Category Archives: Uncategorized

Can’t Judge A Home By It’s Cover

by Lee Bergum,


Have you ever been driving around a neighborhood and been amazed by the type and shape of some of the homes you have seen, Comments are,” wow that is beautiful”, “what a darling house that is”, “I would love a house like that”, etc.  Have you ever taken the time to think about how well built the house may be, how well insulated, how efficient of a home it is. With the economic times being what they are we need to put more credence into how well that (your) home is built.  Today when you build a home your stay in that home will be a lot longer, so energy costs are a major player in the cost of the dwelling.


                  At EPS we manufacture the solution to these issues; we have SIP’s, (structural insulated panel) a structural, energy efficient product that will address these items. If you are not familiar with these panels, they are a sandwich looking product that’s has a closed cell poly styrene sandwiched between two sheets of OSB. Panels come in 4” R-18; 6” R-26; 8” R-33; 10” R-40, and can be made up to 8’ x 24 ‘.  They are twice as strong as conventional framing and basically can be used anywhere you have standard framing.


With that in mind you need to consider building with these panels. Sure you will ask about the cost comparison, yes they may be a little higher, but they have a payback in 5 years or less with energy savings alone. This says nothing about the labor savings to install them.

With all that said, it seems that if you do care about what truly is inside of your home, you will care about what is inside the structure of your home.  The next time you look at that house or are considering building your own or even know of someone else that is in the building mood, ask yourself or them, if I truly want the most efficient home I can build, what should I consider, the answer should be SIP’s, the pictures you will see here or on our website are homes of SIP construction


Contact Lee Bergum DSM of Energy Panel Structures



Sustainable For Life

Reposted from Twin Cities Design Collective

I was recently at a dinner party at a home designed by Shelter Architecture.  It was a renovation of a regular old South Minneapolis home, not a huge lot and I thought it was an incredible use of space!

Shelter Architecture Paris Home

Energy Efficient Windows - The Paris Way

Lowered Counters and Efficient Workspace Design

View From the Master Bedroom

Sustainable can mean more than energy efficiency or indoor air quality.  The Shelter crew takes into consideration designing for aging gracefully without having to move or remodel, the kitchen is laid out to promote a better diet and storage is designed to decrease waste and over-consumption.

First LEED Platinum Home (New Construction) in MN

Kitchen to Age With 😉

Energy Efficient Appliances With Style

I’m inspired!  Are you?  Check out more project inspirations at






Design + Renewable Energy

Build Sustainable Homes is the sponsor of #ecomonday  posts for the Twin Cities Design Collective, a cool blog covering local design in the MN area.

The Twin Cities Design Collective is a site dedicated to exposing & sharing the many hidden creative treasures right here in Minnesota & its surrounding communities.

The MN Renewable Energy Society (MRES) is hosting the 2011 Minnesota Solar Tour (

Have you ever been interested in producing your own renewable energy or seeing how a pv solar array works?  I’m sure some people might be thinking that renewable energy and design don’t go together.  I’m happy to report that MN has a growing number of homes using renewables both in the cities and in rural areas.  You can see both the design elements and learn about the technical aspects on October 1, 2011.

Solar Electric and Solar Thermal Systems – photo via Innovative Power Systems/Minneapolis

Homeowners will be opening their houses for the tour so you can see all the working parts, plus if you follow the provided map you can make sure to stop by the homes that utilize the following sustainable building and living topics.

MN Solar Tour System Components

Here’s a quick overview of some of the system components so you can figure out which homes should be at the top of your list.

Solar Electric (PV – Photo-voltaic):  Harnessing the suns radiation with arrays of photovoltaic cells that convert it into direct current that is either used for current load, stored for later in a battery or resold to a utility (grid tied).

Solar Hot Water:  Using the sun to heat water either directly or by heat transfer and saving either the electricity or fuel that would normally be used.

Solar Hot Water System (photo via Innovative Power Systems/Minneapolis)

Passive Solar:  Using the suns radiation to directly heat elements of a structure that will retain it and/or direct it as heat in the form of infrared radiation.

Ground-Source Heat:  (Geothermal heating/cooling)  Using the earths constant temperature found at levels below the frost line to assist in cooling or heating by providing a baseline temperature that is closer to our desired comfort range than is achieved by heating winter or cooling summer air.

Wind:  Using wind energy to generate energy with wind turbine or turbines.

MN Solar Tour (photo via MN Renewable Energy Society)

Don’t forget to ask the homeowners or professionals about the pros and cons of each component from the pre-planning stage to today.

Why Join the BSH Green Building Movement?


Interested in building green?  Too much confusing information out there? Not sure which products to choose? Need a contractor referral? Interested in green building tips?

At Build Sustainable Homes we promote sustainability and building green. You should think about choosing green products or resources when upgrading your home or thinking about an addition.

You can find answers, discussions, events and photo and video examples of all those things at our website,

Join the BSH Green Building Movement because you deserve to have the resources and information to decide what’s best for you.   Compare and choose between green and conventional building based on:

– Cost (upfront and lifespan)
– Timeframe for your project
– Your priorities (save money, better health, preserving the environment)

Join the movement by following us on Facebook or Twitter.

