How Good is that Wall?

With a conventional 2 x 6 wall, you get a nominal R-19 rating, but the effective R-value is usually only a little over ½ of that due to heat transfer through wood components, voids around the wiring, and real-world conditions.
Our minimum preferred framing system is a 2 x 4 wall with sprayed-in-place cellulose insulation backed with R-7 rigid foam insulation on the outside. The asphalt-impregnated paper facing on conventional fiberglass insulation is extremely flammable and difficult to extinguish once ignited. The cellulose insulation is a recycled product that is treated with borax and boric acid. Another example of green products having unexpected side benefits. Additional benefits are: reduced air infiltration, reduced cleaning, increased the usable area of the house and the overall measured external square footage, controlled insects and mold, and increased fire resistance.

Conventional Wall
Conventional Wall

We have also built frame walls with a nominal R-value of up to R-35, which is about what a straw bale wall is but requires much less floor space. This gives an effective R-value close to R-27.

Almost 20% of the heat loss in a conventional building is due to air infiltration under frame walls. About 15% is due to heat loss through the opaque wall areas. Air leakage under the walls is a more important factor than the nominal R-value of the wall, but it requires more research, more attention by the builder, and it is much harder to put in an advertisement.

Better Wall
Better Wall

A typical house with 2 x 6 walls might have 120 less usable square feet than if it were built with our minimum framing system. It would have an appraised value area of 60-120 feet more. At $100 per square foot, that would be an $18,000 to $24,000 difference in your taxed property.

More important are the long-term ownership benefits. As an example, if a $10,000 investment in energy conservation saves $800 the first year and energy costs rise at 10% per year while housing values increase at 8% a year, at the end of the second year the energy savings will be $1,680, while the $10,000 investment will have appreciated to $11,800. After ten years, that $10,000 investment will have appreciated to $52,338. It will have saved $12,750 in energy costs. Also, the initial investment is typically part of a mortgage and may be tax-sheltered.

This does not count intangibles such as protecting the environment, preserving indigenous cultures from exploitation, providing a stronger economy, and having lived in a healthier home. Experience has shown that over time intangibles are often the most valuable and the most profitable. Economy and ecology have the same root word: Oikos, which is Greek for house. What goes around comes around. We pay now or we pay later with interest, and the hidden charges are the ones that hurt the most.

Jim Graham, Las Cruces New Mexico Builder

Leed Certification

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a globally recognized sustainability achievement symbol. It is the most widely used green building rating system and is available for new construction and remodels. LEED provides parameters for building efficient, healthy buildings with cost-saving methods.
The benefits of LEED Certification include:

  • certification requires third party inspection and testing, which provides objective quality assurance above and beyond the mandatory building inspections.
  • Reduced energy and water usage
  • Lower operating costs
  • Less construction waste
  • Reduced liability
  • More durable buildings
  • Supports the local economy
  • Greater resale value
  • Improved indoor air quality
  • New Mexico’s Sustainable Building Tax Credit will return up to $13,000 in tax credits for a residential building that earns LEED Platinum Certification.
  • It is becoming easier for individuals with modest incomes to have their homes remodeled or built to green standards.

    Types of Solar

    Passive Solar Heating

    Passive Solar Home
    Passive Solar Home

    Buildings designed for passive solar heating with natural sunlight to light a building’s interior incorporate large south-facing windows, skylights, and building materials that absorb and slowly release the sun’s heat. Incorporating passive solar designs can reduce heating bills as much as 50 percent. Passive solar designs can also include natural ventilation for cooling. Windows are an important aspect of passive solar design. In cold climates, south-facing windows designed to let the sun’s heat in while insulating against the cold are ideal. In hot and moderate climates, the strategy is to admit light while rejecting heat. Interior spaces requiring the most light, heat, and cooling are located along the south face of the building, with less used space to the north. Open floor plans allow more sun inside.

    Active Solar Heating

    Active solar heating systems consist of collectors that collect and absorb solar radiation and electric fans or pumps to transfer and distribute the solar heat in a fluid (liquid or air) from the collectors. They may have a storage system to provide heat when the sun is not shining.

    An active system may offer more flexibility than a passive system in terms of siting and installation.

    Heating your home with an active solar energy system can significantly reduce your fuel bills in the winter.

    A solar heating system will also reduce the amount of air pollution and greenhouse gases that result from your use of fossil fuels such as oil, propane, and natural gas for heating or that may be used to generate the electricity that you use.

    Combined Passive/Active Solar Heating

    We have learned to combine passive and active solar elements in our designs because they both have advantages. Passive heating allows us to use building elements (walls, floors, etc.) as heat storage, reducing the requirements for water storage while leaving the advantages of active solar systems.

    A cubic foot of water will transport or store 3800 times the amount of heat the same volume of air will. Active solar systems allow the use of water to collect, store and transport heat.

    While some of our houses have been completely passive, actually able to meet their heating loads with the elegant simplicity of passive heating, we believe that a combined system is most effective because the increased area of glass amplifies total heating and cooling load, and active systems allow the greatest flexibility of site design, landscaping, and room layout.

    One advantage to using the sun to heat your building in New Mexico is that it allows you to use the unique ”solar right of way” law preventing neighbors from shading your collecting surface, and preserving the open spaces to the south of your building.

    Sun and Earth are distributors of ezinc Solar Water Heaters. What better way to save money than to use the Sun to heat your water!

    Other systems are available as well. We help you decide what’s best for you!

    Jim Graham, Contractor/Builder Las Cruces New Mexico

    Green Building: Minimal Impact on Environment

    A green building is any building that is sited, designed, constructed, operated, and maintained for the health and well-being of the occupants while minimizing the impact on the environment.

    Green Building

    Green building construction refers to those practices that promote occupant health and comfort while minimizing negative impacts on the environment. There are different degrees of “greenness.” Often it is necessary to strike a balance between many different sometimes conflicting “green” options based on the particular conditions of a given project. For example, a proper strategy for a sustainable retrofit project may differ from that of a new construction design.

    Green building practices offer an opportunity to create environmentally sound and resource-efficient buildings by using an integrated approach to design. Green buildings promote resource conservation by including design features, such as energy efficiency, use of renewable energy, and water conservation.

    By promoting resource conservation, green building design creates healthy and comfortable environments, reduces operation and maintenance costs, considers the environmental impact of building construction and retrofit, and concentrates on waste minimization.

    In the interim, green building design addresses such issues as historical preservation and access to public transportation and other community infrastructure systems. The entire life cycle of the building and its components is considered, as well as the economic and environmental impact and performance.

    Jim Graham, Las Cruces Contractor

    Durability

    The Foundation

    Building and Remodeling


    We offer post-tensioned concrete, using fly ash as an additive material to concrete.

    The roof

    The advantages of metal as a roofing material are efficiency and sustainability.
    We combine these attributes and integrate this roofing into the heating and cooling system.
    To learn more please go our Solar Systems page.

    Radiant Floor Overview

    Radiant heating systems convert a floor into a large area, low-temperature radiator. Warm water is circulated through closely spaced plastic tubing that is embedded in the floor slab or attached to the underside of wooden subflooring. Underfloor insulation is a critical component. Zoning depends on advanced manifolds that regulate flow or modulate the water temperature in different tubing runs. Sophisticated controls regulate the system using temperature sensors in the slab in each room being heated as well as outdoors. [Read more]

    Jim Graham, Las Cruces New Mexico Contractor