Steve Terbrock, CGP

Steve Terbrock has successfully completed the Certified Green Professional (CGP) program through the NAHB. Please see links below for details.

Today many builders and home buyers are concerned about preserving the environment. With increased attention on the condition of our planet, 'Green Building' has become a sought after choice for homeowners.

In its simplest terms, green building is making your home more environmentally friendly. It means increasing your home's efficiency so it makes better use of things like water, energy, temperature control, and construction materials. It's about using resources effectively so you reduce the impact of your home on the environment. Many people are already familiar with these basic tenants of green building.

But what does green building mean for you? Is the only difference between a green home and a non-green home the energy bills? What people are less familiar with is what green building has to offer with regards to their daily lifestyle and comfortability as well as their health and wellness. For example, enhanced indoor air quality. Green building seeks to reduce volatile organic compounds, or VOC's, and other air impurities such as microbial contaminants and allergens. Another example is thermal comfort. A properly designed HVAC system coupled with a properly designed building envelope will increase the occupants' thermal comfort by reducing temperature and humidity fluctuations associated with older technologies. Green building can also improve the luminous environment through the careful integration of natural and artificial light. Yet another positive is sound control. Careful selection of materials and assemblies with an emphasis on reducing sound transmissions can create a quiet, pleasurable living environment. The list goes on.

While building an environmentally friendly home sounds good to most people, they usually want to know two things: what can I do and how much will it cost me? Let's address the last question first. You may have heard that building green is more expensive. While that may be true in some instances, it doesn't have to be. In today's market some elements of green building can cost more initially, but many do not, and some even less. Factor in energy savings over time and increased durability of many of the green building products, and any additional up-front cost become much easier to justify. If you intend to live in your home for a substantial amount of time (i.e. your final build), the more seriously one should consider the green investment. One should also look into the available tax and private incentives that will be available at the time you begin construction. Another potential cost to consider is green certification of your home. For some people it is important that their home is 'Certified' green. The only way to do this, is to get it independently verified. Some programs are more nationally recognized than others. One example of a nationally recognized certification program is LEED Certification. Depending on the program selected, the fees for this type of certification can range from hundreds to many thousands of dollars. One should look to their builder and the internet to decide if and what certification is right for you.

To answer the first question, let's take a look at a few things you can do to make your new home more environmentally friendly.

HEATING AND COOLING EQUIPMENT: One of the most important things you can do to make your home more 'green' is to carefully consider your choice of heating and cooling equipment. The heating/air conditioning system should be built and installed with the highest AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating for the furnace and SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating for the condenser unit possible. The greater the AFUE and SEER ratings, the more energy efficient your unit will be.
The system should also be sized appropriately to effectively cool or heat your home without being oversized. In fact, it is often better to err on the side of being undersized by half a ton than oversized. (Note: A 'ton' is a unit of energy used to measure output. Typically you need about one ton of output for every 400 square feet of your home.) Many builders don't recommend that you oversize the tonnage of your home's AC system. The most efficient homes often run on a system designed to be 10 percent smaller than typical installations. A good air system should also be installed with as few bends and connections in the duct work as possible to maximize air volume and to minimize the risk of gaps and voids.

Another choice of HVAC equipment that can be considered is a Geothermal Furnace. A geothermal furnace is a heat pump that uses water instead of air as a source of heat gain or loss. Water is pumped through a closed loop of pipes buried in the ground. The condenser and evaporator coil are enclosed in one cabinet therefore eliminating the need for an outside condenser unit. In heating mode, heat is extracted from the evaporator coil and released into water through the condenser. In cooling mode, the operation is reversed. The operating cost of a geothermal system is lower than that of a typical forced air system but the set up cost is higher.

Yet another alternative when considering how to heat your house is a Radiant Heat System. A radiant heat system consists of a heat source, most often encapsulated in concrete, installed below your finished flooring. The heat source can be either electric heating coils or a hot water loop. A radiant heat system still requires that a forced air system is installed to provide cooling. The operating cost of the radiant heat system, when in heat mode, are lower than that of a typical forced air system but the set up cost is higher.

The options as to how to heat and cool your new luxury home are numerous and always changing. One should discuss with their builder, in conjunction with a local heating and cooling professional, the options and pricing specific to the area you intend to build.

INSULATION: A well insulated home requires not only high quality materials, but also that the material is installed properly. Special care needs to be taken to make sure all penetration points are filled and that the HVAC system duct work is insulated and air tight.

If it's within your budget, one great option is to have your home insulated with a blown-in product as opposed to batt insulation. On top of the good R-values (a term used to measure how well insulation resists the flow of heat or cold through it) blown-in insulation can fill cracks and crevices in ways that traditional batt insulation can't. If a blown-in product can't be used, great care should be exercised to make sure the insulation is installed to eliminate as many gaps and penetrations as possible.
Another form of insulation gaining popularity is spray-in foam insulation. It is very much like the canned product found at a local hardware store. The spray-in foam is particularly useful where traditional insulations have difficulty such as at the perimeter band boards and sill plates of subfloor structures.

HOME ORIENTATION: To reduce energy loads, it's important to design and position the house in such a way as to minimize exposure to the hot sun in the summer, while taking advantage of the suns solar energy in the winter. Whenever possible, the front door or the house's longest wall should be set to within 5 degrees of true south. It may also be important to landscape in such a way to create wind breaks for the home or create shade to increase efficiency. Good window placement can increase natural light while reducing the need for electric lighting.

WINDOWS AND DOORS: Windows help make a home beautiful, but they can also waste a lot of energy if they let in heat in the summer, cold in the winter, and drafts anytime. To get more energy-efficient windows, select ones with good insulation values. Some have special coatings that can help repel heat. Others are double or triple paned which helps insulation. Some energy-efficient windows have non-toxic gas between the panes such as argon or krypton that provide better insulation than air. Even the window frames can affect how efficient they are. For example, aluminum frames typically provide the lowest insulation value. Wood, vinyl, and fiberglass are better. Warm-edge spacers are even better. Certain window coverings like reflective blinds and shades can also generate incredible savings on energy usage.

When it comes to doors, make sure they have a tight fit and use excellent weather stripping. Some new door frames include a magnetic strip that creates a tighter seal and reduces the amount of air that leaks out. Some of the best core materials for a door include fiberglass and foam. If a door has glass, it will be more energy efficient if double or triple paned insulating glass is used.

ROOFING AND EXTERIOR PAINT: Consider using reflective roofing and lighter exterior paint colors. These two items offer a cooler home by reflecting the sun's rays rather than absorbing them. Roof choices and lighter paint colors can create double digit drops in exterior surface temperatures which can result in greater energy savings.

BUILDING MATERIALS: Choose to use 'earth-friendly' products and building materials whenever possible. Typically, these include:

- Products made with recycled content
- Products that conserve natural resources
- Products that avoid toxic emissions
- Products that are rapidly renewable such as bamboo, cork and straw
- Products with superior durability

WATER SYSTEMS: Consider installing tankless and 'point-of use' water heating systems. These systems do away with the traditional standing hot water tanks and more efficiently heat water for the home. They are also more cost effective.

APPLIANCES: Consider installing 'Energy Star' rated appliances. Energy Star is a program backed by the government that identifies products with high energy efficiency. These products often last longer and are more economical to operate than non-Energy Star rated appliances.


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