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Newly constructed Sanbornton home shows its green side

The Peeks’ living area features green building materials, as well as artifacts garnered from Phil Peeks archeological studies. Meghan Siegler. (click for larger version)

Phil Peek (left) and Pat Peek stand with Robert Irving of RH Irving Builders outside their newly built Sanbornton home. Meghan Siegler. (click for larger version)
September 30, 2009
SANBORNTON — Finding small, innovative ways to make a new home greener was a welcome challenge for Phil and Pat Peek, whose new Sanbornton home will be part of the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association's Green Buildings Open House Saturday.

"It's possible to be green and not spend a lot of money," Phil Peek said.

The Peeks moved to Sanbornton from New Jersey in May, after Phil Peek retired and just as the house was in its final stages of construction.

"It was really my project – Phil was the 'yes man,'" Pat Peek said.

Pat Peek is originally from Manchester and has family nearby, she said, and most of the Peeks' kids live nearby.

"This is home for me," she said.

With the design for their new house already drawn up by their nephew Nick Isaak, AIA, LEED AP, the Peeks interviewed six local builders. They ultimately hired Robert Irving of RH Irving in Concord, who was willing to work closely with the Peeks to build a green home.

"Everybody (else) didn't think for the budget we had it could be done," Pat Peek said. "He took the architect's drawings and worked with the design."

One of the greenest elements of the home is a ventilation system that brings in fresh air and exhausts the inside air. In the process, the fresh air pulls the heat from the exhausted air.

"The fresh air coming in is warm air rather than cold," Irving said.

Irving oversees a 1991 vacation home with oak floors and the same type of ventilation system; because of the fresh air flowing through and a lower level of humidity, there has been no gapping in the floors or any wooden elements.

He said the system uses a small amount of energy, is kept in the basement, and is very quiet.

"It's pretty inconspicuous," he said.

The house also uses radiant floors and "on demand" water, which allows one unit to provide heat and hot water. It's one system that cost more, but the Peeks

"We were quite willing to accept a little more up front for (fewer costs) down the road," Phil Peek said.

The home's cement siding, which Irving said is more stable than wood, is backed by strapping that allows any water that seeps through the siding to run out the bottom. The foundation is insulated as well, and there are three-foot overhangs to protect the outdoor walls and windows.

There's no air conditioning in the house; instead, they utilized fans and lots of windows, including skylights, for cross ventilation. The Marvin Integrity windows use low-e glass, which helps prevent heat loss. The Peeks are looking to purchase double-cell shades for some of those windows, as their first summer proved a bit warm at times when the sun beamed through.

"We need them as much for the heat in the summer as for cold in the winter," Pat Peek said.

A solar tube in the master bath goes up to roof and brings daylight inside, another energy-efficient way to use natural lighting and save money. The door to the bathroom is frosted as well, so there's no need to turn lights on at all during the day.

Other green choices were bamboo wood floors and an insulated concrete floor with radiant heat in the basement living space that has been stained and sealed.

"Tiled floor would have been a lot more expensive," Pat Peek said, guessing that the concrete cost less than a third of what tiling would have.

The floor joists, beams and sheathing are made from sustainable materials, while the walls include two inches of Styrofoam to insulate the framing and provide a "thermal break." Irving said he used an Advantech "Zip" sheathing to provide an air barrier for the whole house, which eliminates the need for a separate house wrap.

The house has been given a five-star energy rating. Its air infiltration is 1.79, compared to 5 for the average new home. Irving followed the "build tight, ventilate right" creed.

The Peeks use Energy Star appliances throughout, though Pat Peek pointed out that they are modest, not "top of the line."

As part of the design, the house was built to accommodate the disabled, should the Peeks lose some of their physical abilities as they grow older. For example, the shower is a walk-in, and they installed comfort toilets and easy-to reach faucets.

Right now the Peeks have no immediate plans to further revamp their house, but they said it was built south facing for the eventual installation of solar panels.

The Peeks could have a spectacular view of Hermit Lake – their house was built on waterfront property – but have chosen to minimize tree cutting and instead do a little canopy raising.

"We'll live with a view that's not complete," Pat Peek said.

The Peeks house, located at 203 Hueber Drive in Sanbornton, will be open for viewing Oct. 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To learn about other Lakes Region homes that are part of the Green Buildings Open House, visit nhsea.org/resource/gboh_list_2009.php.

"If you're gonna do a green house, be on top of it and research the materials," Pat Peek said. "Most people are freaked out by building a house, but I loved it … this house represents what you can do with a very standard design."

Martin Lord & Osman
Varney Smith
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