Energy With A View

When we think of solar installations, we generally think of those big black panels that dot the roofs of homes, buildings and sometimes the roadside. But what about windows?

When Robert Clarke from Alpen HPP LLC (our window supplier), called us up and asked if we would be interested in meeting the VP Sales Rep from Solaria about a new BIPV  (Building-Integrative Photovoltaic) technology they were working on for residential homes, we said yes! Solaria has been talking with Alpen to produce highly efficient windows with a solar grid in them. Not only would you/potential customers be getting a high performance window, but also one that is going to generate energy for your home. The windows have already been installed in larger commercial buildings, one specifically in Japan, you can find the link to the article below. Currently their BIPV glass panels, used in conjunction with standard glass windows are taking the idea of being “green” and “sustainable” to a new level. The panels not only collect solar energy, they provide glare control, thermal performance and effective daylighting (Solaria).

The idea of combining solar windows on a home, while also getting the benefit of daylighting, thermal control and glare reduction desired in a window is exciting. The fact that these cells are unobtrusive to the view is a huge positive. We are looking forward to seeing  how Solaria and Alpen continue to work out the details of making these panels for residential installations.

Here’s Jason, holding up the sample pane Scott Hoover brought over (the image has been edited to show the outline of the cells better. Had this image not been manipulated, you the reader would have thought Jason was just standing there with his arm up for fun-not something he is particularly known for)




Link to Alpen Windows:


Dirty Thoughts

How often do you think about your septic system? I mean really think about it, dive into it, somewhere between the top layer of fats and oils and the bottom layer of solids and consider just how important it is to our health and environment.

First and foremost, your septic tank is more than just a waste holder, it’s a biological wonderland. Just the word “septic” refers to an anaerobic bacteria environment for decomposition. Bacteria from our bodies, our food, and products we use all end up in the tank playing a role in the decomposition of the wastes we “flush”. As we all remember from biology class, anaerobic bacteria work without oxygen.  In the septic tank then, anaerobic bacteria are working to get rid of nitrates that would otherwise cause algae blooms in the water shed. We have seen how disastrous an overabundance of nitrogen in water can be. One particular example is the dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico caused by fertilizer run off in the Mississippi river. Nitrogen found in the fertilizers (along with other chemicals) have caused algal blooms on the surface of the water, removing the oxygen in the water that is important for plant and animal life. We are talking specifically about nitrogen in water, and not nitrogen in the soil, and even more specifically about issues with industrial agriculture.

Looking inside the septic tank, one would see three developed layers: fats & oils, water, and solid waste. As your household waste enters the tank a series of bacterial processes occur to break down whats coming in. Fats, oils and solids are not broken down by the bacteria in the tank and are known as sludge. Sludge stays in the tank and has to be pumped out. What the bacteria does breakdown is added into the water that makes up the middle layer, and is then sent out of the tank into the drain field. The drain field is comprised of gravel, coarse sand or plastic chambers, and pipes. As the “clarified water” is leeched out, it runs across a filtration surface and is further separated and broken down by aerobic  bacteria found naturally in the soil. These bacteria work to finish breaking down waste and destroy pathogenic organisms that could cause serious health problems. This is why septic system design and implementation is so heavily regulated.We depend on our septic systems to function properly so that we have safe, clean water for human and animal consumption and agricultural purposes; and so that our land does not become a health hazard or worse: inhospitable. The picture in my mind is like something out of Mad Max, people with extra or missing limbs/organs or serious health problems and land that can’t support life.


Last Friday, the septic tank for our Loveland site was delivered. Check out some of the photos below:




Keeping it Natural

During the process of building a house, a certain amount of disruption to the natural state of a site is inevitable. That is where restoration of the natural habitat becomes important to many builders and homeowners.

On our Loveland site, the homeowners want a yard with grass for their children to play, but they also wanted to keep much of their site looking as if it had not been disrupted too much by construction. Much of the area is wild grasses, and we turned to a local company in Greeley to help us replant with native grasses from that area.

Pawnee Buttes Seed Inc.  established themselves in 1998 with the belief that a seed company should be doing more than just selling grass seed. They developed grass mixes that are found in particular areas, so that say a person who had their pasture catch fire in Eastern Colorado and wanted to replant, could actually get a seed variety that is specific to that location. They have worked with oil companies in Northeast Colorado to replant the areas that have been used for well sites (Pawnee Buttes Seed of Greeley). They have also developed seeds specific to wildfires in Colorado. The process of replanting an area isn’t as simple as tossing out seed and calling it good. It can take several years to reforest an area burned and you can read about it here: Colorado Wildfire Restoration.

Need Convincing??

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It’s been cold lately, on Thursday the temperature hung around the 20’s, Friday it didn’t get over 20, and today is looking much the same. Cold. Cold. Cold. That also means that the heaters all across the Front Range are running, but not everywhere!!! Oh no friends, up in Nederland, CO (where the temperature is usually 20 degree (F) colder), in the house we finished this spring, the heat is NOT on!!! Say What?!?! You read that right, the homeowners just in the last 30 min sent a text telling us that they have yet to turn their heater on, despite it being so dang cold out. Jealous? I know I would be!!


Let’s get Cozy, with Insulation.

Insulation (noun): the action of insulating someone or something.IMG_8878

This is probably the face you make when your home is either too hot or too cold, because you don’t have proper insulation….

