In a recent presentation at METALCON in Chicago, IL, Peter Pfeiffer, FAIA, principal, Barley & Pfeiffer Architects, Austin, TX, discussed some commonsense ideas for building and living green. Pfeiffer, a pioneer in green building who owns “the greenest house in America,” stressed the cost-effectiveness of conserving energy in simple ways, such as adjusting your sprinkler system, placing your electrical panel on an interior (instead of an exterior) wall, and having your roof act as a shading umbrella.
“Don’t underestimate the value of discussing the obvious,” said Pfeiffer. “R-value means little if the house leaks, windows are unshaded, or the roof is a dark color. This is obvious stuff.” He added that sensible green building is “smarter and better” because it results in “reduced consumption of stuff,” such as energy, water, and nonrenewable materials. This type of building also improves health and indoor air quality.
Pfeiffer stressed that producing your own power is expensive. “Shading windows is better than adding [high-maintenance] solar roof panels. Light-colored metal roofs with broad overhangs that shade windows save money and are easier to maintain.”
How do you accomplish green building? Pfeiffer stated, “Keep it simple and rely on smart, thoughtful, climate-sensitive design.” He said that gizmos and complex things break, and are expensive and time-consuming to fix. Instead, make practical changes to your house, such as using Energy Star dishwashers, low-flow showerheads, and less hot water (instead of buying a fancy water heater). Also, don’t use dark roofs in the South.
Pfeiffer is a proponent of cool metal roofing/ASV ventilation. Unlike conventional roofing insulation, ventilation makes the roof last longer because it doesn’t lock in moisture. A Galvalume metal roof with an airspace underneath keeps heat in the house, he said, and a metal roof costs more than shingles, but it provides long-term cost savings on energy and insurance.
Solar radiation is a “big, powerful thing—and it’s uncomfortable. You need overhangs. Retrofitting with window awnings cuts air conditioning loads by a third by reducing radiation.”