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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

Building the NewenHouse Kit Home: FSC-Certified Roof Trusses

Sonya NewenhouseSonya Newenhouse, Ph.D. is an eco-entrepreneur who enjoys providing practical and creative solutions to help individuals and organizations live and manage green. Her firm, Madison Environmental Group, provides LEED green building and sustainability consulting services. She is also founder and president of Community Car, a car sharing organization in Madison Wisconsin. Currently she is developing NewenHouse, a business that will provide super-insulated sustainable kit homes.  

It’s been mostly very cold and a bit snowy for the last two weeks. Dan and David are hardy folks and only missed a day of work outside when the temperature dropped to -22 degrees and another day when the slick snow made it dangerous to work on the roof. Luckily, they have other customers who have inside work. Before they hoisted the roof trusses up, we nailed a plywood air barrier on top of the second story to create a lid on the house. The seams were taped with SIGA tape—this is a special long-lasting tape of excellent quality made in Switzerland. Visit SIGA’s website to learn more. 

Dan and David liked this air barrier approach as it made a sturdy platform for them to walk on while they installed the roof trusses. We were unable to use the truss delivery truck crane to hoist the trusses to the top of the building because we have a low overhead electrical wire crossing the building site. Next spring, when the ground isn’t frozen, this wire will be installed underground. I thought of doing this earlier but the wires may have been in the way of the excavator. Instead, a friend helped hoist the trusses with ropes (a two hour job).

Sonya describes the FSC-certified roof trusses with an energy heal. Video By David Romary.

The trusses are manufactured in Minnesota, about one and a half hours from the job site, and are made of 100 percent FSC-certified lumber. FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council. The Council created a set of sustainable forest management practices and certify lumber across the United States and internationally. Visit the FSC's website to learn more about the FSC principles. The trusses were designed with an energy heal that provides room for insulation where the roof meets the wall. We’ll have 24 inches of cellulose insulation blown in (for an insulation R-value of 100) both above and below the plywood air barrier. Visit HGTV’s website to learn more about energy heals.

NewenHouse trusses 
The roof trusses are up, as well as a few Larson truss outer walls. Photo By Sonya Newenhouse. 

From this picture you’ll note that the eaves look very large. Because we’ll be adding the Larson Truss remote 12-inch wall on the outside of the 2-by-4 stud wall, the eaves will become smaller, to a two-foot overhang. The width of the eaves is planned to take advantage of the different angles of the sun in winter and summer. The eaves are deep enough to shade the second story south facing windows in summer but still shallow enough to let all the winter sunshine in.

The attic will be vented with two gable end vents that double as attic access panels. You will not be able to access the attic from inside. This design avoids any openings in the air-tight plywood barrier. We choose plywood for the horizontal air barrier under the roof truss because if a water leak would occur in the roof, OSB would degrade much faster on a horizontal surface than plywood. This decision costs a little bit more but is more durable and gives me peace of mind.

Next, an OSB sheathing and roof paper were attached to the roof. The metal standing seam roof we ordered arrived just in time, as did the roofer, who was recently on a job in California. He’ll start the first week in February. The custom trusses and metal roof will be part of the NewenHouse Kit. The roof material is also manufactured in Minnesota. Wisconsin and Minnesota have an abundance of building manufacturing products. We are fortunate to have access to regional materials and develop long lasting relationships with our suppliers.

Today I’d like to thank Naomi Lipke, an intern on the NewenHouse project, who has provided so much assistance from sourcing materials, working with suppliers, staining the cedar siding, to helping make design decisions and being a positive force in the building process. Cheers to you Naomi.

Our first open house last Friday was a huge success with lots of interested people poking about. Come join us the fourth Friday each month from 3:00-5:00 p.m. to see it for yourself.