Business

Builder brings 'zero energy ready' homes to Cedar Rapids

Allan Custom Homes condos part of U.S. program

A closet holds all of the pipes and machinery necessary to heat and cool at a home built by Paul Brundell of Allan Custom Homes in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, June 13, 2019. Brundell configured the home to be energy-efficient, making use of technology such as an air source heat pump for heating and cooling, LED lighting, and construction design that will one day accommodate solar panels and electric cars, should a homeowner choose to add them. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A closet holds all of the pipes and machinery necessary to heat and cool at a home built by Paul Brundell of Allan Custom Homes in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, June 13, 2019. Brundell configured the home to be energy-efficient, making use of technology such as an air source heat pump for heating and cooling, LED lighting, and construction design that will one day accommodate solar panels and electric cars, should a homeowner choose to add them. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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Rick and Mary Whitney were experienced homeowners when they bought a newly completed condominium on Dorchester Place NE after moving to Cedar Rapids from Colorado.

“We have owned 13 homes,” Rick Whitney said. “The craftsmanship in this home appeared to be better than the average home. All the baseboards and trim around the doors are just perfect.”

The condominiums at 700 Dorchester Place. NE — purchased by the Whitneys — and 702 Dorchester Place NE are examples of what a federal program terms “zero energy ready homes.”

Allan Custom Homes of Cedar Rapids constructed the 1,606-square-foot, three-bedroom, two bathroom condos.

They were independently certified under U.S. Department of Energy specifications for advanced construction practices and technologies by Preferred Energy Consultants of Anamosa.

The Dorchester condominiums are priced at $250,000. Paul Brundell, founder and president of Allan Custom Homes, said the homes are built to provide a healthy living environment with comfort and durability beyond what typically is available on the housing market.

“We have done a lot of what I would call higher end custom homes where budgets tend to be a little more generous,” Brundell said. “Our goal is to value-engineer that into a product that is affordable to a larger swathe of the marketplace.

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“Energy efficiency doesn’t need to be limited to those with a higher net worth. It’s affordable to the everyday consumer purchasing a home if they know what to look for and ask for when they are interviewing builders.”

The Dorchester condos have zoned heating and cooling featuring radiant floor heat provided by a natural gas-fired boiler and a tankless water heater. There are no floor registers and no furnace filters to change.

Each room has a separate air-conditioning unit connected to a high efficiency heat pump that have a dual function of hearing and cooling.

A small electric fan activated with a wall switch in each bedroom can draw in conditioned air from the living room when needed.

“We feel the heat pump will be much more energy efficient than a forced air natural gas furnace and a regular air conditioning system,” Whitney said. “When we were a little chilly last week and I increased the radiant heat by two degrees, the floors warmed up quickly.”

Pocket doors separate bathrooms from bedrooms and walk-in closets as well as the kitchen from a combination mud room and laundry room.

The thicker walls are able to accommodate pocket doors due the use of two-by-six-inch studs.

While the Dorchester condos do not have a basement, they do include a 24-by-24-foot heated and cooled garage for vehicles and storage space.

“I can open and close the garage door with my cellphone,” Whitney said. “I can unlock the side entry door with my cellphone to allow UPS to make a delivery when we are not at home and lock it after the driver leaves.

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“I also can operate each of the air conditioning units with my cellphone while I am away. I can set the temperature so it will be cooler when I get home.”

Brundell said a small solar energy system can be added to offset most, if not all, of the homeowner’s energy consumption.

“The solar energy system installers can access the roof from a ceiling panel in the garage,” he said. “The inverter to connect the solar energy system to the home’s electrical system can be mounted next to the circuit breaker panel in the garage.”

Allan Custom Homes is one of two Iowa builders participating in the program developed by the U.S. Department of Energy. Legacy GreenBuilders of Solon has five properties certified as zero energy ready homes.

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