Smart Innovation From NH Architects

New Hampshire architects are on the cutting edge of new trends in building homes and commercial properties

The world of building and design is constantly evolving as new innovations in products change the way we live and work. New Hampshire architects share what innovations they are starting to use.

Remote Access Systems

When Carla Goodknight, principal architect of CJ Architects in Portsmouth, updated a summer home for a couple in Rye with an RA system they were able to adjust the temperature from their home out of state. “Their system had the ability to tell how many times the heat had come on when it was below zero,” explains Goodknight. “They could see remotely that it had come on four times in the month of December in the master bedroom. They can also get things up and running before they head up there.” Lighting, temperature, humidity, raising and lowering blinds as well as the alarm, TV and sound systems can all be controlled from RA devices.

Dennis Mires of The Architects in Manchester says that they use RA systems as an energy management system so that the heat and cooling can be turned on and off to conserve energy. “You can raise and lower your blinds to manage solar gain, dim lights and use sensors that help you minimize the use of lights,” he says. Justin Knowlton from TMS Architects in Portsmouth adds, “Clients on the higher end are looking for these simple systems that are controlled from one central point. They want to be able to leave their house and push one button.”

While costs make these systems prohibitive for some, their potential uses will no doubt make them more and more popular. “You can get the system to tell you anything,” says Goodknight. “There is accompanying software and controls to any system in your home that you can control from anywhere in the world.”

Geothermal Systems

Geothermal wells, which are containers located below ground level so that the water can be cooled by the earth, are also being used by architects when breaking ground on new projects. “These work with the ground water temperature, which is 50-55 degrees, so you have a big water loop that runs into the ground,” explains Mires. “You extract heat from it when you need to warm water, and you reject heat to it when you need to cool water.” Goodknight used them under the new energy-efficient office/condo building on Vaughan Street in Portsmouth. There are 24 wells under the building that supply the heating and cooling lows. “The only thing needed to supplement is the domestic hot water,” she says. Mires used them under the Institute of Art in Manchester, along with recycled blue jeans for insulation and solar panels inside retractable blinds on the side of the building that gets the most sun.

Knowlton says, “We use geothermal wells in homes sometimes, but they have high upfront costs that take a long time to pay off in a home in energy savings. It is much more cost-effective to use it in commercial buildings. But they can still be a savings in the long run.” 

LEED Certification

By far the biggest advancement in innovation has been the materials builders have access to since so many manufactures are trying to fill the demand created by the LEED certification, which measures a building’s overall carbon footprint. Now that architects and builders are trying to create energy-efficient buildings in order to receive this certification, suppliers are constantly making green materials more widely available. “The LEED program has gotten manufacturers to come up with materials that meet the criteria,” says Mires. “Everything from adhesives, insulation, concrete, siding and finishes — they are all being reformulated and repackaged to make the transition even easier. It gives us a lot more opportunity to make our buildings more sustainable.”

“The LEED certification has helped give a guideline for homeowners and has helped assist them to explore different options,” adds Knowlton.

Many architects are also starting to look at Boral, which “is a product that is made out of recovered coal ash and polymers,” says Goodknight, who is using it on the new Whole Foods building going in up in Portsmouth. The product, which is endorsed by the Green Building Council, is made up of 70 percent of recycled material. “It cuts and nails like wood, but doesn’t have the expansion and contraction like PVC does,” explains Goodknight. “This is a more stable product where PVC is more fussy and can vary on quality.”

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