Efficient in Iowa

How one architect designed a dream home on an energy diet
Stacey Freed
March 20, 2015
FEATURE ARTICLE | Energy Efficiency


Homeowners Jesse and wife Shannon Lizer wanted to build a home that was highly energy efficient. “I didn’t need to hit Passive House standards, but I wanted high insulative values and super low air infiltrations,” Jesse explains. As an architect, he knew that, along with the shell would come requirements for windows and doors that would meet their energy goals.


Roger Henderson, owner Squaw Creek Millwork, Hiawatha, Iowa
Jesse Lizer, StruXture Architects, Waterloo, Iowa
Dike, Iowa
High-efficiency windows and exterior door for a new home construction
Products used
Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Ultra Series windows and doors
• ThermaPlus LoE2-270 insulating glass
• Ultra Series exterior door
• EP triple glazed, crank-out windows

The architect spent a lot of time researching what he wanted, doing sun studies and energy modeling. Even though the home would not be a true solar house because it lacks the storage system for any captured heat, Jesse wanted the windows to be solar tempered. He also wanted a “true triple pane unit of 1 3/8-inches with a wider sash.”

In his research, Jesse discovered products online that were “able to hit the finish requirements, offer a true triple pane and unlimited glass selection, and allowed me to work with a rep who helped me get [windows with] the U-values and solar heat gain values that I wanted.”


The Lizer’s home outdoes the energy performance of its neighbors as well as that of most new builds in the United States. It earned a 5+ Star rating from the Energy Star 3.0 certification program, exceeding the certification requirements by 42 percent.

The house was air tightness tested at 1.1 air changes per hour at 50 Pascals. For comparison, a typical home experiences 3.0 air changes per hour. The residence also received a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index Score of 32, which indicates it is 50 percent more energy efficient than a standard new home.

“We are double or triple performing the code-minimum homes in the neighborhood.” He reports that it stays 72 degrees inside without the furnace running. “Our utility bill averages $100 or less per month in winter compared to our neighbor’s $300 to $400 bills each month.”


Jesse believes that placing your money in the home’s shell, which includes windows and doors, can reduce the demand of mechanical conditioning and, ultimately, save costs.

“The windows [in the dining room] are sized to allow maximum heat gain during the winter and shade the glass completely during the summer to block heat gain,” Jesse says. “The master bedroom also has glass for managing gain in that space.”

Having the right product, being flexible, and developing a relationship with clients is what won Kolbe, www.kolbe-kolbe.com, the Lizers’ business. Jesse worked with Kolbe representative Tom Yehl for about nine months discussing his options and narrowing down his choices. “With the EP product he chose, you can put two different low-emissivity coatings on three pieces of glass,” Yehl says. “We also had 32 different standard colors for him to choose from for the exterior.”

As a rule, Yehl is proactive in meeting with architects so building a relationship and working this way is “really what Kolbe regional sales managers do. Our product is an architecturally-driven product.”

Freed is a contributing writer for Window & Door.