The Most Important Room in the House

In high-performance homes, the mechanical room is something to show off.

A recent story in the Wall Street Journal argues that the best room to showcase the latest in home technology isn't the a home's theater or trophy kitchen. The hippest room in a high-performance "green" home is the space that houses the mechanicals.

"I call it the Prius effect," says Jordan Goldman, an engineering principal who specializes in energy modeling and mechanical engineering and manages the HVAC design practice at ZeroEnergy Design in Boston. "A Prius is great, but driving one is also a way of saying 'I'm doing something for the environment and so should you.'"

In the Journal story, author Gwendolyn Bounds points out that as energy-conscious homeowners invest in ultra-efficient water and home heating equipment, they're building out the surrounding space to proudly display the investment they've made in high-end products, such as those fueled by propane. This is not unlike the "truth windows" that owners of straw-bale homes use to proudly expose the sustainable material inside the walls of their house.

If the trend holds, construction pros specializing in performance building solutions might consider giving mechanical rooms a more conspicuous presence in the floor plan. A well-lit, immaculately plumbed, heated space that elevates a new home's, say, whole-house propane combi-system, could be a signature feature for a green-branded builder or architect. It also sends a message to the homebuyer about the rate of return he can expect on his investment.

Photo: A high-end mechanical room. Photo courtesy of ZeroEnergy Design
Photo courtesy ZeroEnergy Design

Goldman's also seen evidence of another trend noted by the Journal: Manufacturers that are putting great effort into making mechanicals look good. "You see stainless steel boilers and things with attractive computer displays," says Goldman. "Is stainless steel casing necessary? No, but it looks cool. Not all consumer decisions are completely rational."

For more information, as well as free AIA- and NAHB-approved education courses about the kind of high-efficiency heating systems you can showcase in your next new home or remodel, go to the training section of our website. While you're there, use our new Product Directory tool to find the latest propane products (stainless cases optional).


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