Current trends with new home buyers and builders center around building an environmentally sensitive home. This can be accomplished by taking advantage of a site’s inherent ecological characteristics, carefully selecting building materials so energy is efficiently used during the lifetime of the home, and many other methods. This focus is also known as green building.
In this age of everything green, it is wise to analyze your building, design and selection process with a fresh approach and put together your own green team. Bob Burnside, president of Fireside Home Construction in Ann Arbor, Mich., was the 2006 and 2007 winner of the National Association of Home Builders’ Energy Value Housing Award. Burnside suggests you take a “[w]hole-house systems approach to building green. Commit to educating yourself on the many details and benefits of building a green, durable and energy-efficient home and communicate your understanding and belief to your clients. You will deliver a home that is healthier to live in and more energy efficient.”
The builder is the green team coach and quarterback. It is this person’s job to assemble the most knowledgeable team players, to understand the cost benefits of each system feature and to educate the owner as to which features are most beneficial while balancing the owner’s budget and design criteria.
Your green team is owned by the client if you are building custom, or by the builder if building on spec. The owner makes the decisions that affect the budget, such as insulating under the slab and on the exterior foundation if a finished basement is in the plans. The owner may elect to install solar panels or geothermal heat sources which have a major impact on both project costs and long-term energy efficiency.
The architect is the green team manager and assists with designing green in many areas. He can assist with making the adage, “Build it tight, but ventilate it right” a reality. He may minimize the size and quantity of north-facing windows while maximizing the number of windows that face south, thereby increasing the passive solar efficiency of the home. He might explain the advantages of spraying sealant around all windows and doors as the most economical investment for saving fuel. The architect and builder should understand the energy benefits and cost implications of different insulation methods such as fiberglass batt, blown wet-spray cellulose, blown-in blanket-spray fiberglass and polyurethane foam insulation.
The green team’s players are your suppliers and subcontractors. The engineer is a key team member because of his role in carefully placing the home on the site while taking full advantage of views, grading and sun exposure and satisfying complex local building restrictions. If the engineer specifies gravel or a brick paver driveway, then the site will have less impervious coverage and less impact on the surrounding areas for runoff and flooding.
One excellent resource for improving your knowledge of green building is the U.S. Green Building Council (usgbc.org) which runs the LEED for Homes program; LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
Each green team member must do his part to build green. The knowledge of each team member will determine the extent to which your finished home is environmentally sensitive. Although it is the builder’s responsibility to be ready and able to advise the client of the costs and benefits of each selection, it ultimately is the owner’s decision to select green features.
Jay Grant is president of Grant Homes (granthomesusa.com), a residential design/build firm in Mendham, N.J. Grant’s business focuses on controlling and developing land for construction of luxury custom and speculation quick-delivery homes. His strict attention to weekly cash flow reporting results in industry-leading profit margins. Grant has given numerous seminars across the country and is available for consulting by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his past columns at rdbmagazine.com.