Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Rankin Road Home ENERGY STAR Certified!

In 2007, after watching an interview with the late, great folk singer John Denver, I made a personal commitment to have all of our new homes ENERGY STAR certified. This commitment was one way I felt I could have a personal impact on issues of importance to me.

We recently completed a new home on Rankin Road in Cabarrus County, and this house was ENERGY STAR certified. Featuring spray foam insulation, conditioned crawl space and attic, efficient HVAC and windows, this home was given a HERS index of 64. This index means that the home is projected to use 36% less energy than a home built to the current energy code. Coupled with a rate reduction that Duke Energy provides to ENERGY STAR certified homes, the homeowner will enjoy total savings in excess of 40%.

ENERGY STAR requirements are soon becoming even more stringent, and John Marshall Custom Homes will proudly continue to be an ENERGY STAR partner. ENERGY STAR compliant construction is just one way we build a better home.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Second LEED Certified Home!

John Marshall Custom Homes of Davidson, North Carolina is pleased to announce that our home at 631 James Alexander Way in downtown Davidson has been LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. This home becomes the 2nd home in Davidson to be LEED certified, the 1st being the one we built at 233 Catawba in 2010.

LEED is the most recognized green-building program, and we are proud to be a leader in LEED certification. The LEED process ensures independent verification that the homeowner is getting a home that is highly energy and water efficient, has high indoor air quality, and was built in such a way to minimize the impact on the environment.

This blog was started to accompany construction of our 1st LEED home. Please check out prior posts to learn more about the LEED process, and how LEED benefits the homeowner.

For more information about John Marshall Custom Homes, please visit our website at www.johnmarshallcustomhomes.com, or follow us on facebook at facebook.com/greenbuilder.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Davidson Springs Community Garden

Green building isn't just about building an efficient, environmentally friendly home. It's also about an overall healthy lifestyle that includes walking, exercising, and enjoying local foods, among other things.

In our Davidson Springs neighborhood we are providing resources to encourage all of the above. Our new community garden is just one place where homeowners can get outside, sweat a bit, and best of all enjoy some very local food.

A community garden is a great space where neighbors can interact, and it also provides an opportunity for homeowners on smaller lots to act out their inner green thumb. In that spirit we began a community garden in Davidson Springs, our neighborhood of custom homes in the heart of downtown Davidson, North Carolina.

This year the garden features corn, green beans, tomatoes, peppers, squash, watermelon and pumpkins. Sunflowers and a variety of annual and perennial flowers provide a splash of color. A nice fence surrounds the garden since our neighborly cordiality does not extend to our four legged friends!

Come by and see the community garden on James Alexander Way. And, as the sign says, “tend some and take some.” Enjoy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Preserving Our Natural Resources

They say a picture tells a thousand words. Look at this photo and what do you see? For the most part, I see a tree. Sure, there is an awfully nice home too, but by and large I see the tree.

I see a photo that tells a story of life, of birds singing, leaves providing protection from a hot summer sun, and leaves providing a glorious palette of colors in the fall. The tree also enhances the beauty of the home, framing it and providing a context.

Take away the tree, and the photo tells a vastly different story. Quiet, lifeless. The hot summer sun beating down mercilessly on the home, causing it to wear out and causing utility bills to soar. A stark, lonely home.

Green building programs such as LEED mandate tree protection. The concept is quite simple: keep things away from trees during construction. Keep them watered and fed. Engage an arborist who can prescribe treatments to minimize the stress from construction.

What is the value of a four-foot diameter oak tree? Davidson just put price tags on some of its trees as a way to show the value of the tree. Personally I think the valuations are way too low. How can you value something that cannot be replaced for decades? How much extra would someone pay for a house with no trees around it versus a home with mature shade trees? I think the answer is in the several thousands of dollars.

In spite of their value, there are still contractors who take few if any steps to protect trees. I wish mandates were not necessary, but unfortunately I believe they are. Davidson and other towns need to mandate tree protection programs for construction projects, and customers need to be educated about tree protection so they can insist that their builder follow good practices.

Insist on green building. It’s not just good for the home.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Take A Healthy Walk To The Bank

More than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas. An urban area does not have to be a large city, but can be a location such as downtown Davidson North Carolina that features a concentration of community resources such as shopping, banks, churches, libraries and educational institutions.

