Zehnder America Announces the Completion of Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage

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Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage, a 36-unit multi-generational community in Midcoast Maine, completed the construction phase of the project. All of the homes are built to the Passive House standard and have Zehnder Heat Recovery Ventilation systems to maintain healthy indoor air quality.

Aerial shot of Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage

This Ecovillage is an illustration that Zehnder systems are clearly valuable in many different types of projects, from a Habitat for Humanity project in River Falls, Wisconsin to various cohousing communities to New York City apartment buildings.

After years of planning, design, and construction, Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage is complete. This 36-unit multi-generational community, located on 42 acres, has a mission to be an innovative housing model for rural Maine. The ultra-energy-efficient homes, pedestrian-friendly layout, shared common house, and preservation of land for agricultural purposes make this community a noteworthy example of environmental sustainability.

All of the homes were built to the Passive House standard: they use 90% less energy to heat and cool than a typical code-built home. All feature triple-pane windows and doors, air-tight sealing, generous amounts of insulation, and a solar orientation for passive heat gain. To maintain healthy indoor air quality, each home and the common house are equipped with a Zehnder Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) system.

Zehnder Heat Recovery Ventilators and Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV) are balanced systems that both remove stale air and provide a constant supply of fresh, filtered air into living areas (i.e., bedrooms and the living room) to ensure optimal air circulation throughout the house. By controlling the location of the fresh-air intake, Zehnder ventilation systems can eliminate unfiltered make-up air and moisture intake from wall cracks and window frames, which are often problematic in negatively pressured homes relying only on kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans for ventilation. Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage members are using HEPA-grade filters in their Zehnder HRVs to remove dust, pollen, and other pollutants from the incoming fresh air.

Hans-Peter Zehnder, Chairman and fourth generation owner of the Zehnder Group (directly overseeing the American and Asian operations) and David Chouvelon, Vice President heading the Zehnder America business unit have recently toured Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage as part of a Northeast tour of Zehnder customers and installed projects. They also visited: ECOCOR, a high performance builder; Kaplan Thompson Architects, sustainable architecture and design firm, and Bensonwood, a design-build firm.

“This Ecovillage is an illustration that Zehnder systems are clearly valuable in many different types of projects, from a Habitat for Humanity project in River Falls, Wisconsin to various cohousing communities to New York City apartment buildings,” says Hans-Peter Zehnder. “It is great to see our products being used on more affordable applications and to serve as a model for other builders to follow.”

The homes use only electricity for space and water heating, allowing renewable energy to power the homes. To date, 22 of the 36 homes are near net zero, with solar energy producing all or most of the power. Zehnder Heat Recovery Ventilators allow the homes to be both energy efficient and well ventilated because they capture up to 90% of the heat from the exhaust air before it leaves the home.

During cold weather, Zehnder HRV units pre-warm incoming air from the exhaust air, reducing heating bills. During warm weather, the systems keep the homes cooler by reducing the temperature of the fresh intake air. This also helps eliminate the need for air-conditioning systems. Switches in the bathrooms and kitchen let occupants boost the ventilation system after showering or cooking.

The Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage common house is used for several community meals a week and contains a large dining room, kitchen, guest bedroom, children’s playroom, and root cellar. This 4,000-square-foot structure is equipped with two Zehnder Heat Recovery Ventilators to make it more adaptive to the varying levels of use that are typical for this building.

Data from a carbon dioxide sensor in the large dining room determines when the Heat Recovery ventilator for that room will ramp up into a higher mode. Because carbon dioxide levels correspond with building use, the system will circulate more fresh air during times of greater occupancy. The system that ventilates the remainder of the common house can be boosted using a convenient switch.

“The design of the ventilation system in the common house in particular is a good example of the system engineering knowledge that we provide with our solutions,” says David Chouvelon, Vice President, Head of Zehnder America. “It is not only the high performance of the Zehnder HRV and ERV units that sets our company apart, but also the design work with dedicated air distribution components and silencers.”

The Zehnder systems throughout the community were installed by GOLogic, the design-build firm that served as the general contractor for Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage. Zehnder America provided guidance and ventilation expertise throughout the project.

All 36 units in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage are occupied, and community members are working on a variety of projects, including an on-site organic worker-share farm and increased use of on-site renewable energy. The community will host an event on the afternoon of April 30, offering tours of the high-efficiency homes, a Maypole Dance, and celebration.

About Zehnder America
Zehnder America Inc. provides high-quality heating and ventilation system solutions to promote comfortable, healthy, and energy-efficient indoor living. Zehnder America is a division of the Zehnder Group, a publicly traded company headquartered in Switzerland. The Zehnder Group employs 3,200 people worldwide and specializes in advanced heating, cooling, and ventilation technology, which represents 40% of the company activity.

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