Pretty Good House – List

I think the idea of the Pretty Good House, or PGH is to have a general list to use as a guide while making the design and build choices that every project has to make. It is a higher bar to set for the every day builder that does not require certification.

Here is a basic list of things for a Pretty Good House. These are based on two Building Science Discussion Groups for homes in Maine and posts from Mike Maines blog on GBA. (and I am sure I have missed some things)

These are things we talk about everyday with people who visit our showroom.

Let us know what you think!


Use locally sourced materials and labor

Use local suppliers 🙂

Commission and test performance after completion

Supply an Owners Manual for the house

Make things durable

Reduce construction waste and recycle materials

Use materials that have low embodied energy

Site Considerations:

Use an in-fill site if possible

Face the sun in an appropriate way for your location

Plan for food cultivation in a home garden


Keep the conditioned living space relatively small per occupant (maybe 600 s.f. for the first and 300-400 s.f. per additional occupant)

Keep the structure less complex

Design around mechanicals (plan for duct work, keep plumbing runs short)

Build around a service core for plumbing, wiring and ductwork

Use an Energy Model

Design should be Performance based (how about a design load of less than 12 btu’s per s.f.)


If basement – R-10-20 below slab, R-20+ walls

If slab only – use appropriate insulation levels and techniques (R-40 below, R-50 perimeter)

Air-Seal perimeter

Building Envelope:

Walls – R-40 with thermal break

Ceiling – R-60 with thermal break

Airtight – 1.5 ACH 50 or better (air seal)

Aim for whole wall system values (IECC 2012 Code)

NO fiberglass insulation

Air-seal electrical outlets in exterior walls (or avoid them altogether)

Avoid recessed light cans in ceiling (or at least air-seal them)

Use a rain screen wall detail


Whole window U-value below .20

High solar heat (SHGC) on south windows (.55 or better)

Use fewer operable windows

Air-seal around all rough openings


Avoid using fossil fuels

Use HRV or ERV with programmable controls

Use the right type of heating system for the design load

Install active solar hot water and / or electric or (solar ready at least)

Insulate hot water pipes

Use low-flow fixtures

Interior Finishes:

Use non-formaldehyde plywoods, glues and products

Use low or No VOC finishes and paints

Use Non-Toxic materials

Focus on Indoor Air Quality!



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