After months or even years of researching the benefits of high-performance homes, you’re finally ready to embark on the journey of building your own. You’ve found an architect who is ready to lead the design process, and you know that hiring a builder is another necessary step toward breaking ground. But what else should come between?
According to Bryan Bleier, an engineer at New York-based New Energy Works, collaborating with a specialist in building enclosures early in the design process can facilitate a faster, more sustainable way to achieve the high-performance home of your dreams.
Long known for its beautiful custom timber frame homes, employee-owned New Energy Works has been at the forefront of high-performance building enclosures for 30 years. “In the early 90s, we had a strong desire to enclose our timber structures with wall, roof, and floor assemblies as quickly as possible, so we began pre-panelizing enclosures by way of carpenters under roof,” Bleier says.
Now, New Energy Works is bringing the latest iteration of its pre-panelization technology, “High Performance Made Easier™” (or HPEz), direct to homeowners, architects, and builders looking for an accessible path to complete a high-performance structure with less on-site labor, time, and materials. “We have a passion for sustainability, and we want to make high-performance buildings more accessible to more people,” says Bleier.
How it works: During the conception phase or after your home’s initial drawings are complete, New Energy Works’ team evaluates the designs and provides guidance on how they can best be optimized for panel fabrication. They sit down with you and your architect to go over everything from basic drawings of floor plans to 3D models that offer a sense of all the spaces of the future home.
After plans are finalized, craftspeople fabricate your panels using semi-automated equipment, following a scrupulous quality control process. The panels are made with renewable carbon-sequestering materials such as wood fiber, cellulose, and hemp insulation that reduce impact on the environment. The result is a healthier and better-performing structure built without the use of chemical foam-based products.
Once the panels are complete, the enclosure is shipped out to your new home’s job site, ready to set, fit, and finish in significantly less time than building the assemblies in place on-site. “We can install the enclosure as soon as the site is ready as a partner service to the builder, architect, and homeowner,” Bleier says.
In a high-performance home, the building envelope is the key to unlocking its major benefits, such as a smaller carbon footprint, lower energy bills, interior comfort in every season, and impeccable air quality. “Execution of that assembly is paramount to performance,” Bleier says. “Panelization is faster, easier, and more accurate, and in the long term your energy savings are going to be better.”
Anyone who still thinks of prefab as lower-quality can think again. “There can be a perception that panelized is lower-end, but there are a handful of us in the industry that definitely don’t fall into that spectrum,” says Bleier. “We push the limits on the materials and the approach because we’re passionate about what we do.”