The Shelving Rock Home—located a few miles northwest of Albany, NY—is a landmark ICF project. The remarkably functional and beautiful design also meets two demanding design criteria. It's registered as a Net-Zero Ready home by the U.S. Dept. of Energy, and also meets Universal Design guidelines.
Universal Design, sometimes called "aging-in-place," incorporates a range of accessibility features to allow owners to stay in their homes even when age makes mobility difficult. In this home, that meant lowered sinks, no-step showers, and other touches such as installing the microwave below the counter. All halls are a minimum of four feet wide, with 36-inch-wide doors throughout. Proponents claim the concept saves tens of thousands of dollars over the long-term by allowing occupants to live independently rather than in a retirement home or assisted living center.
For now, though, the biggest savings at Shelving Rock are reduced energy costs. Walls were built with Logix Pro Series ICF, a foam-and-concrete wall system which offers exceptional insulation, airtight walls, and enough thermal mass to virtually eliminate temperature swings. Heating and cooling is accomplished via an in-floor radiant hydronic system, tied to a ground-source heat pump (GSHP) that takes advantage of the earth's stable temperatures for even greater efficiency. Heat Sheet EPS panels were used under the basement slab to ensure it's thermally isolated. The wood-frame hipped roof was sealed with spray foam insulation, and high-efficiency windows complete the envelope. Blower door tests revealed the home has a HERS rating of 22, meaning the home uses only 22% of the energy compared to a code-minimum structure.
It's rated by the DOE as "net-zero ready," meaning that with the addition of solar panels, the home could generate as much energy as it consumes.
The home has a number of other sustainable design features, including exterior landscaping composed of non-invasive, native plants, trees, and grass, reclaimed or locally made furniture, and low-VOC paint.
The footprint of the home is far more complex than it appears from the front. The house measures about 3,500 sq. ft., plus an 800-sq.-ft. bonus room above the garage. But two bay window bump-outs and an ICF garage meant the layout involved 30 corners, more than half of which are 45 degrees. Additionally, the project broke ground in an unusually wet late fall. Andy Ellis, who served as general contractor and ICF installer, says, "The sitework was a nightmare. The soil is all shale and clay, and there were very strong and consistent winds that always had to be dealt with."
By the time the basement was backfilled, winter had set in. Ellis continues, "This was a winter build with below-freezing pour days. ICFs made all the difference. We poured in temperatures of 15 to 17 degrees F. All we had to do was cap the tops of the ICF walls." He adds, "We checked the day following the pour, and the concrete temperature was still 72 to 73 degrees F.”
In total Ellis and the crew from Halfmoon Construction Company stacked 8,700 sq. ft. of forms.
The home was appointed with high-end finishes, including crown molding in all living areas, a cathedral ceiling in living room, and pocket doors for all bedrooms and bathrooms. Hardwood flooring throughout ties together the open and functional floor plan.
Finished in July 2016, Shelving Rock spent much of the summer serving as an ambassador for the industry. It was the subject of a lengthy article in the Green Energy Times, and hundreds toured the house as part of the local Parade of Homes. During the tours, Ellis had signage set up explaining the benefits of ICF, and he reports that at least three projects have already resulted from the show, one already under construction, plus two in the design phase.
At a cost of $200 per sq. ft., the initial expense is higher than a traditional stick-built home, but the annual utility savings can compensate for most of that. The cost of heating is estimated at $559 yearly, plus cooling at $139; a savings of $4,302 per year.