Greenhill Contracting Inc.
- Written by: Tom Faunce
- Produced by: Nick Randall
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
With Zero Net Energy Homes (ZEH) setting the standard for homebuilding in the 21st century, Greenhill Contracting Inc. is using state-of-the-art technology to build homes in Esopus, New York, with the capacity to generate enough renewable energy to offset their annual energy needs. “All of our homes are designed and built to the highest energy-efficiency and green building standards,” says Anthony Aebi, president of Greenhill Contracting. “In fact, each home is built to comply with the strict standards for ENERGY STAR, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Indoor airPLUS, United States Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED for Homes and Department of Energy (DOE) Zero Energy Ready Homes certification.”
Founded in 2000 by Aebi, Greenhill Contracting began building ZEHs in 2007. “I had become fed up with the way houses were being built in the U.S.,” says Aebi. “I had several developments and subdivisions underway when the recession hit, so I had to come up with something different,” he says.
After observing and studying European construction practices, where Aebi found a higher quality of construction, he says, “I chose to start building with insulated concrete forms [ICFs].” The hollow, rigid foam blocks stack to form walls that are filled with steel-reinforced concrete to make a solid, sound-proof, airtight, highly insulated structure that is nearly impervious to earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and forest fires. “We found that the lows for heating were so low that it was practical to consider geothermal,” Aebi adds.
Due to the efficiencies gained by using the constant temperatures of the earth, a ground source heat pump (GSHP) provides all the heating and cooling needs of each home, requiring far less electricity than more conventional systems. A GSHP circulates an antifreeze solution through a closed loop, installed vertically or horizontally in the earth. The fluid gathers heat from the earth for the house in the winter and reverses itself and pulls heat from the home and places it in the ground in the summer.
“I have got my loads so low after the first few homes that the current smallest geo units are still over twice as big as my homes need,” says Aebi. “This allows me to eliminate the antifreeze solution in my closed loop wells and use pure water, which allows my systems to operate almost 20 percent more efficiently.”
Greenhill Contracting currently has ZEH packages available in four neighborhoods. Green Acres, The Preserve at Mountain Vista, Homes of Esopus and Scenic Meadows are the communities that Greenhill has established in Esopus, New Paltz and Gardiner, New York. Every home in each neighborhood is filled with sunlight, clean air quality, integrated indoor/ outdoor living areas, quality construction and energy-saving features.
The Preserve at Mountain Vista, Greenhill’s third project, contains beautiful and affordable ZEHs on a nine-lot cul-de-sac. In keeping with its green building efforts, Greenhill has reserved approximately 30 acres of land in this neighborhood as a conservation easement and nature preserve. Each home in The Preserve is built for superior energy performance, comfort and health with high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, enhanced insulation, improved indoor air quality, high-performance windows and doors, steel reinforced insulated concrete construction for durability and ENERGY STAR appliances. All homes at The Preserve have been certified LEED Silver.
Green Acres was the first community of ZEHs in the village of New Paltz. “It’s a convenient location where you can walk to shops, theaters, parks, hiking and biking trails, bus and train services and restaurants,” says Aebi. Once completed, Green Acres will consist of 25 homes on a scenic winding road. “Currently 13 are occupied and two are nearing completion,” he adds.
Recognition for sustainable practices
Greenhill Contracting has received recognition for its sustainability practices on numerous occasions. The first ICF house that Aebi built in 2007 achieved a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score of -1. The home was entered into the DOE Builders Challenge, which was a precursor to the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home program. The home held the lowest HERS score in New York and in the entire Northeast for several years.
The DOE ZEH program requires homes to be solar-ready by installing conduit to the roof for solar electric and water heating lines, by leaving space in the utility room and on the electrical panel for solar equipment and by orienting homes on the lots and designing roofs for solar panel installation. Aebi went beyond this solar-ready requirement by installing 7,420- to 15,000-watt photovoltaic solar panel arrays on every roof.
Greenhill Contracting also earned the New York State Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) award for the builder with the lowest HERS index in New York State for 2012-2013 and received another award from NYSERDA February 9, 2016. Green hill has also received four additional DOE awards in the past two years.
With its commitment to sustainability, customer satisfaction and quality construction, Greenhill Contracting Inc. will be remain a leading homebuilding contractor into the future.
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