Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford


How to Build an Eco-Friendly Green Home

Watch this video to see what goes into building an eco-friendly, energy efficient home. We’ll show you what it means to go green, from using recycled materials and eco-friendly landscaping to the advantages of geothermal heat pumps and foam insulation. ...More

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How to Build an Eco-Friendly Green Home


Watch this video to see how an eco-friendly, energy efficient house is built, including:

  • Using recycled materials.
  • Sawing lumber from discarded trees.
  • Eco-friendly wall and roof sheathing.
  • Geothermal heat pumps.
  • Sprayed foam insulation.
  • Turning waste lumber into garden mulch.
  • Planting native plants.
  • Laying a permeable patio.
  • Water saving plumbing fixtures.
  • Furnishing made from natural materials.

Read episode article to find out more.

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This week on Today’s Homeowner we’re taking a closer look at green buildings in a small town style. It’s more than just a list of principles and materials; it’s about the people who make it all happen. Over the last few years we’ve covered a lot of green building and renovation stories. And many times we would focus on the products and the techniques involved in that kind of building. This week we’re going to put all of that in context this one that you see.

We’re in a small town on the Gulf Coast called Fairhope, Alabama. This is a collaboration of two locals: architect Bob Chatham and builder Jeremy Friedman, who really wanted to promote the concept of practical green building. And basically they’re using this as an educational tool.

Now, we’re about to go in and really see what makes this house tick. Actually, earlier this week Allen had a chance to walk around with builder Jeremy to really see all of this came about.

Literally about two years ago, I woke up one morning and I said to myself something is out of balance here. The way I’m building houses is not the way I live my life or the way I think houses should be built. So, I immediately started educating myself and implementing different green building practices into the homes.

This is like a conviction to you.

It absolutely is.

Well, let’s talk about some of your convictions. What I’ve seen so far, and I’ve had a chance to look around, I see a lot of recycled materials. What has been recycled?

Well, the recycled materials we use in the home. The flooring is some heart pine made from heart pine beams and we remilled it into flooring. The front doors are some antique cypress that came from cotton gin over in Mississippi. And of course we have a big pecan tree that lived here on the site that we had to remove. And we took it out to Roy Hyde’s mill, and he milled into beams for us.

That’s sawmill it turns out is just a few miles up the road, so Allen dropped by to check it out. The owner, Roy, is a pretty unique guy, but so is his source for lumber.

Generally, someone’s has got some purpose going that they’re going to have to remove a tree for some reason or another. When they do, the tree people start out to the dump with it, and rather than to have to pay that weight, they know that I like good old pieces of wood. So, they bring them by here. And, those little pieces of wood come in all shapes, sizes, and species. We’ve got the pecan, water oak, and live oak. And down here on the end I have some magnolia that went down in one of the hurricanes that is supposedly 170 years old.

Besides custom orders, like this one for Jeremy, Roy also mills lumber for his own one-of-a-kind creations. And it doesn’t look like business is slowing down at all.

This is a piece of water oak. I have already made probably 10 or 12 tables and various pieces out of it already. There are some counters, in fact, in downtown Fairhope in the Lion Share that are made from these pieces.

Personally, I’m glad this is one of the projects that Roy could do, and I think Jeremy is pretty pleased with the outcome as well.

It was a way that this tree has lived on the site for a long time can continue to live here. It gives the house a sense of place and it really ties it to this location.

I love it the piece up there still has bark on it.

You know we went back and forth on how much do we prepare the woods. Peel all the bark, or do we leave the wane on it what we do? Everyone that came and said we love it rough, so will leave it that way.

Now you and I both build houses. And you and I both know, it costs money to build one, it costs to build a green house.

I want people to understand that it’s an investment, not a cost, and there is a return on that investment. I knew immediately from day one that the cost of operations for the house offsets any additional costs of a mortgage expense. There’s also additional return on investment from the health and comfort standpoint. We did a lot of things to the house to improve indoor air quality and comfort. And of course there’s a return on investment when it comes to the environment.

