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 Harmony House 



The Harmony House is a 1920's farmhouse, which functions as an office and classroom building.  Renovations over the last three decades have endeavored to make the house more resource and energy efficient, as well as create more space for educational programs.  The project was awarded a Silver certification in the
LEED EBOM(Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance) greenbuilding rating program in 2011.

Passive Solar
The windows of the house face predominately south to take the greatest advantage of daylight and passive heating.  The roof overhang is sized to allow winter sun to penetrate deep into the building, but also block the summer sun.  The high thermal mass in the sunspace concrete slab absorbs the solar radiation in the winter, and aids in maintaining the indoor temperature as it slowly releases heat throughout the day.  This sunspace also provides generous daylight into the house, reducing the need for electric light.

Insulation and thermal performance
The walls and roof (the building envelope) of the Harmony House are very well insulated.    Having a well insulated and 'tight' building envelope means greater efficiency in terms of heating and cooling; cold air is held in during the warm months of summer, yet it is kept out in the cooler months of winter.  The steel shingles on the roof of the building are also designed to reflect summer heat.

The woodstove is highly efficient.  It is also non-catalytic, which means the burn chamber reaches higher temperatures that can burn more particulates, resulting in fewer emissions.  The woodstove uses outside air for combustion, which doesn't deplete the oxygen in the room.  The salvaged soapstone underneath and the mosaic on the wall behind the stove contribute to the thermal mass of the system.


Geothermal Heating and Cooling

The geothermal ground source heat pump uses the stable ground temperatures near the Earth's surface to help control building temperatures.  Ground source heat pumps can be the most energy efficient, environmentally clean and cost-effective systems for temperature control.  In winter the heat pump extracts heat from the ground (via a closed loop pipe that goes 500 feet into the ground) and transfers it inside.  In summer, the heat pump extracts heat from inside and transfers it into the ground.

The ventilation in the building has a heat recovery system whereby in the wintertime, exhaust heat is used to preheat intake air.

The appliances in the Harmony House (diswasher, refrigerator, washing machine, range vent, etc..) were chosen based on energy efficiency as well as performance (Energy Star). 

Natural, Reclaimed or Recycled Materials

  • Marmoleum floors throughout the building are manufactured from renewable materials: linseed oil, rosins, wood flour, jute and ecologically responsible pigments.  These floors do not off-gass and are completely compostable at the end of their lifespan.  The marmoleum production facility is held to an Environmental Management Standard, which means that it uses materials and energy efficiently, recycles wastes and keeps emissions to a minimum.
  • Carpet in the upstairs office is made of 51% reused carpet tiles and the company will pay to ship it back for recyclinig at the end of it's lifecycle.  Carpet tiles can also be selectively replaced.
  • Paperstone countertops used in the kitchen are made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper and petroleum-free phenolic resins, including cashew nut oil.  They are also colored with organic pigments.
  • All the paints and finishes in the structure have low or zero VOC's (volitile organic compounds), which helps to protect the quality of indoor air.
  • The butcher block counters in the kitchen and in the upstairs office were salvaged and refinished.
  • The kitchen table was built by a local artisan and was crafted with wood from a Sycamore tree that had fallen in a Pittsburgh park. 
  • A local blacksmith forged the kitchen cabinet handles and pulls from materials salvaged from an old manure spreader found on site.

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