FARMINGTON — Doug Lenberg's home is designed to recover half the water its inhabitants use — which is 35 percent more than the Environmental Protection Agency's 2025 goal, he said.
An average home uses about 150 gallons of water for each person a day, he said, but his Farmington home reduces that to about 40 gallons.
Lenberg is president of Real Green Building Systems, LLC., or RGBS, a company based out of San Juan College's Quality Center for Business that joins water and energy conservation and renewable energy technologies to design sustainable homes.
"It's nothing weird," Lenberg said. "It's not an 'earthship.' It's a regular house."
Nonetheless it has drawn significant scientific interest.
More than 100 sensors are mounted around the home, and Sandia National Laboratories monitors the output. Los Alamos National Laboratory spent about $100,000 in 2012 and 2013 studying the efficiency and viability of Lenberg's design concept.
And a week ago, Lenberg and two Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists won a New Mexico Small Business Assistance award recognizing the viability of the home's design.
According to the December 2013 Los Alamos National Laboratory study, all the subsystems in an RGBS home pay for themselves after eight years. And Lenberg said his father's RGBS home cost less than $200,000 to build.
With living costs rising, affordable, efficient homes are important, he said, adding that his homes are both.
Water's first point of entry in the home is the plumbing-based fire suppression system, which is a single network wound through the home.
The unused cold water is then piped down to faucets for cold-water domestic purposes. Sunlight warms glycol-filled tubes coiled inside outdoor solar panels and the heated glycol cycles into heat-exchange tubing in a water heater inside the home.
After it is used for purposes that include dish washing and showering, both cold and hot domestic water is routed into the water reclamation system — where it is treated with ultraviolet light and hydrogen peroxide. It can then be used to flush toilets or water trees or shrubs.
Hot water from the water heater is pumped into tubes inside the cement slab foundation — which is insulated — to heat the floor.
"As long as the sun is shining, I've got hot water," Lenberg said. "I can't run out."
If the homes were popular locally, their production could boost manufacturing jobs and help remote communities with limited access to water and fuel for heating, said Ray Hagerman, CEO of Four Corners Economic Development, an organization dedicated to stimulating the region's economy.
"If his system of building a house could be adopted, I think it could be beneficial all over the county," Hagerman said
Lenberg said he is planning to build some homes in Farmington. He said he believes in his designs.
"It either works or it doesn't," he said, "and we've got the people studying it who say it does."