Custom Energy Specs, Etc.
And other information related to Construction Prints and CAD Files
Custom Energy Specs
The preparation of Custom Energy Specs is a custom service provided along with the purchase of Construction Prints or CAD Files to make recommendations to adapt the home to the climate in which it will be constructed. This is a rare service offered in the house plan profession. For Create-A-SunPlan projects, the house is designed from the start for the particular climate and at least equally important the home owner's energy priorities. The Custom Energy Specs then elaborate on those details. For Adapt-A-SunPlan projects, the design, drawings and Custom Energy Specs are adapted to the climate and energy priorities.
In each case, the Sun Plans' architect reviews in detail the climate where the home is to be constructed and obtains information from the home owners on their personal energy priorities. For Select-A-SunPlan customers (those choosing an unmodified existing Sun Plan) occasionally minor construction detail changes may be required. Often there are recommendations in the Custom Energy Specs that can be done on site by the builder as a "field change" without modifications to the drawings if the builder is experienced in high performance, Energy Star, Passive House, etc. home building.
"I am contacting you to compliment you on the Specifications you have provided for the Nature's Corner Project currently underway here in Asheville. I review a lot of plans and specs, and I appreciate your thoroughness, which is at a level I don't see often. We are the area's local experts in Building Performance and have provided Building Envelope services for hundreds of satisfied clients throughout the Western North Carolina region...I've been very impressed with your carefully detailed specs. I thought you might like to hear this from another professional in the industry." Ryan Gore, Building Performance Specialist, Home Energy Partners
As a minimum, Sun Plans recommends building to newer Energy Star standards (at least 30% better than code) and the Custom Energy Specs typically recommend higher insulation values that result in at least 50% savings. The plans are designed to earn the Energy Star label if the Energy Star guidelines are followed by the builder and a third-party independent Home Energy Rater that can test and verify such things as the insulation installation and tightness of the home. Sun Plans homes routinely perform at least 50% below new homes standards, but actual performance is often lower (all the way to Zero Net Energy or Passiv Haus / Passive House) especially when the owner chooses a high level of efficiency. When possible, Sun Plans loves to have the builders input in the Custom Energy Specs to help determine the cost-effectiveness of various options. Otherwise, several options are typically written in the Custom Energy Specs for roofs, walls, floors, windows, etc. to allow the energy target to be reached.
For pre-designed plans, after the order is placed, please advise Sun Plans of the location where the home will be constructed, the proposed orientation of the south wall if other than true (not magnetic) south and the energy priorities. With Adapt or Create, the Sun Plans architect can assist with these issues. Small lots can be limiting in orientation. If exact orientation is not known, and if the land allows for some flexibility, let Sun Plans recommend an orientation as the Custom Energy Specs are prepared. Often a slight easterly orientation may be recommended for improved summer shading.
For evaluation of house fit on land, strategies for various energy priorities, etc. for possible adaptations of an existing Sun Plan, please engage us in Adapt-A-SunPlan or Select-A-SunPlan Consulting Services prior to placing the order.
For the included technical support that comes with Construction Prints (one hour) and CAD Files (two hours)after the Construction Documents and Specs have been received, an email first allows for better preparation and a more thorough response. Sun Plans reserves the right to limit technical support should it become excessive or to suggest we enter into a fee-based agreement. The support is not intended to aid home owners who are attempting to build themselves, but Sun Plans is happy to speak with the home owner as they clarify info for their builder, especially in relation to the energy-related features. If the builder is calling from a job site without internet access, be sure to state that when the call is placed so that the concerns can be addressed promptly.
Part of the five day processing time (sometimes longer) to send out an order for Construction Prints or CAD Files allows for the preparation of the Custom Energy Specs, but the drawings may also need to be updated. Since Sun Plans is not a large house plan company that sells hundreds of plans a year, it may have been a year or more since the plan was last sold. In that case, often the plans are updated through our in-house checklist to see if there is anything that needs to be changed based on general building code changes, current energy-related recommendations, or occasionally a change recommended from the original client living in the home. The customer does not pay more for this checking and possible updating, it's just what is done as part of the Sun Plan's quality control.
Structural reinforcing and connectors to assure a continuous load path of forces from roof peak down to foundation will need to be reviewed and determined by a local structural engineer in conjunction with the local building inspector based on the soil type, wind forces, snow load, and seismic activity in the area where the house will be constructed. Some engineers like to mark this right on the drawings while others create attachments to the plans. Especially in high-wind or high-seismic areas, engineers may prefer the CAD Files to make their work go quicker quick should translate to cost savings to you.
Construction Prints and CAD Files may not be exactly the same as a Review Set previously ordered, as they are periodically updated (usually if it has been more than year since the plan was last updated) based on customer feedback, general code changes, energy and green building practices as well as the Sun Plans in-house checklist.