By Angela Curry
RISMEDIA, Sept. 25, 2008-(MCT)-Craig and Nedra Mitchell are like millions of Americans concerned about the environment. But they went above and beyond when they decided to downsize from their home in Overland Park.
The result is a new address in Lee’s Summit that features energy- and water-efficient products and practices. The home is also constructed with renewable, recycled and more durable materials and is designed for improved indoor air quality.
Call it the Mitchells’ green house, in the 3100 block of S.W. Grandstand Circle in the New Longview subdivision in Lee’s Summit.
The Mitchells and Corey and Jodi Baker, another couple who decided to build a green home, took advantage of the certified Green Home program. This is an effort to promote environmentally sound homes through the National Association of Home Builders’ “Build Green Kansas City” and Energy Star Plus ratings program. Both homes were certified by Hathmore Technologies LLC, an energy rating company in Blue Springs.
Green building has emerged as one of the fastest-growing segments of the home-building industry nationwide. Experts forecast that green building will double in size by 2012, accounting for roughly 20% of the national housing market.
This year, green building is expected to represent 6% of the residential construction market, according to a survey by McGraw-Hill Construction Research & Analytics for the U.S. Green Building Council. That’s up from just 2% in 2005.
The Mitchells started down the green path early in the shopping process. They asked their real estate agent about incorporating energy features in their new home, and the agent told them about Gale Homes Inc., which was looking for couples interested in building a green home.
“We liked the idea and we really liked the area; it felt like a real community to us,” Nedra Mitchell said. “I liked the idea of having a front porch where we could meet and greet our neighbors, and the home had lots of the features we were looking for.”
Those features included Energy Star-rated appliances, tight windows and exterior doors and nontoxic products.
“We discovered once we sat down with the builder that there was much more involved in building green,” Mitchell said. “We were impressed with all the details and especially with the energy conservation.”
The couple also learned the green house was affordable. Both homes range in the upper $300,000′s, but the builder estimates that many of the extras that went into the homes will help the families recoup costs by helping with energy savings.
In building a green home, a buyer’s upfront cost generally will increase 2% to 5%, an amount, according to the builders, that is recoverable from energy savings in about five years. For example, the Mitchells’ energy savings are estimated to be between $800 and $900 a year. The Bakers’ savings would be about $1,100 to $1,200 a year.
The environmental touches also help homes hold value at resale, industry experts say.
The Mitchells said it was workable for them because they had quite a bit of equity from their previous home. They decided to focus on building a “gold” rated home, which they learned was the highest rating in the green building process.
From prebuilt wall panels that allow more precision in sealing to floor joists and roof trusses made from wood chips, no environmentally friendly details are overlooked, said Kevin Enyeart, vice president and general manager of Gale Homes.
Other features in the New Longview homes include siding in a long-lasting concrete fiber with a 50-year warranty and paints that contain relatively low or no volatile organic compounds. Other details, such as caulking the seams between the wood frame and foundation or using air-tight lighting upstairs that slows temperature-controlled air from leaking to the attic, can increase efficiency.
The wall panels and roof trusses are assembled in a temperature-controlled environment that helps reduce wood moisture and mold possibilities.
Once the wall panels are raised, all outer walls are wrapped with a vapor barrier that sheds water from the outside but allows moisture to escape from the inside.
In addition, interior foundation walls are framed with insulation, and breathable air barriers create a space with temperature control in the lower level, allowing the heating and air-conditioning system to maintain efficiency.
Enyeart said the two homes in the New Longview subdivision were the only two houses certified in the Green Building program in the two-state area. They incorporate energy-efficient appliances and subtle building features that make them more weather-tight.
Board by board
The Mitchells started the construction process by sitting down with the architect, framers, the heating and cooling contractor and other members of the builder’s crew.
Having them on board from the beginning makes the process go smoother and allows the builder to weave green home elements into the project, Enyeart said.
“The house can be looked at as a whole project to determine which of the green home guidelines to incorporate into the house,” Enyeart said. For example, making a building tighter through air sealing and quality building techniques can affect the way in which the builder designs the home’s ventilation system.
“It is through such a forward-thinking process that builders can gain cost efficiencies,” Enyeart said.
One of the features that most impressed the Mitchells and Bakers was the tankless water heater, which keeps their water at a constant temperature. Enyeart explained also that the plumbing system separates hot water lines and cold water lines with individual shutoff valves at the point of entry into the home. This system permits several fixtures to be used simultaneously without dramatic pressure or temperature drops.
Corey and Jodi Baker bought a silver-level home in the 3300 block of S.W. Arena Street.
Jodi Baker said when she saw the New Longview area, she liked the old architecture look. They both liked the fact that they were able to provide input in the building process and that the home would lower energy and water bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and have fewer problems with mold, mildew and other indoor toxins.
“We were happy to learn about the federal energy efficiency tax credits that would make the home more affordable,” Corey Baker said. They also considered a green home because they felt it would be healthier for them and their 2 1/2 year old daughter, Elena.
By using materials with low noxious content, blocking off mechanical areas and installing better filter systems along with a humidifier controlled by humidistat, they realized they could greatly increase the quality of air in their new home.
Part of Gale Homes’ sales process involves educating the homeowner in the use and care of green homes. The company also encourages home buyers to recycle and use alternative transportation.
Another plus in the process is that the houses can be built in 90 to 100 days instead of the seven to nine months by conventional methods, Enyeart said.
This is because many of the building products are prefabricated and the entire builder’s crew works to avoid delays.
These homes also require lower maintenance — they don’t have to be painted as often.
In addition, landscaping is chosen with water conservation in mind.
A Growing Industry: Green building is catching on with homeowners as they look for ways to conserve energy and recycle waste. Here’s a look at the trend by the numbers:
–6%: Green buildings’ expected share of the 2008 U.S. residential housing market, up from 2% in 2005.
–332,900: Estimated number of green homes constructed since 2005.
–$296,000: Average price of green homes constructed since 2005.
Build Green: To help builders incorporate green building into homes, the National Association of Home Builders’ “Build Green” team established guidelines that cover the entire building process, from site design and development through construction and homeowner operation.
The program focuses on seven key areas: lot design, resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, homeowner education and global impact.
Homebuilders using the guidelines can earn building certification to assure homeowners and the community that their projects meet the requirements of the Model Green Home Building Guidelines.
To earn certification, builders must have their home evaluated by an accredited verifier, who reviews the home builder’s documentation and performs on-site inspections. The home can be certified at the gold, silver or bronze level, depending on the number of green-building options selected.
Additional resources are also available at www.nahbgreen.org.
Source: The Associated Press and McGraw-Hill Construction Research & Analytics survey prepared for the U.S. Green Building Council
Copyright © 2008, The Kansas City Star, Mo.
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