Architect Kate Johnson of Norfolk, Connecticut employed value engineering techniques to define savings in planning her home. Without altering her budget figure, she was able to afford a Solar Sandwich," an integrated solar standing seam metal roof system that supported a solar photovoltaic laminate system on the roof for electricity and a solar thermal system under the roof for hot water and heating.

The lightweight and highly flexible PV laminate material chosen by Johnson easily integrated onto the surface of standing seam panels. When exposed to sunlight, these solar laminates produce electricity, even in high temperature and cloudy environments.
The entire solar thermal system was positioned between the attic roof and the outside roof covering of the steep slope standing seam. The Englert standing seam panels function as a component of the solar collector, heating purlins, which in-turn hold and heat a water/glycol mixture that is circulated through a cross-linked polyethylene tubing and cycled through conventional heat transfer and distribution systems. Because the roofing material will radiate heat after it reaches a certain temperature, the system is self-regulating, preventing overheating and component damage when the system is inactive for extended periods of time.

Here are some of the steps Johnson took to contain costs and ensure her energy payback.

First, she replaced her original design for a brick and mortar fireplace with a wood burning stove, literally covering the cost of the two solar systems with that change alone—and improving the thermal mass by reducing heat loss common in traditional fireplace systems.

Next, she opted for a two-inch thick panelized foundation system, replacing the original plan for a poured nine-inch foundation while saving money on labor and material for a poured system. The prefabricated system was lowered into place using a crane and was not only ready for mechanicals and finishing but also reduced the loss of heat that bleeds from a traditional poured system. She also discovered a handful of greener solutions associated with the basement flooring that were less expensive and time consuming to implement. Rather than order that a potentially toxic stain be pre-mixed into the cement that was poured for the basement floor, she eliminated that concern by applying a soy bean-based finish after the flooring was poured. By applying a couple of hundred dollars of stain herself, she was able to save on the cost of the pre-mixed stain.

Johnson also installed radiant flooring that was tied to the solar thermal system and that she can effectively use to supplement heating in the spring and fall. She actually saved money by choosing plaster instead of sheetrock for the interior walls of the house. She made sure the plaster was mixed with the color paint she had planned for the interior walls. The plaster material was more expensive than sheetrock, but she actually saved money by eliminating the cost of materials and labor she might have paid if she had hired painters to do the walls. Each of the windows in the walls had a deep cherry stained sill. Here, again, however, Johnson saved money by using the plaster as a return around the windows-eliminating the cost of wood trim above the sills.

All of these measures were instrumental in reducing the overall cost of construction without sacrificing quality. Johnson, who has a Bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of Virginia and a Master's degree from the University of Washington in Seattle, is also reaping the benefits of installing the standing seam roof and the solar systems.

During the summer months, Johnson uses the solar thermal part of the Solar Sandwich to provide 100 percent of her hot water needs. The other part of the sandwich, the PV laminate system, has reduced her energy bill from 25 to 30 percent annually. That not only includes the energy bill for the main house but for a small cottage and another building on the property as well.

All of this has been achieved with 800 square feet of standing seam roofing on the south roof with the solar thermal system running beneath it and about 700 square feet of the PV solar laminate material.



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