In Pittsburgh, a green home that doesn't look the part

S&A Homes is testing a net-zero energy Craftsman-style home in the Pittsburgh area. Is it the answer to greening America's classic neighborhoods?

If you're familiar with western Pennsylvania, you'll know that its steep hills are dotted with Craftsman-style houses that appeal to the senses but not the wallet.

But local homebuilder S&A Homes is testing a greener home -- net-zero, in fact -- that stands out for energy efficiency but fades into the background from the curb.

(That's right: none of the design-forward, glass-and-steel constructions you might find in the pages of Dwell.)

It's called the Best Practices Research Alliance Lab Home, and it's a way for S&A and local building sciences consulting firm IBACOS to receive real-world data on how the building's many systems cope with normal wear and tear over three years' time.

The test home, tucked away in the Cobblestone Estates development in Ohio Township in the Pittsburgh suburbs, is a logical extension of S&A's E-Home, an efficient (but not net-zero) design it debuted in 2009.

The E-Home promised to cut monthly energy bills by $150, through ultra-efficient windows, fluorescent lighting, advanced HVAC systems, recycled materials and, of course, its inherent design.

The Lab Home takes that a step further, with a horizontal loop ground source heat pump system, 8-in. thick exterior walls filled with R-40 insulation and solar panels.

A green house that doesn't look it? Sounds like the best way to bring some of America's finest historic neighborhoods into the 21st century.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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