Most homeowners like to conserve energy by turning off lights, or taking shorter showers. While several appliances and easy practices exist to save money and energy, true “green” homes, or HealthyBuilt Homes promote healthy living both inside and out from the very beginning. Imagine the positive impact living with improved air quality, efficient lighting and appliances, a low risk of mold growth, higher resale value, minimal toxic products, landscaping that promotes water conservation, and solar thermal heating systems can have on your daily life.
Supported by the NC Solar Center and State Energy office, HealthyBuilt Homes is a statewide certification program that is available to Asheville green builders. Green building is the result of a design that focuses on increasing efficiency and conservation through a variety of resources, including energy, water and building materials. It also reduces the impact on the environment and human health through opportunities including energy-efficient appliances, advanced building techniques, and innovative landscape design.
But is it more expensive? Building a green home does not necessarily mean more money up front, although it definitely implies a large return on investment. With several tax credits and financial incentives, the initial cost for both builder and homeowner can be much lower than one might think. The value of the home, however, is much higher than other standard market homes with the same price tag, due to the reduced cost to maintain the home after move-in. Saving money each month while living in a healthy environment and creating positive changes to the planet are just the some of the advantages to living in HealthyBuilt Homes.
It is important to note that there are several prerequisites before building and certifying HealthyBuilt Homes. One of the most important is to make sure the home receives qualification from Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. To receive the popular blue logo, a qualified home must be at least 15% more efficient than other homes built to meet the NC Building Code. There are even architectural home plans that are Energy Star approved and ensure your home is truly green from the very beginning.
Just as Energy Star is a prerequisite to begin the process, there are several other necessary steps, including enrollment in the statewide NC HealthyBuilt Homes Program. The home must act in accordance with all federal state and local government requirements including NC Building Code, NC Energy Code, local development regulations and other local regulations. If the site has a slope greater than 40% it must comply with the advanced erosion control points. In total there are 12 prerequisites that must be met before the home can even begin the certification process. A representative from HealthyBuilt Homes will inspect the home site and look for proper documentation from corresponding affiliations.
Once the prerequisites are met, the home must satisfy requirements outlined in the HealthyBuilt Homes Program checklist. A certified rater assists the builder throughout the process and evaluates the home in various stages to complete the checklist. The various categories, including Site Opportunities, Building Envelope, Appliances, and Indoor Air Quality to name a few, require a minimal number of qualifying points to proceed. In total, the home must receive at least 105 points in order to become certified. Depending on the final number of points, the home may be placed in one of three award categories.
The building site is the first place the builder will implement green elements. While many home sites waste materials, a HealthyBuilt Homes builder will use redundant mulch or compost for erosion control. For planting 12 trees per acre, the site will receive four points. Other qualifying opportunities include using grind stumps and limbs for mulch, connecting sidewalks to business districts, and developing an erosion control site plan.
Water Opportunities is the second category for the home to qualify as a HealthyBuilt Home. For harvesting rainwater and directing it toward landscaping needs, a home can receive four points, while designing a site-specific, drought resistant planting plan will receive two points. An installed vegetated roof system that reduces impervious surfaces will receive two points per 25% of the vegetated roof. Builders have several opportunities to make the home as green as it can possibly be. Homeowners who did not have the chance to build their home or did not initially implement any green practices can take advantage of these opportunities, as many homes can be reconstructed to include green elements. Installing a kitchen faucet fitted with an aerator that restricts flow to 2.2 gpm or having high-efficiency toilets and Energy Star labeled appliances also scores points.
Switching out any appliances for greener ones is typically a simple step the homeowner can do, but one area the builder is required is the Building Envelope. A minimum of 10 points is needed for the home to qualify in this category. This includes everything from air infiltration and insulation to windows and doors. Qualifying elements include performing a blower door test and meeting a minimum standard of .25 cfm50/sf of surface area, having a sealed crawl space as per NC Building Code, insulated exterior wall stud cavities and low-E windows with a U-value of .36 or less. Most of these technical elements are left up to the builder, but educating yourself throughout the process with each product and practice will help spread the word to others about green building.
Having a builder orient the home on the lot to allow solar heating receives seven points toward certification in the next category: Comfort Systems. Taking advantage of natural light and using efficient appliances expels less energy, which translates into lower energy bills for the homeowner and conserved energy for the planet. Not only attractive, installing a simple ceiling fan per 750 ft2 of conditioned space will also grant the home one point. Six points are given for having a 90% efficient furnace and 85% efficient boiler. Additional appliances that satisfy the certification include Energy Star refrigerators, tankless water heaters, indoor lighting controls such as dimming switches and timers, and whole-house automation.
The Indoor Air Quality category is probably one of the most critical categories to the homeowner’s health. By improving the home’s air quality, not only does the homeowner benefit with a healthy living environment, but installing carbon monoxide detectors, automatic bath fan controls for full baths, whole-house HEPA filters and having a detached garage in lieu of an attached one all contribute to the home becoming certified. Materials Used is a separate category but an equally important one for the home and environment. Points are given based on the size of the home and the use of locally manufactured products (within 50 miles) with a value of $1000 or more. Recycling jobsite waste and specific materials such as metal, wood, plastic and cardboard will score several points.
In addition to the aforementioned categories, the home has several bonus opportunities to earn points. Installing a built-in kitchen recycling center with two or more bins earns three points, while having the builder enrolled in a Community HealthyBuilt Homes Program scores two points. Giving specified sub-contractors an environmental features checklist and a binder to the homeowners explaining all of the green features are two additional areas the builder can score points for his home to receive certification.
Building HealthyBuilt Homes not only benefits the homeowner but also conserves energy and waste, helping the planet simultaneously. Brock Builders is proud to participate in the NC HealthyBuilt Homes program.
Learn more about the HealthyBuilt Homes Program at the Western North Carolina Green Building Council’s website.
In spite of our inexperience and indecision, in spite of the fact that we were rarely present during the construction, your hard work and attention to detail turned out a marvelous result. We always felt comfortable that your intent was always to do the right thing and we appreciate the fact that we could always trust you. You are truly men of your word. You weren't happy until we were!
~Pat and Dorothy Ryan