Green Home Tour

By Nancy E. Oates CorrespondentMay 5, 2012 

Ryan Johnson, owner of Revolution Homes, wants you to feel like you’re on vacation, every time you walk through the door of your home. Johnson builds green-certified houses that save homeowners money in reduced utility bills and save the environment through judicious stewardship of natural resources. And he doesn’t want you to forgo comfort for your wise choices. “My goal is to make you feel, when you’re in your home, that you couldn’t afford to stay in a place this nice if it were a hotel,” Johnson said. Green-certified homes have come a long way since the first Green Home Tour debuted in the Triangle in 2006. This weekend and next marks the 7th annual Green Home Tour, sponsored by Stock Building Supply and presented by the Green Home Builders of the Triangle. The free, self-paced tour of 26 homes sprinkled across four counties, from Pittsboro to Bahama and North Raleigh, showcase new construction and remodeled homes in all sizes and design styles. To qualify as a green home, a residence must be built to higher standards of energy efficiency than the state building code requires and must be certified by an independent third party. Some of the most common certifications come from Energy Star, the National Association of Home Builders Green Building Standards, the U.S. Green Buliding Council’s LEED program and LiveGreen. Many certification programs go beyond expecting lower energy bills and conservation of natural resources to looking at the training and qualifications of the builder and construction crew and considering how far green materials have to travel. (A green product shipped halfway around the world has a large carbon footprint that may offset its environmentally friendly traits.) Johnson has two entries in this year’s Green Home Tour: a brand-new spec home in North Raleigh, built in the walkable, infill community of Baybridge Park in Raleigh, and a remodeled house in Durham’s Hope Valley made energy efficient. The latter house, a 3,500-square-foot ranch built in 1961, was “bleeding money in gas bills” when the owners called Johnson for the retrofit. “The house was Swiss cheese,” Johnson said, referring to the number of ways heat escaped from the home. The winter before the homeowners called Johnson, their heating bills were about $100 a week. In the course of renovating the home, Johnson added more insulation, installed energy-efficient doors and windows, and caulked every unauthorized point of inside/outside air exchange, lopping the heating bills to below $100 a month. He designed his North Raleigh tour entry with 45-degree angles, instead of traditional 9-degree corners, to enhance air circulation, and he sited the house to take advantage of prevailing winds. He pays attention to how his customers want to use space — a home office instead of an extra bedroom; an in-law suite employing Universal Design principles to accommodate aging parents. And by building to higher standards than code, he is building into the future, meeting standards that won’t be required for several years. Now that more green products are available and more builders are using them, the price has dropped to the point that a Bronze-level NAHB green-certified home costs about the same per foot as a home without green features. Richard Barnes started Carolina Green Building Partners in 2009, in the middle of an unprecedented recession, and has succeeded because he tapped into demand from educated clientele who understand the advantages of a green-certified home. “In this area, we’re blessed with demographics of a highly educated population,” he said. His entry is Silver certified by NAHB Green Building Standards. The floors are aged pine, reclaimed from deconstructed tobacco barns in Eastern North Carolina, where he’s from, so they put a historical stamp on the home. The trim work comes from yellow poplar, a tree that grows fast (thus replenished quickly) and straight (resulting in less scrap lumber) and is milled in nearby Youngsville. He uses ZIP System roof and wall sheathing that has a thin membrane of house wrap embedded in the wood for a tight thermal envelope. He tops it off with Cool Roof shingles that incorporate reflective granules to prevent solar heat from being absorbed into the attic. Barnes built the house in The Oaks at Fallon Park, an infill neighborhood. “Infill combats urban sprawl,” he said. “Whenever you can build within an existing footprint, that’s better than developing new land. The loss of habitat for wildlife from increasing our urban footprint is detrimental to the environment.” Award-winning builder Homes by Dickerson has an entry in Briar Chapel, the all-green community in Chatham County. Jon Showalter, the company’s comptroller who holds the CGP (certified green professional) designation, can name several reasons why people want to buy a high-performance green home. Utility bills are lower because of the home’s increased energy-efficiency; PSNC and Progress Energy give a 5 percent discount on monthly bills for green-certified houses; the State Employees Credit Union caps mortgage origination fees on green-certified homes at $300. “By themselves, these factors may equate to pennies,” Showalter said, “but taken together, the pennies soon become dollars.” Among the Homes by Dickerson entry’s many green features is the use of LP Tech Shield, a sheathing on the inner framework of the roof that prevents solar heat from penetrating into the attic. That radiant shield lowers the attic temperature by about 20 degrees; air-conditioning units pumping out cool air do so more efficiently if the air around it is temperate. The Triangle Multiple Listing Service is one of the few in the country that make it possible for buyers to search only for green-certified homes. A green-certified home is healthier and more comfortable for its occupants, saves money for the owners and lessens the impact on the environment. The HERS (Home Energy Rating System) figure for a new green-certified home might be half that of a home built to code 10 years ago. Homes by Dickerson makes a point of educating buyers on how the green features of the home operate and the importance of certain maintenance to keep the energy-efficiency payoffs going. “Everybody’s green is a different shade,” Showalter said. “The green-certified label is another way our customers can quantify the quality of the home we’re building.”

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