The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, so the saying goes.
A “greener” home may also be on the other side of that fence, thanks to three University of Southern Mississippi alumni who are changing the way people think about “green” homes by producing an aesthetically pleasing product that includes smart energy use infrastructure in its construction.
David Thompson (’75), a Certified Green Professional with AAA Homes of MS LLC, recently joined forces with Timberton subdivision developer and PGA Golf Pro Ron Hickman (’82) and home designer Jonathan Boone (’03) of House Plan Zone to build the first Certified Green Home in Hattiesburg for purchase, located in Timberton’s LakeView development. It meets National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) Green Certification through its National Green Building Program.
Many individuals in the market for a new home are uncertain what “green” home construction means and offers. Often they think such a structure will look odd or ultra-modern, not resembling standard architectural lines. But the Showcase Home at LakeView has turned skeptics into believers. The Certified Green Home is built in French Country style with four bedrooms, three and one half baths, Living and Keeping rooms, a Study and Bonus room among many other amenities.
It sits on a beautiful lot with a large outdoor rear porch and a gas fire pit, all overlooking a small lake on Number 10 of the renowned Timberton Golf Course.
“People who come to take a tour anticipate it will look different because it’s a green home,” Thompson said. “But the things that make it green are nearly invisible to the eye.”
Five required key criteria are measured by a third party Home Energy Rating Specialist (HERS) that has been approved by NAHB before a home can be Certified Green. Approximately 20 homes have been Certified Green in Mississippi by NAHB. AAA Homes of MS has built two of these with the Extreme Makeover Home for former Southern Miss football player Sherman Heathcock being the first.
Certified Green Criteria used for the Showcase Home at LakeView includes the following:
· Employs 14.5 SEER High efficiency Heating/AC system
· Duct System installed with special care to reduce air leaks and score on important Duct blaster test
· Sprayed NuWool cellulose insulation with R-17 Walls and R-38 in attic made from recycled papers
· Tankless on-demand water heaters to cut energy waste from thermostat water heaters
· Low E Vinyl windows to reduce heat gain and protect rugs, furniture and drapes from sun rays
· Porch or awning protecting all exterior doors
· Tech Shield Roof decking made from recycled wood chips that deflects 97% of heat radiation
· Energy Star Appliances - Energy Star Vent Hood - Energy Star Ceiling fans
· Low energy LED bulbs in all interior and exterior Can lights to cut lighting energy usage by 80%
· Motion sensor touch-less lighting with timed turnoff in closets and pantry
· Low air infiltration from foam sealants on top/bottom plates, around windows/doors, and at all exterior wall outlets to form air tight envelope reducing air infiltration from 40 percent daily to 5 percent range
· Reusable Electrostatic Air filters to reduce dust and pollens
· Digital Thermostats in Zones to better control settings in down times of work and sleep
· Dual flush commodes save water with .08 gallons for light flush and 1.6 gallons for heavy needs
· Low flow faucets and shower heads designed to reduce water consumption
· Drip system Irrigation in flower beds to reduce evaporation from spray heads
· Water filter in kitchen to remove chemicals and impurities
RECYCLED AND SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS
· Carpets made from recycled plastic cola bottles
· Pre-finished products: engineered hardwood floors, ceramic tiles and masonite doors
· MDF cabinet doors of recycled wood with low formaldehyde levels
· Recycled Old Chicago brick in fireplaces and interior appointments
· Lot debris recycled into wood chips for walking trails and beds
GREEN OWNER ORIENTION
· Home owner manual with warranties
· Owner orientation of all working equipment
According to the NAHB, homes built with these specifications today are 100 percent more efficient than those built in the 1970s. Certification of the Showcase Home determined that the Showcase home would perform 41.2 % above a new home built to standard building codes. In the 4,100 plus square foot home at LakeView, the heating and cooling cost was scientifically calculated by a series of test to average $147 per month.
An example of the savings include those coming from placement of water-saving toilets developed by Kohler placed in many new homes, including those that are green certified and use an average of 39,000 fewer gallons of water per year for a family of four than a standard toilet – enough water in a lifetime for three people.
“Green is a relative point,” Boone said. “For many customers, green means energy savings.”
In addition to energy savings, a green home offers health and safety qualities that increase its attraction for home buyers, especially those raising a family. Green homes prevent moisture, mold and radon through proper air sealing, and closed combustion heating and water heating systems minimize the chances of carbon monoxide pollution inside the home. In addition, building materials with low chemical content are used and mechanical ventilation systems are installed to improve air quality.
Miranda Grieder, visiting professor in the Southern Miss School of Construction, recently took some of her architectural planning and design students to visit the home. Thompson was on hand to provide a tour of the home and discuss how its green designation was achieved. “It was a great opportunity for them (students) to see firsthand how green standards are implemented in home construction,” she said.
A bigger challenge than getting potential home buyers to realize a green home looks much like non-green homes of similar style and size is to get lenders, appraisers and realtors to recognize and understand their value, as well as the long-term benefits of the green technology and products used in their construction. These have the promise of paying high dividends for investors after buyers understand - and demand - the long-term savings they can bring.
Thompson, Boone and Hickman understand this and make a point to bring in bankers, realtors and appraisers to see the home themselves during luncheon forums. “It’s not only a Showcase home, but a tutorial home,” Thompson said.
Hickman said he’s excited about the potential green home development offers for the future of LakeView and for those looking for a new home that meets environment-friendly standards.
“This showcase home has really changed the way people view ‘green’ home construction,” he said. ‘Visitors expect something different, but it’s as attractive as any you’ll find in Hattiesburg while also meeting the benchmarks that give it the ‘green’ designation.”