Atlanta Green Builders Emphasize Top Home Performance
Haven Properties, of Alpharetta, Ga., is using green building certification to assure its customers that its homes are quality-built for high-performance, with no leaky basements, hot and cold areas or liability issues such as mold, David Milner, a vice president for the company, told NAHB’s Green Building Conference earlier this month in Atlanta.
Haven Properties is now building all of its homes to the standards of EarthCraft House and Energy Star, he said.
Home buyers benefit by receiving healthier indoor air quality, lower utility and maintenance costs and heightened comfort levels. They also can qualify for energy-efficient mortgages, Milner said. And the green building regime is also good for the builder, resulting in better scopes of work, an improved working relationship with building partners and a higher level of workmanship.
EarthCraft is a partnership between the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association and the Southface Energy Institute that uses a checklist of requirements and options for site planning, resource- and energy-efficient construction, waste management, indoor air quality, water conservation and more. Builders need to rack up 150 points to be certified and are then independently inspected and tested. Houses are required to pass a blower door test that looks for leakage throughout the house and a blast test for HVAC duct leaks to ensure optimal efficiency for the heating and cooling system.
The voluntary Energy Star program from the Environmental Protection Agency takes a similar approach and homes receiving certification are required to be at least 30% more energy efficient than homes built under the national Model Energy Code or 15% higher than under state code, whichever is more rigorous.
In its first year building to the two sets of green standards, Haven reduced its warranty costs by 11%, said Milner, and the company received fewer callbacks for HVAC repairs and fewer complaints about uneven air distribution. On average, Haven home owners are seeing 43% savings in their utility bills.
Building quality may not be the primary concern on prospective buyers’ minds, Milner conceded, but “it’s a tie breaker” with comparable homes in the area. “It costs the builder more on the front end,” he added, but the difference in insurance costs helps make up for that.
Dry basements, beginning with insulation for the interiors and exteriors of basement walls, are a big selling point, Milner said, and the homes come with a 20-year dry basement guarantee.
Other green features in the company’s homes include: comprehensive air sealing and waterproofing; high-efficiency 12 SEER air conditioners; Air Bear® pleated air filters; high-efficiency 92% AFUE furnaces; tighter, sealed duct work; cook tops ventilated to the outdoors; formaldehyde-free insulation; fresh air ventilation; passive soil gas ventilation; de-humidifiers in basements; high performance windows; upgraded insulation packages; and direct-vent water heating equipment that receives and exhausts air from outside.
By sealing HVAC ducts with mastic, air leaks are kept below 5%, compared to about 30% in the average home.
Rob Johnson, of EarthCraft House, indicated that the program has yet to reach the critical mass it needs, which he gauges as at least 5% of the Atlanta market.
About 400 new single-family homes and 120 multifamily units received EarthCraft certification last year, about 1% of the local market. About 145 builders have been participating in the program. Also, plans are underway to replicate EarthCraft House in Virginia and South Carolina.
Johnson said that the decision of just one big production builder to enroll in the program could give EarthCraft House the market share it needs.
For more information on green building, e-mail Marie Yarroll at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.