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With more than 400 homes now certified to the National Green Building Standard, more and more builders, remodelers and multifamily developers are exploring ways the standard helps them refine their knowledge, acquire new skills and boost sales in a slowly recovering housing market.
In Princeton, N.J., a small apartment building has been renovated into four luxury condos built to use 50% less energy — an Emerald rating for the first-ever multifamily remodeling project certified under the standard.
In Missoula, Mont., the HBA green building program has partnered with the University of Montana College of Technology and an after-school skills program to teach students about green construction and complete a Bronze-level home that is now for sale.
In Orlando, builder Nathan Cross of NWC Construction took a red pen to a home owner’s insurance settlement to get the full value of a home destroyed by fire — and rebuilt it in a cost-effective manner to score Emerald under the standard.
Green Multifamily Remodel
Architect Kirsten Thoft owned the New Jersey building with her business partners for six years. The plan was to give the units their own entrances, update the interiors and resell the buildings.
But after she attended a seminar on energy efficiency sponsored by the state’s clean energy program, Kirsten went back to the drawing board.
In the original building, “it was kind of appalling, actually, how bad the insulation was,” Thoft said. The balloon-framed construction acted like a chimney, causing the heat to rise up and out of the building.
Because Thoft wanted to maintain as much of the original construction as possible, different kinds of insulation were combined. “Taking it all to a landfill and then just rebuilding doesn’t make a lot of sense,” she pointed out.
Dense packed cellulose and fiberglass was installed where the plaster walls were being removed and replaced, while one-inch rigid insulation went into the attic.
The fixtures were replaced with WaterSense-rated models and the builder — Rowe Carpentry of Yardley, Pa. — also replaced the windows with low-E versions and brought in high-efficiency heating and air conditioning units.
The additional costs to go green came mostly from the insulation, but Thoft said the high-end Princeton housing market has helped cover those margins, with the units ranging in price from about $400,000 to almost $550,000.
Why did Thoft go green? “Part of it was altruism, part of it was an experiment to see if I could do green certified,” and following the National Green Building Standard “was pretty easy and to the point,” she said.
It was also an experiment to see if the Princeton market would pay a little more for going green. So far, one unit has sold, Thoft said.
Students Learn to Go Green
The Missoula Building Industry’s Building Futures Program is enjoying the latest result of its partnership with the University of Montana College of Technology and the Missoula Flagship Program, which provides after-school and summer job training, recreation and other extracurricular activities for at-risk youth.
A three-bedroom, 1,400-square-foot home built by students under the supervision of HBA volunteers and the College of Technology will be raffled off this September. Tickets are available for $100 apiece, and no fewer than 3,500 tickets will be sold.
The money raised will help fund initiatives for the Building Futures Program, which in addition to its charitable activities also helps attract interest in residential construction careers.
It’s not the first time that Missoula’s green builders have been cited for their good works. In 2009, the HBA was recognized as the Green Program of the Year by the NAHB National Green Building Awards.
Green Rises from the Ashes
Nathan Cross has now completed two homes for families displaced by house fires — earning him a little good-natured ribbing from fellow members at the Home Builders Association of Metro Orlando. “You’ve heard of ambulance-chasing lawyers. They accuse me of chasing fire trucks,” he said.
But Nathan, principal of NWC Construction Inc., turns serious when he talks about the challenges and rewards of rebuilding homes for families who have lost everything. “We want to turn tragedy into something good,” he said.
The family in his second project now lives in a home that was certified to the Emerald level of the National Green Building Standard and honored with the Grand Award for Green Construction after the Metro Orlando parade of homes in May.
The project had a rocky start. When the home owner’s insurance company wasn’t willing to pay enough to replace the home, Cross decided to go through the settlement offer with a fine-toothed comb to help the owner coax more money from her insurers.
To do so, he enlisted the support of NAHB Legal Services, which helped him better interpret some of the fine print. For example, in calculating the home’s replacement cost, the insurer was required to take into account changes in the building code since the structure was originally built — which it neglected to do in its original offer.
In the end, Cross was able to obtain an additional $64,000 from the insurers and offers of in-kind donations of product from suppliers and manufacturers that knew Cross was going to put the house in the Parade of Homes.
He built the new home on the original footprint, retaining the old slab and one wall. To help ease the family’s transition, “if there is a piece of the old house we can incorporate into the new one, we will,” he said.
Cross said he always keeps in mind that the greenest home won’t sell — no matter how much it can potentially save in utility bills — if the first cost isn’t affordable.
“We don’t do the sexy part of green, we don’t get fancy with the solar or the rain barrels unless the customer really wants them and has the money to pay for it. But what our customer wants to concentrate on is lower utility bills. People are really watching what they spend. If they can save money on their electric bill and get a payback in two to five years, most of our clients will do that.”
Cross reduces his costs by bringing as much of the work in house as he can and by hard negotiations with suppliers and subs.
The Emerald-level home — the first in Florida — boasts Energy Star-certified appliances and lighting, precast walls made with recycled fly ash, low-flow faucets and fixtures, a composite deck, a tankless water heater, irrigation-free landscaping and other efficient and green features that resulted in a preliminary Home Energy Rating System score of 59.
Cross also made sure that the home was designed to fit into its older neighborhood, but was “a lot more comfortable and a lot more peaceful,” with better air quality control. “This is a great way for the home owners to restart their lives. They’ve gone from worrying about everything to moving into a great, comfortable new home.”
For more information about green building resources available from NAHB, e-mail Calli Schmidt, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.
“The National Green Building Standard,” available through BuilderBooks.com, provides “green” practices that can be incorporated into multifamily and single-family new home construction, home remodeling and additions and site development.
The standard covers lot design, resource, energy and water efficiency; indoor environment quality; and owner education.
Currently the first and only ANSI-approved green building rating system, the National Green Building Standard is the benchmark for green homes.
To view or purchase this publication online, click here.
The "National Green Building Standard Commentary," available through BuilderBooks.com and a companion to the ANSI approved "National Green Building Standard," that provides valuable insight to the intention and implementations of the practices and provisions found in the green building standard.
The "Commentary" is a useful resource for any designer or builder using the ICC 700-2008 as a rating system for developing or renovating residential properties of all types to reduce their relative impact.
To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.
More Than 5,000 People Have Earned Their Certified Green Professional (CGP) Designation
The Certified Green Professional (CGP) designation teaches builders, remodelers and other industry professionals techniques for incorporating green building principles into homes using cost-effective and affordable options.
Earning the CGP demonstrates to clients and peers your commitment to the best and latest in green building practices and techniques. More than 5,000 people have earned the CGP designation to date.
For more information, visit www.nahb.org/CGPinfo.
“Build Green and Save: Protecting the Earth and Your Bottom Line,” available through BuilderBooks.com, is a comprehensive, easy-to-read reference that shows builders how to identify and select green building materials; implement green construction techniques; explain the benefits of green housing and offer affordable green building solutions to consumers; and use resources wisely and reduce water and energy consumption.
To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.
For answers to questions about National Green Building Certification by the NAHB Research Center, certification to the standard or the guideline sunset, complete and submit the Contact Us form on the NAHBGreen website.