“People don't think of it when their meter is spinning—they don't think about how you make electricity—the strip mining, the burning of coal and fossil fuels, and the exhaust generated into the air we breathe,” says Bruce Craig, the owner of Bullfrog Builders. Craig's words give you some idea of his commitment to building “greener” homes. His goal is for everyone to have a zero energy bill. He bases his method to reduce energy consumption on combining insulating concrete forms (ICF) with other energy-saving systems.
Craig creates an envelope for a home with an exterior of ICF walls. The interior walls are often wood or steel framed, which Craig says saves cost and, combined with ICF exterior walls, still achieves energy efficiency. Craig extends the use of ICF to interior load-bearing walls, safe rooms, and media rooms for strength, protection, and quiet. In Beaumont, Texas, where high winds, fire, and termites are an issue, his concrete homes are safe and secure.
Craig advocates spending money on things you don't see. For example, he adds a radiant barrier roof system of 4x8-foot solar board sheets with the underside foil-covered. It keeps the attic cooler and diminishes the heat load coming through the ceiling. He adds on-demand water heaters to eliminate storing heated water. The ICF envelope allows a smaller air conditioning system that uses less energy to cool. And finally, Craig adds solar panels for hot water and heat or photovoltaic (PV) cells to produce electricity or both.
Craig says he taught himself when he first started and then trained others. But today, manufacturers offer technical support that can talk a plumber or electrician through an installation, and construction diagrams are available on the Internet. He says that soon companies manufacturing solar products and the subcontractors installing them will be mainstream.
Currently one of Bullfrog's projects is remodeling a 1940s home in Austin, Texas, changing it from 1300 to 2600 square feet using ICFs. The goal is to realize zero energy bills for this house through the installation of energy saving systems. Although these systems will be connected to a grid as a backup, the homeowners will see their electric meter spin forward as energy is used and then backward as they produce more than they use. At month's end the goal will be to zero out because of the energy producing features and the low energy requirements created by the ICF shell.
Bruce Craig is building better places to live and accomplishing his goal of zero energy consumption. He says, “Anything we can do as a society to reduce pollution, we need to do.” He backs up his words by educating the public and telling consumers to build green, not cheap. “The ICF envelope combined with energy saving systems saves consumers big in the long run,” says Craig. For helpful information on low-energy consumption construction go to www.bullfrogbuilders.com.