The desire to live in an urban area transcends generations. The younger generation recognizes the health benefits of being able to walk places, while older homeowners also wish to be on their feet more.

The trend to urbanization is driven by economic, environmental, health and financial trends.

Economic and environmental trends both come down to reducing dependence on the automobile. Nearly 20% of the budget of the typical American family goes towards transportation. Couple that with the contribution cars make towards greenhouse gases, and its easy to see why many people desire to reduce their dependence on their automobile.

Did you ever work up a sweat driving to the store? Or to church? Probably not. There is an obesity epidemic underway in the United States, and much of it is fueled by our reliance on the automobile. Americans still want to get out and walk, but in many cases they are forced to drive. By moving to urban neighborhoods such as John Marshall Custom Homes’ Davidson Springs community in downtown Davidson North Carolina, homeowners have much more opportunity to use their feet for exercise, not just pushing down on a gas pedal.

A final reason that urban neighborhoods are growing in popularity is that they offer a better return on investment compared to suburbs. Mecklenburg County recently completed a revaluation of properties, and the results were clear: since 2003 areas such as downtown Davidson have increased by over 50% in value, while the suburbs have seen single-digit gains and in many cases a loss in value. It’s simple supply and demand. The area that is within a five minute walk to downtown Davidson is fixed. Couple increasing demand with a limited supply, and you’ve got a recipe for continued appreciation in housing values.

By living in an urban neighborhood, you can literally and figuratively take a walk to the bank.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cornhole Can Be Green!

When we have an open house at one of our LEED homes, the question I am most frequently asked is “what makes this house green?” I frequently answer that question by first addressing all of the things apart from the home that make a home green.

Green building is not just the structure and mechanics of a home. Green building is also very much concerned with promoting healthy lifestyles. For example, a home that is located in a downtown location close to shopping, schools, libraries and restaurants promotes a healthy lifestyle because it facilitates walking to these ‘community resources’ instead of always getting in the car. A pedestrian friendly location is of course also beneficial to the environment since it reduces emissions.

We built our latest LEED home in downtown Davidson for an active adult. While the home was built on a small, one-tenth acre lot, we created a number of spaces where the homeowner can get outside. In these photos we show a space that we designed for cornhole, a favorite pastime of the homeowner and her grandchildren. We also created other outdoor spaces such as a flower garden, raised beds for gardens, and a patio.

There’s not enough space to play flag football, but if the homeowner wants to do that it’s only a three minute walk to a public space where there is ample room for football. This convenient location is another aspect of green building: locating neighborhoods where there is easy access to public recreational activities such as parks, fields and greenways. These locations facilitate building homes on smaller lots, and thus minimizing the loss of open space. Open space preservation will be a topic of a future green building blog. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tighten It Up!

As we're wrapping up construction of 631 James Alexander Way, a number of tests for both ENERGY STAR and LEED certification are conducted. These tests help to verify that the house performs as designed, with the result being not only a more efficient home, but also a comfortable and healthy home as well.

This video shows a blower door test being conducted. The blower door simulates the effects of a 35 mile per hour wind on the home, and measures how much air leaks out of the house under this condition.

For a house this size, the maximum air leakage that is permissible under ENERGY STAR guidelines is about 2,200 CFM (cubic feet per minute). As the video shows, the actual leakage from this house was subsequently less. Although the video shows a rate of about 900 cfm, the official test result was just over 700 cfm (we later discovered that someone had cracked open a window during the video 'shoot'). Thus, the house is about three times as tight as ENERGY STAR requires, and as the technician states, about six times tighter than a "to code," non-ENERGY STAR home.

What does this mean to the homeowner? First, a tight home results in significantly greater energy efficiency and lower utility bills. Those who followed the construction and testing of our LEED certified home at 233 Catawba Avenue in Davidson will recall that utility bills are half of those of similar sized homes. Second, a more comfortable home. Some of the other tests that are conducted verify that the output from the HVAC system is properly distributed, and temperatures and pressures are balanced throughout the house. Thus, the chances of cold or hot spots in the home are greatly reduced.

LEED is your customer's assurance that a home has not only been designed to the highest standards, but also tested to verify compliance with those standards. Do not settle for less.