Off the grid
Local company builds energy-efficient home packages
Local company Envirohaven designs home packages made of triangular panels created for living sustainably—either off-grid or in a netzero lifestyle.
The group won the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup in 2012, earning them $37,000. They were also finalists in the Sontag Entrepreneurship Award competition in 2012 and 2013.
Since that time they completed a prototype Haven, incorporated, received a utility patent, and have almost completed their model Haven. According to chief executive officer Vicki Bischoff, they have about three weeks left until it is complete. The company is made up of Vicki, chief operations officer Clint Borchard and chief productions officer Greg Bischoff.
“Our mission is really to help people understand there is a difference between green and sustainable,” Vicki said. “And buying a ’green’ countertop doesn’t necessarily make the home more sustainable. Sustainability has to come from the design.”
The in-progress Haven will be Envirohaven’s model for three to five years, and after that, it will be turned back to the property owner. The design of the home—invented by Greg—uses the golden ratio to create a size and shape that wastes as little material as possible, maximizes energy efficiency and minimizes the size of the energy generation system needed to power the home. Two quantities are in the golden ratio if the ratio between the two is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities. It is found throughout nature in things like pine cones and Nautilus shells.
The in-progress Haven is 1,550 square feet. This size allows each of their panels to use only two sheets of plywood and two sheets of drywall. Increasing the size of the home would mean having to use at least one more sheet for each panel—even if the increase was minimal—because the sheets are in fixed sizes. This would increase the waste and cost of the home more than the percentage of the size increase. Vicki said that because of this, the 1,550-square-foot design is the most efficient, but it could be made much larger for a public meeting space, for example, by doubling the panel sizes to keep the waste to a minimum and retain the same ratio.
“It uses the material of about a 1,000-square-foot home, 1,100-square-foot home,” Vicki said. “And also, because it has less surface area on the outside to air ratio, it has less surface with which to lose heat and air, so the heating and air system is also designed to be for about 1,000 or 1,100 square feet.”
The shape of the Haven also helps with efficiency and less material use. For example, a typical 1,550-square-foot home uses about 15 gallons of paint on the exterior. The Haven will only need about 10 gallons.
“And every pipe and wire comes out of a center core,” Vicki said. “Really short runs, really efficient, so less materials giving you more efficiency.”
Because of the ability to use a smaller energy generation system than a conventional home, the Havens are ideal for rural areas that don’t have pre-existing access to power.
The materials used in building the Haven are eco-friendly and sustainable whenever possible, and much of it was donated or supplied at less than wholesale prices from various vendors. The Haven also has Sunvelope Solar panels stuccoed into the roof—insulating the panels and pipes—for solar hot water and Earth Tubes to help cool the Haven’s air in the summer and heat it in the winter by bringing it through pipes underground where the temperature is stable year-round.