Brick by Brick: Finding New Ways to Reach Net Zero
Garret K. Woodward
When reflecting on the recent completion of his first net-zero home, Kevin Hackett still marvels at the number of bricks that went into the project.
“It must have been over 40,000 bricks,” chuckled Hackett, the president of Asheville-based Longview Builders. “It’s a very modern house, where you wouldn’t normally see brick. There’s probably more brick on the inside than on the outside. The foundation is massive, and with a lot of steel used.”
The material used seems only fitting when taking into account that the homeowner runs the Old Carolina Handmade Brick Co. in Salisbury, where the bricks were custom-made at 1.5 inches tall and 18 inches long.
The 3,000-square-foot house sits on three-quarters of an acre in the new Beaucatcher Heights development in the Kenilworth neighborhood of Asheville. “Like concrete, the longevity of brick is unmatched,” Hackett said. “There’s not a product out there that has a higher longevity than brick. It will last forever. From an exterior, maintenance and lifespan of the product, it’s pretty unbeatable.”
Longview Builders tries to implement standard green-building practices on all its projects, and Hackett saw the sustainability thread carry through in the use of brick.
“Old Carolina bricks are made from local clays that are quarried from outside of Charlotte, then shipped to Salisbury, where this independently owned company makes each brick by hand with a local workforce,” Hackett said.
With a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Score of 3, the project achieved Green Built Homes’ Platinum Net Zero level of certification. The main window wall uses 2-by-8 studs instead of 2-by-6, with spray foam in the ceiling, roof and exterior walls. The house has a high-efficiency HVAC system and on-demand water heater.
“You take all of those items alongside high-efficiency argonfilled windows, and you have a really efficient house to begin with, and you don’t need much of an investment in solar to get to net zero,” Hackett said. “All of those small upgrades are not that big of a cost, and that gets your house around 85 percent of the way to net zero. Then as the next step, you have to add some sort of renewable like solar — which we did — and that’s what tipped us over to net zero.”
For the heat pump, Hackett went with a Carrier Infinity product. With the federal tax credit for geothermal now long gone, he’s found that the energy efficiency of modern heat pumps is on par with that of geothermal methods.
“With the progression of multifeed variable compressors on the heat pumps systems right now, the heat pumps are just as efficient as geothermal,” Hackett said. “The Carrier Infinity heat pumps when it’s part of a multi-stage system are unbelievable. We’re heating and cooling 3,000 feet of space for around $100 a month.”
Hackett said he makes a point to prewire each of his projects for solar, as it becomes increasingly likely that most homeowners will want panels on their home in the near future.
“As the implementation and adoption of solar takes places on a more rapid progression across the country, the individual cost per watt of solar arrays will come down to a level to where it will be more affordable for more people,” Hackett said. “In the meantime, builders have a responsibility to ensure the homes they’re building currently are as efficient as they can be and really push to prewire for solar.”
To learn more about Longview Builders, visit longviewbuildersinc.com.