1999-2000 Student-built Eco-house,
a project of the
Cedar Rapids Community Schools
Cedar Rapids Area Association of REALTORS®
The 1999-2000 student-built house
was labeled the
"eco-house" because it was built with the environment in mind. A
specially formed committee considered various technologies and
materials, selecting -when possible- those that are resource efficient.
Evaluating building materials and techniques for resource efficiency is
complex, but generally the committee considered the following as they
made their selections:
Products and building techniques that
make efficient use of natural resources
Products and building techniques that
reduce home energy use
Products that demonstrate recyclability
The construction of the 1999-2000
eco-house was among the steps taken by the Cedar Rapids Community Schools and
the Cedar Rapids Area Association of REALTORS® to integrate environmental
concerns and resource efficiency into its Building Trades Program.
View a PDF file of
the Eco-house Curriculum
of the 1999-2000 Eco-house
The environmentally-friendly decking material has the following
Ten year warranty against warp, split, rot or splinter
Never needs painting or sealing and is virtually maintenance free
ADA approved (slip-resistant surface)
Contains recycled wood and plastic
Choosing a resource-efficient carpet is especially important, given the
huge amount of carpeting used in the United States, and its relatively short
expected useful lifetime. More than 1.8 million tons of rugs and carpets are
sent to landfills each year.
The high density, recycled-content carpet in the eco-house is made
with PET plastic from discarded soft-drink bottles. This saves resources and
diverts millions of plastic containers from our landfills.
The flooring in the entryway and bathrooms is Iowa-made ceramic tile.
Ceramic was selected for its durability. Because the product is made in
Iowa, transportation energy costs were reduced.
To reduce the amount of cement in the
eco-house foundation, fly ash – a by-product of coal combustion – was
substituted for approximately 10% of the cement. Fly ash actually adds
strength and durability to concrete and can be added in even greater
By substituting coal fly ash for cement, the eco house design
committee reduced the amount of energy consumed and converted a waste
product into a building product!
Framing in walls, roofs, and floors accounts for about 70% of the 13,000
board feet of lumber used in an average new home. Anything we can do to
reduce the amount of lumber used will help save our forests.
Among the ways the eco- house preserved our forest reserves:
Use of engineered wood. Engineered lumber products, such as the
I-joist, turn small pieces of wood—sometimes from faster growing tree
species formerly considered undesirable—into strong, dependable framing
members. Engineered lumber products offer consistent performance,
predictable quality, superior structural integrity, and reduced construction
Use of an advanced framing system,
sometimes called “optimum value engineering or OVE,” increases the
distance between studs and uses two stud corners. Instead of 16 inch on
center, eco-house framing is 24 inches on-center. Increasing the
on-center distance of framing members reduces wood use 17-30% without
jeopardizing structural strength, and allows for additional
Additionally, exterior walls are framed with
2 x 6 lumber to increase wall insulation to over
HEATING & COOLING
As the engine that drives the home comfort systems, heating, ventilation,
and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are critically important from an
environmental point of view. These systems directly consume the home’s
largest amount of energy.
That’s why the eco-house contains an energy efficient furnace, air
conditioner, and hot water heater. The heating and air conditioning
units have automatic set-back controls, saving even more on monthly
Ideally, a house plan will take characteristics of the lot into
consideration. But the plan for the eco-house as well as the lot were
pre-selected, precluding this discussion.
Luckily, the plan and lot were oriented north and south, allowing for
considerable passive solar.
In addition, the open floor plan takes
advantage of increased day-lighting and greater thermal comfort.
The basic idea of passive solar is to allow daylight, heat and airflow
into a house only when beneficial. Most passive solar designs can be
achieved with no additional cost, as was the case with the eco-house.
INDOOR AIR QUALITY
Indoor air quality is also important to a home’s occupants. The eco-house
contains a heat air exchanger, which draws fresh air into the house
while expelling stale air. This also prevents the house from being “too
tight”, a common problem in new construction.
But, the heat air exchanger does even more. It captures the heat from the
stale air and transfers it to the fresh, cold air as it enters the house as
well as controls moisture levels in the house.
Additionally, the eco-house is pre-plumbed and wired for a whole house
vacuum system. This keeps more dirt out of the house as well as being
All of this translates into better in-door air quality for the
The house contains extra insulation. Recycled-content fiber glass
batts were used in the walls, while blown-in rock wool, a product that
also contains recycled material, was used in the attic space.
Xeriscaping or low maintenance landscaping is part of the overall
design of the eco-house. The design, created by the Kirkwood Community
College Horticulture Department, replaces a portion of the ever-thirsty
traditional turf with plants, shrubs, and trees as well as a pathway and
It’s a common sense approach, which reduces time spent watering,
fertilizing, and mowing.
In several areas of the house, compact fluorescent lights are
used. These newly designed fixtures are roughly four times more efficient
Conventional latex paints contain
petroleum-based solvents known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
VOCs are ingredients in paint that evaporate during the application and
drying process, and are responsible for most of the odor associated with
Paint used in the eco-house is
formulated without VOCs,
providing healthier indoor air quality.
The mud room, with its doorway to the garage, contains a
custom-designed recycling center. And garbage haulers serving Hiawatha
offer curbside collection of paper, tin cans, and plastic. Recycling is
easier than ever!
By the way, during
construction of the eco-house, students separated recyclable scrap to
reduce landfill waste. The Bluestem Solid Waste Agency assisted in the
Homeowners look for durable, attractive roofs that are also affordable.
They also want a roof that resists fire, hail, and wind damage. After
considering several options the committee selected an asphalt roof with a
The recycled content of traditional shingles such as these is often
overlooked. The organic, felt base incorporates recycled paper and recycled
The eco house committee was very much aware that exterior finishes are the most visible aspect of a home. Homeowners want a finish
that is attractive and requires little maintenance.
Aluminum siding was selected for
the eco house for several reasons:
Aluminum siding is durable
Aluminum siding has recycled content (maybe your old pop cans!)
Aluminum siding can be recycled
Aluminum siding requires little maintenance, and
Aluminum siding is aesthetic
While metal requires a great deal of energy to manufacture, its
durability and recyclability reduce the total energy involved in producing
several generations of products.
Windows provide a home with
style, views, and daylight. They can also contribute to home heat loss.
To overcome this, the design committee selected energy efficient
windows – double-pane, argon-filled windows with low-emissivity
(low-E) films that reflect heat into or away from the structure. Though more expensive initially, their lifetime cost
is lower. The energy and maintenance savings translate into both cost and
resource savings over the life of the house.
Bluestem Solid Waste Agency
East Central Iowa Council of Governments
Iowa Department of Natural Resources