Thermal Mass Advances Energy Efficiency in Green Sustainable Building


Energy efficiency and green building are buzzwords of the construction industry these days. However, there have been relatively few breakthroughs in construction methods that have advanced these concepts forward, until now.

A new product and method of building has been formed that provides a true leap forward in energy efficiency and green building. This new innovation utilizes the principle of thermal mass to help heat and cool a building by absorbing and releasing energy to minimize the need for mechanical heating and cooling systems. Thermal mass is the capacity of a material to absorb and store energy to be released at a later time. This produces the most efficient and comfortable living environment available to homeowners and the most cost effective and comfortable working environment for business.

While the principle of thermal mass is not new, the ability to incorporate an external continuous insulation barrier in a simple and cost effective way is new. The product is called SunTerra EnergyBlock and is being used to build net zero plus homes in Central Oregon.

This new method of building has been performing at a very high level by reducing the need for energy to heat and cool a building. When incorporated with solar design, a home can generate more energy than it needs over a year’s period of time. In addition, the expense for costly mechanical heating and cooling systems are reduced or eliminated. This provides a living environment that is affordable, extremely comfortable and healthier for the occupants.

One of the most exciting benefits of building with SunTerra EnergyBlock is the energy savings that can be realized. In the first home built in Central Oregon, the actual energy savings is proving the advantage in building with this method of construction. This makes building with this new technology not only smart, but also a great value.

There are many other advantages to building with SunTerra EnergyBlock, including walls of concrete that are strong and quiet. These walls are moisture, mold and pest-resistant and will last a lifetime.

Another important feature that adds a great amount of value is the ability to showcase a decorative finish on the interior of a home. Concrete block now comes in a variety of colors and finishes including split face, ground face and polished surfaces, making for many options to choose from. On the exterior of a building, just about any material can be used from stucco to cement board siding to brick providing true design freedom in the architectural style of the building. This makes obsolete the past perceptions of what a block built home can look like.

The basic technology of SunTerra EnergyBlock modifies the design of a typical concrete block by adding two dovetail grooves 8” apart. The grooves are designed to receive a PVC extrusion—MIC (masonry insulated connector) strip—that secures the insulation to the block and provides a surface for attaching exterior siding. This strip has tested extremely well in remaining secured to the block and holding the insulation and siding secure. The design is a simple and elegant way to provide continuous insulation along with a moisture drainage plane, keeping a structure dry and mold free.

SunTerra EnergyBlock is redefining the standards for constructing energy efficient, green homes and buildings. This new technology, taking advantage of thermal mass, is poised to become a popular building method as demand drives the need for higher energy efficiencies.

An EnergyBlock home will be presented for public viewing this year at the 2012 Central Oregon Builders Association (COBA) Tour of Homes the weekends of July 20-22 and July 27-29. This home designed and built by SunTerra Homes of Bend is a net zero plus structure utilizing the principle of thermal mass construction.

With the SunTerra EnergyBlock system, this home is built fully utilizing a passive solar design which collects and stores heat during the day and releases it at night. It allows the home to store multiple days of solar heat energy without creating high interior temperature. It also incorporates an interior shutter that automatically opens at optimal times in the morning, to allow solar heat to enter during the day, and closes in the evening to prevent heat loss throughout the night.

The system also uses a highly efficient mini-split heat pump to augment the passive solar and a low wattage blower that circulates the warmed air throughout the home. This new wall system is insulated over two times the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and allows for a wide variety of siding choices.

During summer months when heat is not needed, the system will complete a night flush cycle for interior cooling, extracting stored heat from the day so the homeowners wake to a cool home in the morning eliminating the need for air conditioning.

SunTerra EnergyBlock

SunTerra Homes 541-389-4733 or


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