How the “Hybrid Home Guy” Uses Andersen Windows to Change the Conversation about Green Building
Adam Bearup was finished. After years of pushing architectural envelopes to encourage more people to change the way they were living to more earth-friendly practices, the “Hybrid Home Guy” recognized his own energy inefficiency: rather than pursuing a truly revolutionary style of building that would not only earn attention but also have less impact on the planet, Bearup was chasing projects to help keep people employed.
Yet as he began planning a sabbatical to re-focus his energies, fate intervened – and wouldn’t take no for an answer. The project would become known as Earth Shelter Michigan; a grouping of five underground domes designed to function completely off the grid. Bearup said “no” four times. There were serious budget and location concerns. But when the owner came back a fifth time, he recognized this was the envelope he had to push and said yes to a career-changing project.
Earth Shelter is comprised of a campus of domes to help the family live as self-sustaining as possible. The five domes each have a purpose: a main house dome where the owners will live; a greenhouse to grow produce; a small “parents’ quarters” dome; another dome with walk-in freezer and pantry space; and a 72-foot-long barn dome that will include stalls for animals living there. The square footage adds up to 12,000 including the barn. Yet with a 48-volt battery bank that is charged by solar panels and a back up generator — and owners willing to carefully budget their energy consumption — the entire campus will run off the grid.
The domes are all underground — some spots measuring 35 feet below the surface – while one end is strategically positioned for passive solar exposure. But Bearup designed each dome to feel as though it’s sitting above ground. With a creative layout and use of paint colors, Bearup and his team helped natural light streaming through the windows on each façade reach back into the farthest points of the domes.
From the perspective of building science, windows are the most important part of a building’s shell for Bearup. Solving that issue in an environmentally friendly way was key.
“Windows have an incredibly important job to do at Earth Shelter, but it’s the same for any house: create, capture and contain energy,” said Bearup. “If we use the right windows and exterior envelope, we can keep each dome at Earth Shelter a few degrees within the 70 degree range without running the heating or cooling system.”
For Bearup and his team, Andersen Windows was his solution to the weather found in Northern Michigan: wind-driven rain, hot summers, bone chilling winter temperatures, all elements that can take their toll on a structure.
“We’ve used Andersen 400 Series in other houses, so based on our knowledge of its performance standards, along with blower door tests and various industry certifications, we knew these windows really performed,” Bearup explained. “The flashing components of the 400 Series really impressed us, and their construction is so tight, the homeowners won’t have to worry about maintenance and there’s virtually no chance of rot on the frame.”
A total of 26 windows and four outswing French doors were installed throughout the domes.
In addition to its building attributes, Bearup also ordered the windows to have a good degree of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wood content. Andersen has FSC Chain of Custody certification, which Bearup said was also important in choosing the windows. He liked that Andersen heats and cools its manufacturing facility by burning its own wood byproducts in a steam generating facility and even is converting some of its trucking fleet to run on compressed natural gas, which lowers emissions.
“Not only did we want to put in a great product from a company that’s been around a long time, but we wanted to make sure the products aren’t destroying the environment through their creation,” said Bearup. “We were very impressed with how similar our thoughts on this were, and what Andersen does to really respect and nurture the wood they use and the environment they work within to only make it better.”
As work wraps up on Earth Shelter, Bearup can see how his views of environmental homebuilding have changed for the better. And that’s started conversations with others who want to create their own Earth Shelters and, Bearup hopes, shift their views of a home’s 21st century utility.
“Houses can function as part of a larger system that works together,” Bearup explained. “It complements a healthy lifestyle in the way the home breathes and lives. Earth Shelter is a living, breathing entity. And what I hope to show everyone out there is how – rather than being a repository of things – a home can encourage you to live. To let in the things we need to help us grow and thrive, like the light shining through the windows, to be aware of what’s around you. If it helps introduce a mindfulness that I believe is missing among so many homes today, then we have changed the world for the better.”