Oh, and ask your friends and family to join too…!  Thanks!

Redwoods and sustainability

One of my recent temporary jobs had me in and around a good portion of the metro area this spring and summer and every time I drove by one I had to shake my head a little, so I’m deciding to address them; Redwood playsets and Redwood in general.

Yes those playsets are the hallmark of doting parents that can provide a little jungle gym for their children to interact with for about, and I’m open to comment on this, 6 years. Or considering consecutive litters using these playsets could up it to a maximum of 10-12 years, (you can imagine my enthusiasm when the Obama’s decided to install a redwood playset at the Whitehouse).

Perhaps it stems from my time in the Pacific Northwest among the Redwoods and especially that spent in and around Humboldt County in Trinidad and Kneeland, but I have a hard time seeing the wisdom in any use of Redwoods. It’s hard to instill into someone yet to visit them how massive these trees are and how imposing they are on the area, even with there being less than 5% of historic level of the Giant Sequoia remaining.
Watching the winds coming inland off the ocean, misting about the treetops and then ending up as clouds further inland is an impressive first hand experience of that sustaining cycle of nature, and imagining how much of an effect on the ecosystem these trees, nearly 2000% greater in number would have before they were logged is astonishing.

Considering how much of an impact these trees play on the ecosystem, how many have been logged already, and how large and old these trees are able to grow to makes logging any of them seem unwise, especially in light of the fact that the largest demand for Redwoods comes from kids playsets, specifically Rainbow playsystems.

Essentially we are cutting down the trees that could benefit your grandchildren’s grandchildren and all the generations in between to make a temporary jungle gym for the next six years.
There are plenty of other alternative materials that would seem fit to construct a playset out of; steel (high recycled content), composite wood (high recycled content), recycled plastics (landfill diverted) and probably a few more. So the next time you see one of these advertised as ‘green’ at a home and garden show or on a manufacturers website think about what is being sacrificed.

Next article, FSC endorses redwoods?

100% Recycled, and with 100% Renewable Energy … toilet paper.

Before anyone starts jumping to conclusions here, the only issue I have is,.. not being able to resist a segue. Stadium urinals straight into toilet paper.

Visitors to our house, recipients of our flyers, attendees of our events and us here at Build Sustainable Homes all have used recycled or rapidly renewable materials for our consumable paper products. And unless you asked, you probably didn’t even realize it.

It is just one of those things that make sense to me, ethically and even more so lately financially. Mariesa has been great about recruiting people to purchase the Enviro 100 copy paper from Eureka Recycling. It costs less than copy paper from the big box office stores also! And we can find tissue paper for competetive prices at many of the places we shop. (check the chart at the end) After spending a good amount of time in the Pacific Northwest, and especially in Northern California’s redwoods, it definitely changes how you think about trees. Somehow I think that down the road, the fact that we used virgin forests to clean our fannies might not sit too well with our following generations. So, recycled content tissue paper = great concept, and now Van Hotum from the Netherlands has just raised the bar.

From GreenBiz News,

[ AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — “Claiming that it has made the world’s first carbon neutral toilet paper, manufacturer Van Houtum last Friday at the ISSA Interclean conference in Amsterdam, rolled out its new product, Satino Black.
(look how edgy these guys are! here we have giggly pink teddy bears pitching 0% recycled pillow soft toilet paper, and they use boxers, goth punks and firefighters to sell their 100% recycled product)

At the conference, the company highlighted its many environmental attributes, saying that over the course of the last two years, the company has overhauled its production processes to achieve the following results:

  • 100 percent recycled content, at least 85 percent of which is post-consumer
  • Cradle to Cradle certification at the Silver lever
  • Ecolabel certified since 2008
  • Manufactured using 100 percent renewable energy

When added up, Van Houtum says this is the world’s greenest toilet paper.”

"Black is the new green," Nick op den Buijsch, Concept Manager of Socially Responsible Entrepreneurship at Van Houtum, said in a statement last week. "Satino Black has been developed to get a step closer to the set environmental objectives with one simple act. This makes it possible for everyone to make a contribution to breaking through the unnecessary exhaustion of the natural resources on our planet."

According to the brochure for the new toilet paper and hand-towel line (available here as a PDF):

Satino Black is the end result of thinking ahead for many years about, "How can we minimize our impact on the environment?" Just before the environmental summit in Copenhagen, publications appeared to the effect that the use of toilet paper is among the top 5 domestic daily environmental ‘eco-crimes’. Many consumers don’t realize that most toilet paper is still made from live trees that are cut and processed for toilet paper. This is completely unnecessary. Toilet paper itself is a disposable product that disappears down the drain, it can not be recycled. ]


Since we are not in Holland however,
check out the NRDC’s Environmental Ratings of Household Tissue Paper Products no carbon neutral rating on that chart, but it rates total percentage recycled, percentage post-consumer, fsc, and chemicals used in the process.