There’s a lot of options available to home builders and owners in the area of insulation. Why? Because it’s so important to the comfort and the efficiency of your home. Think about the last time you were in a home, in the middle of winter and the insulation was say, sub-par. You probably considered making a face similar to the one above. Why? Because who wants to be cold in their home, in the middle of winter? What cost is there to having a poorly insulated house? Well, there’s the personal comfort cost. You may spend those cold months layered in thermals, jackets and blankets or more than likely, you spend a lot of money every month firing up the heater every time it gets to chilly. Likewise, in the summer months, you’re plugging in that cooler and running it just to deal with a sweat box…unless you’ve taken it to LEVEL EPIC and just moved the kids’ swimming pool into the living room, just kidding. But let’s face the facts, insulation is important to the efficiency and integrity of any home.

In our last post, we shared pictures of the insulation install on our current project. We blow loose cellulose made locally by Applegate Insulation, and practice the “Dense-Pack” method. Dense packing is an effective way to decrease air flow through wall cavities and coupled with our separate air barrier strategy this creates a robust redundant air sealing approach. It increases a homes R-Value significantly (when properly installed) helping to minimize the thermal bridging experienced in most simple stud cavities. It also helps to decrease the movement of fire through wall cavities that would otherwise act as chimneys, and it is a renewable resource (made from recycled paper products).  Some even feel that the borate (think old borax soap) added to the insulation for fire protection helps to protect the wood structure underneath.  Recently, an article in the Journal of Light Construction reported on a multi-year test comparing thick wall construction types on the east coast. The study found a higher than optimal moisture content in the different insulation types.  The wall humidity tracked higher than thirty percent during portions of the the test period. This year, the test walls were opened up and mold and fungal growth was absent, in the cellulose walls.

We are really excited about insulation and energy conservation as you can see and don’t want our customers making a face similar to the one pictured above!

Hyperlocalization of Architecture: Contemporary Sustainable Archetypes

A fellow friend of ours and Passive Haus/Sustainable Building enthusiast, Andrew Michler, has published his book: “Hyperlocalization of Architecture: Contemporary Sustainable Archetypes”.

Andrews Book Cover

Andrew is currently living in a Passive House that he designed and built, in Masonville, CO (with the help, we might add, from one of our companies founders, Eric Harrington). As a builder and a consultant for sustainable building, Andrew believes that; “the best way to change the construction industry is design and build well beyond what is considered possible, and let the industry respond.” –

Andrew House 2 Andrew House 3 Andrew House 4 andrew house1

Above are photos of Andrews Passive House.

Andrews book explores the connection between architecture and the environment, placing great emphasis on the modernist movement of site responsive design and build. With several interviews from architects around the world, an in depth look at 30 projects and the theory of architecture; this book provides an intriguing and thought provoking look at hyperlocal design and how Archeticts/Designers/Builders are grasping this theory of building and changing designs to fit the environment in which buildings are built.

We encourage you to check it out! It can be purchased here:

If you’re interested in learning more about Andrew, check out his website here:

Today’s Letter of the Day is… R!!


If you have a small child, chances are you have watched Sesame Street, with Murray who presents the Letter of the Day…or is it just us here at Harrington Construction who get the joy of watching episodes of Sesame Street?

Well let us play the R game for construction, can you name some R things on a job site? Don’t be shy.

Rip Saw, Rafter, Rail, Ramp, Rake, Rendering, Rise/Run….. R Value.

There it is…. a term that gets thrown around just as much as Net Zero, Sustainability and many other construction terms that are of current focus in the building world. But what does it mean?

The R-Value is used to describe Thermal Resistance, or a solid materials resistance toward a conductive heat transfer. More easily said: how well a material prevents heat loss. Usually this term is sided with insulation, however windows and doors have R ratings too (actually, windows and doors get a U Rating along with the R-Value and the system of testing is based also on the thermal transfer of the material.). We know that thermal conductivity is the property of a material to conduct heat, but when thinking in terms of construction materials we are also looking at how well the insulation, insulates against cold or heat. Yes, cold too. As discussed on Energy Vanguards blog:, when evaluating types of foam and insulation; testing is done with cold on one side and heat on the other. This gives an accurate picture, and by that I mean a test using numbers, that shows how well the material is performing at minimizing heat loss. The better the R-Value, the better your home is performing at energy conservation. This in turn helps with energy bills and the level of thermal comfort you feel in your home.

Materials tested get R-Values placed on them. You may hear someone say; that insulation has R-13, that door R-20. Feeling curious about other R Valued construction materials? Check out this table put together by

The US Department of Energy published a table, showing the recommended total R-Values for homes. The R-Values are broken up in to eight zones of the nation based upon energy costs, insulation costs, heating and cooling demands and projected energy costs/savings for those areas. Depending on where you live, you will insulate your home differently. A person living in zone 1 (the tip of Florida) uses/installs insulation differently than a person living in say zone 7 (Minnesota). See the chart here:

When building a highly efficient house, such as a Passive House (which is something we like to build) our goal for the building is a very high R-Value. How do we achieve a high R-Value? We super insulate the wall cavities between the exterior and interior wall and attic spaces, we install triple pane windows (these have High R and Low U ratings), we air seal around gaps, and install moisture barriers. These building practices help create a home that is comfortable in temperature despite the temperature outside.

High Performance Buildings + Natural Materials| Straw & Cellulose : A Talk

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If you’re in Colorado, interested in learning a bit more about Passive House building methods, and/or just want more information on Passive House and to meet some of the local folks participating in this type of construction, then this may be your event.

When: Friday, February 13 from 6:00-8:00pm

Where: RMI Boulder Office (address in link)

Who: Presenters Bjorn Kierulf and Andrew Michler