illustrate how a reduction in the embodied carbon has a significant impact on the total emissions of a home on the ten year time horizon, given that the majority of emissions on this time scale are from embodied carbon. House #1 and House #2 demonstrate two houses with the same design, producing similar operational emissions. However, if we are careful in selecting materials with lower embodied carbon, we can see a significant difference in the total emissions of a house, as demonstrated by the house #2 graph. These two graphs illustrate a high efficiency home designed without a focus on embodied carbon (house #1) vs one where there is attention given to reducing embodied carbon (house #2).
Figure 2: Total Emissions of a Home on the Ten Year Time Horizon
As a company that strives to create a healthy future for all, it is our responsibility to do our part in the next 10 years. By expanding our focus to better address our homes “now” emissions through modeling and decreasing our embodied carbon, we are working to be part of the necessary change. Tackling the biggest issues and working to refine our model to achieve excellence in both areas of home emissions is our newest goal, and one we hope that through education of the public and adjustment without our own building model, we can help lead the building industry in the right direction.
We will share additional posts on the topic of embodied carbon with more details on what embodied carbon is, how its calculated, and how we are making changes in the coming weeks so stay tuned!