Green Featured in Extreme Home Makeover in Billings
With the help of a volunteer army of framers, electricians, masons, their subs, suppliers and business partners, Billings, Mont. builder and state home builders association president Jeff Junkert recently built a house for a deserving family as part of the ABC television series "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
“It wasn’t about making money. It was about giving, and that was pretty cool,” Junkert said.
The home was built and scored to the Silver level of the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines, which will provide the basis for the National Green Building Program when it is unveiled at the International Builders’ Show in February.
The project came about without much warning, Junkert said. Just before Memorial Day, show producers contacted Jeff Junkert Construction to see if the company would be willing to build a house for the Carters, a Billings family nominated for a new home. The five Carters were living in a refurbished chicken coop.
Junkert, his wife Sue and company general manager Steve Baillie talked to the show representatives on a conference call.
“They told us that we would have to build a home in one week. We would have to compress a process that takes five to six months,” Junkert recalled. Demolition of the Carter’s current house would have to take place on the 25th of June, and the new house would need to be ready for delivery to its occupants on June 30.
'Something We Needed to Do'
“It took a while to process that” he said. “We had to make a fairly quick decision.” But the family’s compelling story of selfless volunteering in the face of debilitating illnesses and astronomical medical bills made up their minds.
Julie Carter and her daughter Jade suffer from Chiari malformation, a condition that causes the brain to leak fluid into the spinal column. The Carters started a support group and publish a newsletter for Chiari victims and their families.
“I could tell before the conversation ended, that even though it was quite a project to tackle, it was really something we needed to do for the community and for the Carters — we didn’t have to call back. We made the decision right there,” Junkert said.
Meanwhile, another project was beginning to take front and center for Junkert and his company. As the incoming president of the Montana Building Industry Association, he had an important agenda in mind: to help move the residential home building industry closer to green building.
Working with architect Jeff Kanning of Collaborative Design Architects, Junkert reached a pivotal decision to incorporate green building into the extreme makeover.
“We felt this was a prime opportunity and something I needed to do as a construction company,” Junkert said. The builder was already working with the architect on plans for a 350-unit development of multifamily and single-family homes, looking at choices for energy efficiency, indoor air quality, lot development and the other four categories to assemble enough points to achieve Silver ratings from the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines.
As the architect designed the Carters’ home, he took the same approach. “We came up with 55 items we wanted to achieve,” Kanning said.
Rallying the Community
And then they went to work, calling fellow BIA members, colleagues and competitors for volunteers and spreading the word about the enormous project that would take place in less than four weeks.
“It’s incredible how our community rallied,” Junkert said. “We just built a pyramid of trades, and they would get three or four more subs — we ended up with subcontractors that would usually compete against each other now working side by side.”
"We met with the trades hour by hour, talking about who was going to do what and how they were going to do it," all the while not having ever met the Carter family, who knew they were finalists for a new home, but were praying they would be selected.
"It's very difficult in a community the size of Billings — you have to keep the project a secret yet create an underground network of volunteers and not have a leak," Junkert said. But the secret was kept until the TV talent knocked on the Carters’ front door and whisked them away in a limousine, leaving Jeff Junkert Construction and a building community full of volunteers to immediately start work. The pace was furious, but it was extremely organized chaos, just like you see on TV, Junkert said.
“It was incredible. It was a 24-7 operation once we started demolition,” and no one gets much sleep. “The first night I took 45 minutes. That first 36 hours is the most intense, because you are doing all the excavation, but we had a completely framed home by 4:30 the next day and we were already roughing in the electrical and plumbing. We could have 100 people on the site at a time because they were 100 people that are very capable.
Three Electricians in Every Room
“We had 23 electricians, and if you put three in every room, they don’t have to rush. We had 40 masons in the house because they only had two hours to do their jobs. You didn’t give away quality for the time spent because the guys were qualified to do their piece and did it well.”
Meanwhile, they kept the project green — and accumulated guidelines points. The home was oriented to take advantage of day lighting and guard against prevailing winds. It was constructed with advanced framing techniques, additional insulation, high-efficiency windows and HVAC system, low- and no-VOC paints, Energy Star® appliances and low-flow plumbing fixtures.
During construction, “we plugged the heating registers in the floor to keep stuff from going into the furnace ducts, and we collected waste and recycled,” Kanning said, down to encouraging younger family members to collect scrap wood and empty plastic water bottles on the job site.
“A lot of this stuff is a combination of good design and good construction practices — how you collect waste, how you handle your materials. Making a conscious choice doesn’t cost anything,” Kanning said.
For example, said Kanning, “I walked around and made sure workers were putting caulking under the sill plates. It’s just doing the right thing.”
Junkert estimates that the green changes added 2% to total construction costs, and most of that came from the high-efficiency appliances. And he is confident that no one cut corners to get the house delivered on time. “We put a warranty on it and we delivered it,” Junkert said. After all, “ABC left, but we were still here.”
“This is a family that has real health concerns, so it feels good that we’re giving them a warm, well insulated, healthy home, and that their living quarters are no way going to contribute to their ongoing health problems. They have a green environment,” Kanning said.
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.