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EXPERIMENTAL HOMES NEARLY READY FOR ENERGY TESTS; THE LEXINGTON DUPLEXES COULD FORECAST THE FUTURE OF CONSTRUCTION.
taken from the Housing Zone Daily News

The only thing obviously unusual about the four alternative houses contractor Buddy Hughes has built is the whiskery wires that stick out of their walls.

The wires are fiber optic cables that monitor energy use in the homes and send the information to the Washington, D.C., offices of the National Association for Home Builders Research Center.

Each of the houses, built side by side, is made of different materials, and the information received by the center ultimately will be used to determine the energy-efficiency and cost of such alternative building materials.

The project off B.R. Hunt Road is part of PATH, or Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing, a public-private enterprise led by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. There has been only one other PATH projected completed in North Carolina.

The concept is simple. Wood rots and makes a tasty repast for termites, and fiberglass loses its energy-efficiency. But the outlandish ''houses of the future'' with ''space-age materials'' featured in a host of old 1950s documentaries have always seemed like science fiction. So some builders have started experimenting with non-traditional material to build traditional-looking homes.

''There's nothing about these homes that makes them look different from conventional, stick-built places,'' Hughes said. ''We've found that if you change things too much, there's a lot of resistance.''

The four ranch-style duplexes look identical, with their brick and vinyl siding and two-bedroom, one-bath floor plans.

One that's already completed is a traditional stick-built home, which will serve as a control for the energy comparisons.

One is made of insulated concrete form, which has two, thick pieces of plastic foam between which concrete is poured. Another is built of ThermaSteel, large but light steel frames sandwiching plastic foam. The third is constructed of aerated autoclaved concrete, which resembles concrete cinder blocks but is made up of coal byproducts. It's lighter and more energy efficient than concrete.

''Homes built like these are twice as efficient, more resistant to natural disasters but still affordable, and they'll remain as efficient in 100 years as they are now,'' said Hughes, who intends to use them as rental properties.

Dan Priest, a research analyst with the research center in Washington, calls Hughes ''an enlightened builder,'' noting that many are often slow to embrace new materials because it slows work down a bit.

''We're really grateful to Buddy for giving us these side-by-side tests,'' Priest said. ''They allow us to compare energy efficiency for the different home types, compile the results and send information we gain to the building industry.'' Contact Justin Cord Hayes at 883-4422, Ext. 238 or jhayes@news-record.com


Copyright 2001 News & Record (Greensboro, NC)
News & Record (Greensboro, NC)
August 19, 2001, Sunday, HIGH POINT/RANDOLPH EDITION
BYLINE: BY JUSTIN CORD HAYES; Staff Writer
DATELINE: LEXINGTON
Copyrightę 2001 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.