Builders Gilbert Nielsen and Robert Hinkle are true believers in the "Arkansas story," a method of energy-efficient home building that has recently evolved out of a builder-utility company experiment in Little Rock.
Nielsen and Hinkle, practical advocates of these principles, have recently completed a house in Upper Marlboro along, "Arkansas story" lines.
It is, of course, a response to the mounting costs of heating and cooling American homes.
"Few houses now being built take advantage Builders Gilbert Nielsen and Robert Hinkle used energy-saving features tested in Arkansas in this house they built in Upper Marlboro.
[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] of known construction techniques to curtail usage of short supply structural woods, as well as using every effort to minimize heating and cooling losses," says Nielsen.
Well, that's his viewpoint. but almost every area builder of new houses has been increasing insulation, caulking more joints, using heat pumps and installing doors or windows that add sealing protection.
Nielsen, a mechanical engineer and former corporate executive, insists that the new two-story, brick-shingle house at 5412 Old Crain Hwy, is one of few in this area, maybe the only one to be built in "strict compliance with all the requirements outlined in the Arkansas story."
Here's Nielsen's short version of how that story goes
"In the early 1970s, Arkansas Power and Light Co. Became interested in adding customers without increasing generating capacity. Harry Tschumi (an Arkansas air conditioning engineer) became convinced that the then unreliable and costly to maintain heat pump system (a reversible air conditioner) could be made to work consistently and economically in houses.
"And a HUD construction methods analyst (Frank Holtzclaw, construction design specialist in the Little Rock office) provided innovative ideas for saving materials in house construction without sacrificing strength.
"All joined in a group effort to design the optimum energy-efficient, materials-conserving house. That project came to be known as the 'Arkansas story'.The homes built to those plans proved to be quiet and comfortable and with startling savings in heating and cooling costs. Later more were built in Connnecticut and Alabama."
What are the features and techniques?
"All internal measurements are based on 24-inch multiples of length and width," says Nielsen. "Outer wall structural lumber is based on 24-inch center distances and 6-widths instead of 4. All windows are double-glazed and total window are is kept to less than 8 per cent of outer wall area. All joints in outer sheathing materials are caulked and the inner wall are is sealed in a plastic envelope.
"Insulation of various types to the maximum recommended R values (resistance to passage of heat) for this geographic area is installed in te foundations, outer walls and attic. An automatic on-of thermostat controlled attic vent fan is installed. Outside doors are metal, packed with insulation and with air seal closures. And the heating-cooling system is carefully matched to the house heat loss profile supplied by Pepco.
"All these items, plus careful quality hand craftmanship, result in a energy-efficient-materials-conserving house at approximately 10 per cent more in costs over routine construction," added general contractor Nielsen.
The house, which has 1,830 square feet of living space sits on a slab on a lot ath cost the builder $8,005. The firm (IPL Construction Co., Inc., District Heights) has priced it at $69,500, allowing a 10 per cent profit margin. That averages out to about $37 a square foot. But Nielsen is working on plans to produce a basic house in rural areas at a total price of $35,000 - including well and septic tank.
Getting the techniques and materials into the Upper Marlboro house was not easy, Nielsen said. He adapted a standard plan. "But after negotiating with a number of obviously reluctant old-timers (Nielsen is 58 himself), I stumbled on a young man who had the personal skills and, more importantly, the desire to be a conservationists. Bob Hinkie now is my partner in these ventures. Our procedue is to take customer ideas of floor plan layouts, convert to exact multiples of 24-inch plans, change to meet the Arkansas specifications and built of about $35 a square foot, including our profit of about 10 per cent.
Nielsen said that the Upper Marlboro version of the Arkansas story is rated by the Pepco computer to have a heating-cooling total cost of no more than $400 a year at current rates. besides design for a small size of heating and cooling equipment, on which he consulted Arkansas engineer Tschumi, Nielsen credits new energy-efficient appliances and an electric hot water heater with exceptional insulation and a reservoir of hot water to eliminate sudden heat surges, which are costly.
Other area builders are combining many aspects of the Arkansas approach and their own ideas. The Arkansas approach has been formalized into house plans published by National Plans Serivce of Elmhurst, Ill., and the Plan Shop of Jackson, Miss., and possibly others. Information programs supporting the concept have been mounting by lumber associations, utilities, state energy offices and local HUDFHA and VA offices.
Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., a major manufacturer of fiberglass insulation did not participate in the Little Rock demonstration project, but has published a detailed version of the energy-saving design, with many specifications.
Fred Clark of Arkansas Power & Light Co. said some time ago that as far as he the Little Rock project had "200 satisfied customers."
Meantime, the Research Foundation of the National Association of Home Builders, in cooperation with area builder David C. Smith, has recently completed its version of an energy-efficient residence in the Mt. Airy area of Carroll County, Md. The house was designed by the foundation under a contract with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Some of the energy-saving features include a super-insulated a sealed enclosure, triple-galzed windows, a special new heat pump, extra-efficient appliances and a family retreat (connected to the kitchen) that can be closed off from the rest of the house. The house soon will be open for public inspection.