January 2005

Two Builders' Show Houses Benefit from FSEC Assistance

FSEC is playing a key role in two show houses on display at this year’s International Builders Show held in conjunction with the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Annual Convention in Orlando January 13-16.

The show is the world's largest and most comprehensive building industry trade show, featuring 1,600 exhibitors display the latest in home and building products with hands-on demonstrations, working displays and even full-scale homes. More than 90,000 building professionals from more than 95 countries are expected to attend.

The Not So Big Show House
The Not So Big Show House was featured at the International Builders Show.
(Photo credit: Rob Vieira)

Among the spectacular features of the annual show are the many homes showcasing the latest products and innovations that are built in the convention center, its parking lot and in a number of off-site locations. Cross-sections of demonstration houses show builders and designers materials and technologies that are otherwise hidden by the finished structure. These ‘real-world’ laboratories embody a full extent of possibilities that can be replicated—in whole or in part—in any size house.

Two of these demonstration houses -- the Not So Big Show House (NSBSH) and the Palm Harbor Modular Home Show House – have been developed with the assistance of FSEC buildings division researchers.

The Not So Big Show House – actually a house larger than 2500-square-feet -- received building science technical assistance from two of the Department of Energy’s Building America teams, FSEC and Steven Winters Associates. Building America’s goal for this and all Building America houses is to improve the building’s energy efficiency by 30 percent while maintaining or improving comfort, durability, and indoor air quality.

This fits well with NSBSH chief architect’s Sarah Susanka’s design philosophy of combining concepts with pleasing and comfortable spaces, accessibility, green building concepts and advanced building science. You can get more information on the house at http://www.notsobigshowhouse.com.

FSEC’s roles in this house included making recommendations for locating this home in Florida’s hot and humid climate and adapting it for the best mechanical and ventilation systems. Researchers have also conducted air-tightness tests on the house and are monitoring its energy usage to verify the energy-efficient features are working as projected. Ongoing house monitoring will include:

  • Comfort conditions (temperature and relative humidity)
  • Total energy use
  • Detailed data on cooling, heating, and water heating energy use—the three main energy users in American homes.
Standing SEam Metal Roof

A variety of colors can be used on the standing seam metal roof, such as this "patina green."
(Photo credit: David Hoak)

Among the many energy-efficient features incorporated into the NSBSH is a reflective metal roof. Reflective roofs are typically white or galvanized, which many people do not find to be aesthetically pleasing. This roof, however, demonstrates a new design option. The standing seam metal roof has a special coating designed to reflect the infrared part of sunshine and reduce heat gain. This allows for a variety of colors including the “patina green” on the NSBSH.


The home showcases a number of other energy-efficient features, including

  • Low-E windows
  • Extensive shading, overhangs and porches
  • Solar water heating with tankless back-up
  • High R-value walls and ceilings (Structural Insulated Panels (SIP)
  • Interior ducts
  • High efficiency heat pump
  • ENERGY STAR® appliances

For a fact sheet summarizing the energy features of the Not So Big Show House, contact Janet McIlvaine.

But helping develop energy-efficiency strategies for large homes isn’t the only FSEC project on display at the show. Researchers also worked with Palm Harbor Homes in developing a “green- certified,” affordable alternative to other showcase houses.

The Tuscany Model
The Tuscany model of the Palm Harbor Showhouse is a three-section, modular factory-built home.
(Rendering courtesy of Palm Harbor Homes)

The 2084-square-foot modular home on display is a 3-bedroom, 2-bath plus home office model. FSEC researchers provided technical assistance and recommendations for selecting the energy and indoor air quality (IAQ) equipment and envelope thermal efficiency, recommending the SIP roof and unvented crawl space, ventilation and IAQ design. Features of the home include:

  • Unvented Structural Insulated Panel roof over master bedroom and hearth rooms
  • R-30 vented ceiling over first two sections
  • Conditioned, unvented, insulated crawlspace
  • Low-E Argon metal windows (U=.47, SHGC = .32)
  • R-22 walls
  • SEER 17.95/HSPF 7/95 two-speed compressor heat pump
  • Programmable thermostat
  • Instantaneous gas water heater
  • Compact fluorescent lights throughout
  • Energy-efficient ceiling fans (developed by FSEC researcher Danny Parker)
  • Energy-Star rated appliances

Of special interest in this home are the indoor air quality features. They include fresh-air ventilation with filter, a dehumidistat, a 3500-hour life media filter and UV lights with catalyst to reduce volatile organic compounds. According to FSEC’s Subrato Chandra, “consumers are increasingly demanding improved air quality in their homes, and they’re looking for building strategies and products that will keep their indoor air quality high. As a result, we were able to recommend a number of features for inclusion in this home, making it the most affordable show home proving that energy efficiency and excellent IAQ can be featured in homes at every price point.”

As a result of these features, the estimated whole house energy savings are 35 percent over a similar conventional model. The house meets Florida Green Building Coalition standards (find out more about these standards at http://floridagreenbuilding.org/standard/Default.htm). Additional information about Palm Harbor Homes can be found at http://www.palmharbor.com.