SWA Projects Receive Top Honors in CT Zero Energy Challenge

Results are in for the fifth annual CT Zero Energy Challenge, which featured 11 new homes from across the state exemplifying high-efficiency design. Participants competed to construct residences that best utilized innovative building techniques and new technology intended to lower energy use to near- or net-zero. Steven Winter Associates, Inc. (SWA) provided sustainability consulting services for 4 of the 11 projects entered into this year’s challenge, including the first- and third-place winners.

The Benker Residence, a four-bedroom home in South Glastonbury constructed by homebuilders, Glastonbury Housesmith, was selected as the CT Zero Energy Challenge Overall Winner. SWA provided certification support in the ENERGY STAR®, LEED® for Homes™ and National Green Building Standard™ (NGBS) programs. The design for the home incorporates resiliency measures including meeting coastal structural codes, a basement storm shelter, and a PV system that can be switched to secure power supply functionality in the event that the power grid is down. A ground-source heat pump provides heating, cooling, and pre-heats the water to supply the water-source heat pump. Solar panels mounted on a tracking system provides 17.6kW and brings the HERS Index to -23 (prior to photovoltaic (PV) installation, the HERS Index was 30). The builder was also recently honored for achieving the lowest HERS Index with PV in the RESNET 2015 Cross Border Builder Challenge.

The third-place challenge winner, the Taft School, constructed a new faculty residence on their Watertown campus. The home was designed by Trillium Architects, and constructed by BPC Green Builders, with certification support for Passive House US™, LEED for Homes, Living Building Challenge™, and ENERGY STAR v3.1 provided by SWA. The residential project achieved a HERS Index of 33 (prior to PV) using double stud cellulose-filled walls plus insulated ZIPS™ sheathing and triple-pane windows. Partially ducted air-source heat pumps provide the efficient heating and cooling while a heat-pump water heater with occupancy sensors in the baths delivers immediate hot water. The final HERS Index is -14 after the 13kW roof-mounted PV system is accounted for. As part of the Petal Certification with the Living Building Challenge, a year of utility bills will be submitted to verify the home’s net-zero energy use.

The Shore Road project, a challenge participant, is a new 2,700 square foot, single-family home located in Old Greenwich, CT, and constructed byMurphy Brothers Contracting, an award-winning family-owned business that believes that building green is simply building smart. The residence includes numerous enhancements above the typical energy features of a home built to the current code. The final HERS Index rating for the home with PV is 27 indicating that the home will be 70-80% more efficient than a home built to the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Special features include Dow Powerhouse Solar Roof Shingles, estimated to provide roughly half of the home’s daily energy usage and R-20 insulated concrete forms (ICF) which offer increased resilience against natural disasters, an important feature for structures located in coastal areas.

SWA’s fourth project that was entered into this year’s challenge is a single-family home designed and built by architect and builder, David Dickson, as a personal residence in New Haven. The SIPS roof, double-stud walls plus insulated ZIPS sheathing, and triple-pane windows make it easy to heat and cool with two small air-source heat pumps. Domestic hot water is delivered by a natural gas tank-less unit. The home received the 2014 Single-Family Residential Award of Honor from the Connecticut Green Building Council (CTGBC) and contended for a spot in the CT Zero Energy Challenge with a HERS Index -6. This is one of the first homes in the state to pursue LEED for Homes in the new, more rigorous v4 program; Gold certification is anticipated for the project.

The award ceremony for the CT Zero Energy Challenge took place on March 26, at The Inn Middletown, CT. The Challenge is hosted by Energize Connecticut, in association with utility partners Eversource Energy (née Connecticut Light & Power) and The United Illuminating Company.

About CT Zero Energy Challenge
Produced by Energize Connecticut, in association with utility partners Eversource Energy (née Connecticut Light & Power) and The United Illuminating Company, the 2014 Zero Energy Challenge is a design and build competition for single and multifamily homes built in Connecticut between June 2013 and December 1, 2014. Participants compete for cash prizes, while gaining exposure to media and various forms of technical assistance provided by challenge sponsors and partners.

About Steven Winter Associates
Steven Winter Associates, Inc. (SWA) provides research, consulting, and advisory services to improve commercial, residential, and multifamily built environments for private and public sector clients. The firm specializes in energy, sustainability, and accessibility consulting as well as certification, research & development, and compliance services. For more information, visit