During awards ceremonies on March 26 and March 28, the U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Lab (FPL) and APA-The Engineered Wood Association honored architects for their winning designs in the Carbon Challenge, a home-design competition that challenged participants to consider the environmental impact of building materials.

The competition, open to building designers nationwide, focused on two types of homes in two cities—a Habitat for Humanity house in Providence, R.I., and an urban row house in Baltimore. Using life-cycle assessment software from the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute, designers were able to determine the impact of the greenhouse gas emissions from the products in their designs.

As a joint campaign of the Forest Products Laboratory and APA, the Carbon Challenge seeks to educate home designers, builders, and communities about how sustainable design strategies can address the longterm environmental impact of a building and disaster resilience, as well as promoting the use of wood as a component to sustainable design.

Cash prizes totaling $20,000 were awarded for designs based on their life-cycle assessment score and for designs demonstrating the best curb appeal, the most affordability and the best use of wood.

“We were extremely impressed by the entries to the Carbon Challenge Design Competition; the designers took innovative approaches to reducing the home’s carbon footprint while achieving both aesthetic appeal and optimal building performance,” said Bob Clark, senior engineered wood specialist for APA. “The entries clearly reflect the excitement of their designers for creating sustainable building solutions. These designs will improve not only the livability of homes, but also of the surrounding communities.”

Providence

For Carbon Challenge Providence, entrants were tasked with designing a Habitat for Humanity house for a vacant lot in the Olneyville neighborhood.

Cash prizes totaling $10,000 were awarded to winners across multiple categories:

• Grand Prize ($5,000): ZeroEnergy Design, Boston

• 2nd Place ($2,500): Kyle Bamrick & Christopher Armstrong, Providence

• 3rd Place ($1,000): Joseph P. Campanella -- Design Alliance, LLC, West Hartford, Conn.

• Best Use of Wood ($500): Anne Lissett & Benjamin Monroe -- LEAF Architecture, West Hartford

• Best Curb Appeal ($500): Erik Rhodin & Taina Rhodin -- Line Company Architects, Waltham, Mass.

• Most Cost-Effective ($500): Christen M. Robbins -- Vision 3 Architects, Providence

ZeroEnergy Design’s winning entry, “The Little Green Rhody” (right), is a wood-framed fourbedroom, two-bath home with a gabled roof suitable for the neighborhood’s traditional architecture. By combining an airtight, well-insulated building envelope, high-efficiency windows sited for optimal solar orientation, a 7.5-kW solar array, and a range of other features, the house is designed to use less than half the energy of a code-built home. Other features include rain barrels to collect water for landscaping, a two-track driveway to decrease impermeable surfacing, and an insulated basement.

“This design is very buildable and beautifully represented,” noted one judge. “It fits the context of the neighborhood very well.”

The Carbon Challenge Providence is held in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Rhode Island— Greater Providence and AIA Rhode Island, and is supported by sponsors LP Building Products and Boise Cascade.

Baltimore

For Carbon Challenge Baltimore, entrants were tasked with updating Baltimore’s iconic row houses for a vacant block in the Oliver neighborhood.

Cash prizes totaling $10,000 were awarded to winners across multiple categories:

• Grand Prize ($5,000): Phillip Jones -- Cho Benn Holback + Associates, Baltimore

• 2nd Prize ($2,500): Alexander Dzurec -- autotroph, Huntington, Md.

• 3rd Prize ($1,000): Drew Suljak, Kelly Krob, & David Lopez -- studioRED / hord | coplan | macht, Baltimore

• Best Use of Wood ($500): Chris Melander & Ross Smith -- RTKL Associates Inc., Baltimore

• Best Curb Appeal ($500): Randy M. Sovich & Jojo Duah -- RM Sovich Architecture, Baltimore

• Most Cost-Effective ($500): Jay Orr -- ARQ Architects, Baltimore

• Special recognition, Best Social Statement: Lisa M. Feretto & Kallie Sternburgh -- hord | coplan | macht, Baltimore; Janice Romanosky -- Pando Alliance, Millersville, Md.; & Prescott Gaylord – Entellis Collaborative/Hamel Builders, Elkridge, Md.

Phillip Jones’ winning concept (right) modernizes the traditional row house design with an open floor plan that maximizes daylight; a wider, semienclosed front “stoop”; and a roof deck with covered and uncovered entertaining areas, green roofing system, and solar hot water collectors. The design’s rammed-earth construction, a highly efficient building method that stores heat in the winter while blocking it in the summer, contributed significantly to its lower carbon footprint.

“This well-conceived and well-designed residence provides comfortably proportioned, usable living spaces with many desirable features, including an entry vestibule, a mud room/pantry, and a second-floor den with laundry,” said one of the judges.

The Carbon Challenge Baltimore is held in partnership with the City of Baltimore and AIA Baltimore, and is supported by sponsors LP Building Products, Boise Cascade, and Roseburg Forest Products.

Ongoing Initiative

A total of 144 designers entered the two Carbon Challenge competitions. The initiative is designed to raise awareness of the environmental benefits of wood construction, particularly the carbon neutrality of wood as a building material, and to promote the use of life cycle assessment tools.

“The goal of the Carbon Challenge is to educate designers about the role of building materials in a home’s environmental footprint. By designing with consideration to life cycle assessment, participants are able to adapt their designs and product selections to maximize efficiency and energy performance,” said Mike Ritter, assistant director for FPL. “In turn, the resulting home designs showcase to the public the attainability and lifelong benefits of sustainably built, wood-framed homes.”

Following the competition, FPL and APA will host a series of educational seminars in the greater Baltimore and Providence areas to continue educating designers on the principles of low-carbon, lowenergy design.

The USDA announced a new emphasis on the use of green building materials in March 2011. Forest Service studies show that using wood products for building materials, instead of fossil-fuel-intensive alternatives, results in a smaller carbon footprint.

For more information on the winners, visit www.apawood.org/CarbonChallenge. 

Source: U.S. Forest Service, Forest Products Laborator

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