The Official Online Newspaper of NAHB
To enable his colleagues in the Capital Region Builders Association and the Louisiana Home Builders Association to be able to build a green and wind-resistant home no matter what their budgets, Gonzales, La., home builder Roy Domangue is building three demonstration homes, all in a row, in a project he calls Going Up, Going Green.
One will meet the Bronze level of the National Green Building Standard, one the Silver and another the Gold. Each will use a different type of pier foundation, floor joist system and framing system to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines and the International Residential Code (IRC) hurricane-resistant requirements to withstand a 120 mph wind.
All three should be available for formal tours by the end of September, although HBA builder members, suppliers and local reporters have been stopping by regularly to check on the progress. Parts of each home will be left unfinished so builders can better examine the construction techniques and materials used.
The homes all use the same floor plan, but each includes different finishes and materials to meet the three certification levels and to demonstrate various wind-resistant building methods. Each Southern Craftsman-style home has a unique elevation, featuring different front porches.
All three homes will also showcase the items required in the 2009 IRC’s Chapter 11, “Energy Efficiency.”
The homes scoring to the Silver and Gold levels of the standard are being built to meet the requirements of the Department of Energy’s Builders Challenge program as well as Energy Star. The homes are also taking advantage of Louisiana’s HERO program, which offers cash rebates for energy-efficient construction.
Domangue is only using materials that are easily accessible to home builders in his own rural Louisiana area. When a builder sees an interesting new product at a national trade show and then finds out he can’t buy the product locally, “it can be very aggravating,” and that might discourage a more traditional builder from going green, he said.
Domangue is president of Wooden Creations, Inc., a 28-year-old company building homes in and around Baton Rouge. He’s an active member in his home builders association, focusing especially on builder education and code issues.
Louisiana adopted a statewide building code after hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf region in the fall of 2005. Homes in flood-prone areas must meet not only IRC requirements but also the provisions mandated by FEMA, which require new homes to be built on pier foundations rather than on slabs on mounds of dirt that further displace flood waters and affect existing homes.
According to the IRC, homes built on piers that measure 30 inches or higher must be engineered. Because engineering costs increase the price of a home, Domangue reasoned that a prescriptive guideline in the code to address the issues of homes on piers would help builders save money and make flood-safe homes more affordable.
“I’ve been building energy-efficient homes for years and I know the principles, but what the industry needs to know is, what is the most cost-effective way to get the house to the Bronze, Silver or Gold level yet give your clients the best you can give them for the dollars invested. The idea is to save money over time while enhancing quality of life for them,” Domangue said.
Domangue is documenting the costs of building each home as well as the decisions he made to determine how to accumulate points under the National Green Building Standard, information he will share with fellow association members. “I want to be able to explain why I used this wall system to reach this level, and what it cost,” he said.
For instance, although manufactured trusses for the Gold home turned out to be more expensive than stick framing onsite in rural Louisiana, Domangue decided to purchase them because they use less wood and he needed additional points to meet the higher level of the standard.
He wanted to use an engineered floor joist system, but “that’s an additional $2,200 in costs for the house,” he said. “I understand that the manufacturer needs to allow for the cost of developing the technology, but the price needs to come down” before the industry will see widespread use of engineered lumber.
The homes will be completed over the winter so they can be toured again during the HBA’s spring parade of homes. They should be ready to go on the market in about a year.
Domangue said the demonstration homes are a way to give back to an industry that’s given him a great living. He enjoys a loyal base of clients who recommend him to their friends, and some even come back years later so he can build them another energy-efficient home.
Newspaper and television stories on the project have given Wooden Creations a public relations boost, as well.
“The consumer — the home buyer — has to see the value in going green. Many do already, and once more do, they will create a bigger demand and more in our industry will respond,” Domangue said.
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.