Published: Dec 25, 2011 10:39 AM
Modified: Dec 25, 2011 11:55 PM
There is a new, small house in Mebane on a half-acre of wooded habitat with a stream running across the property. The land is certified as a wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. Yet the place is just two blocks from Mebanes bustling downtown, which includes a Food Lion grocery, hardware store, restaurants, shops and hair salons.
The house incorporates many universal design features and is handicap accessible, super energy-efficient and set on a section of North Third Street that is also home to former mill houses and a section of newer homes built about 10 years ago.
Best of all, the house has some high-end amenities not usually found in most 1,500-square-foot homes. Chief of which is that it is an insulated concrete form (ICF) house with a five-foot-high crawlspace that is sealed, heated and cooled, which means there is about 1,000 square feet of air-conditioned storage. Since this area is mostly underground where temperatures are 50 degrees Fahrenheit and the ICF walls have an insulation rating of R-30 this is bonus storage space with a very low carbon footprint.
Other high-end amenities include hickory floors, banak kitchen cabinets (a South American marsh wood similar in strength to yellow poplar and in look to mahogany), reclaimed wood in the trim and baseboards and stainless steel appliances. The house has a 75-year metal roof and, in a nod to keeping costs down, vinyl siding which means zero to no maintenance.
The house also boasts an additional 500 square feet of outdoor living space. The screened porch is accessed from the great room via a covered bridge with views of the woods and rooftops in the distance. The carport is also covered so you dont get wet during inclement weather nor have a roasting-hot vehicle during the Piedmonts hot summer months.
The homes natural landscape means no lawn mowing another low-carbon plus. And because the builder is a member of the International Dark Sky Association,the outside lighting is designed to throw light toward the ground where it is needed and not light up the outside night sky with light pollution.
The house is the design of Barrie Oblinger, who built the house with his business associate Kevin West. The two have been remodeling and restoring homes in Durham and Chapel Hill for many years. For the past 10 years they have been working together under the name Bluewest Studios.
Oblinger, who lives in Mebane, started dreaming of building quality, energy-efficient smaller homes before the housing bubble burst. The house on North Third Street is a prototype for a series he is planning in a little subdivision he calls Smallville.
Oblinger bought 10 acres of land in west end of Mebane around 2008, just before the housing industry tanked. Since then he has had the land surveyed and subdivided into 15 lots upon which he hopes to build 15 quality small houses each around 1,500 square feet.
The key to his vision is the quality materials and building techniques used in the homes. His goal is to have homes whose heating and cooling bills are at $50 per month.
In addition to the ICF foundation, the walls of the main and second floors are a double stud system that allows for extra insulation. Oblinger and West used two layers of R-15 batts and a half-inch air space in between the two stud walls. Therefore, there is no thermal bridging no place where solid material goes from the inside of the house to the outside of the house. This results in walls with an insulation rating of R-32.
In addition to insulation values of the house, Oblinger and West analyzed the house based on number of occupants, outside temperature, and heat produced by appliances. The company that installed the heating and air-conditioning system analyzed the house in the same way to determine which type of system to use. Oblinger said that the combined analysis shows that 62 percent of the heating and cooling will be supplied by nature and purchased fuel will be only 38 percent. Oblinger determined a $30,000 to $50,000 saving over a 30-year-term mortgage, depending on the rising price of energy.
Since we as a society do not know what our energy future looks like at this time, Oblinger said, I thought I could play a role in all this by building structures with the smallest carbon footprint possible and still be affordable. I call them houses for people who think differently.
The homes open floor design and use of pocket doors allows the home owner to place furniture easily and makes the home live much larger than its 1,500 square feet. Either of the homes two bedrooms could perform as a master bedroom suite. The master suite on the first floor could also double as a guest room or home office. Rebar in the stairwell adds to the open, airy feel of this light-filled home.
Children living in this home, which is being offered at $250,000, would attend Alamance County Schools.
To see this model home or get more information about building a similar home, contact Barrie Oblinger at Blueweststudio@yahoo.com or call 919-280-6744. Look for a Website of the same name in January.
Sally Keeney can be reached at email@example.com or 919-932-0879.
Directions to Model Home at 623 North Third Street: From Chapel Hill or Durham heading west on I-40, take the Buckhorn Road exit which is right after the North Carolina Weigh Station. Turn right and go several hundred yards, cross over the railroad tracks and make a left onto Highway 70 heading west. A couple of miles and youre in downtown Mebane. The first light is Fifth Street. Go two more blocks to Third Street and turn right. The house is six blocks up Third Street on the left.
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published, broadcast or redistributed in any manner.