The principles of Jeremy’s talking about don’t only apply to a new home; they can also make an existing home a lot more green. So, we’ll make sure we point out a few of those as we explore this project. Now green investment in your home will pay financial and quality-of-life dividends, but those decisions are as individual as each and every homeowner. So information is definitely the best tool you can have.

While you seen the passion behind a project like this, and the people that are responsible for it. But to tell you the truth, it takes a lot more than recycled wood and good intentions to make a house green. So where can really see what makes this house tick.

But first, let’s check in with Joe who has a green Simple Solution for us this week.

Water conservation is an important part of living green and a great way to conserve is by harvesting rainwater for your landscape use. And you can buy a professional system but they’re rather expensive. And here’s a way to make one for about $50. I started with a nice green trash can that blends in well with the landscaping. Then I drilled a hole at the bottom for a hose bit. And on top, I drilled a slightly larger whole for this drainage grate which helps filter out debris. Then I used a couple of cable ties to hold the lid on securely. And set the barrel on a couple of concrete blocks.

Now the top, you see I’ve got the downspout that runs down from the roof took up at elbows and right into the barrel. So as this rain barrel fills up with water you can control it down here at the spigot, and you can attach a garden hose and drain it down to a low area.

What I prefer to do is take a soaker hose, attach it to the spigot, that run it through your shrubs and along your flower bed and it will slowly and really gently water and soil. And the really great part about the system is the water is totally free.

Coming up the stuff that makes this house green can work at your house to.

Welcome back. This week we’re looking at a brand-new home that just received the Gold Certification from the National Association of Home Builders under their green building program. Now that means that this house has certain standards for water conservation, for energy efficiency, for using sustainable materials and recycled materials, and excellent indoor air quality.

A pretty big job, but it starts with some very simple building components, such as the sheathing they used to put on the outside of the walls and on the roof. It’s called the Zip System. This stuff is cool because the panels are already covered with a more secure resistant coating and no roofing felt or house wrap is needed. Now that makes it extremely efficient for the builder but because the wood is certified by the sustainable for a street initiative and the adhesive don’t use any formaldehyde it’s also very green.

Now right below the roof is also a very important green component the spray foam insulation.

Basically what we’re doing, instead of insulating the ceiling, we’re insulating the roof deck. We’re losing about 60-70% of our heating and cooling loss into our attics. So instead of having a hot pocket of air right above areas, we’re trying to cool our indoor environments. We have this ambient range that isolates it from the hot or very cold extremes outside. The initial costs are higher, but we are custom fitting this to every hole and to every cavity in that home. In a new built situation, the return costs are about three to five years. A little bit longer if you’re only doing the roof deck in a retrofit.

If spray foam insulation is not in your budget, here’s a more affordable option, especially for an older home like this that had no installation at all. Go out and pick up some Kraft paper faced installation, and roll it out in the attic between the ceiling joints. That’s important to keep the Kraft paper, which is the vapor barrier, down so it faces a heated room.

All you do is roll it out, make sure it fits nice and tight between, and fill every bay. Now, if you already have insulation in your attic, and its Kraft paper faced foil faced, and you want to increase the energy efficiency of your home, you can add insulation on top of it. But, be sure it’s unfaced insulation, as I have here. This has no paper or a foil on it at all, so you don’t have to replace this with thicker installation. Just take an unfaced insulation, and roll it right on top.

Now, that one step there will make your home much more energy efficient. Now, if it is time to replace the heating and cooling equipment in your home, you might consider a system like the one used in this project.

A Geothermal heat pump works the same way as a regular heat pump would, or an air source heat pump. We transfer heat just like they do, except ours were transferring heat with the ground as opposed to outside temperatures. A heat pump uses the outside temperature and refrigerates to transfer the heat you know the cooling season you can put your hand over that fan and you can feel the heat being blown off. We use refrigerant and water and in some cases water and methanol as an anti-freeze agent. And water will flow out of the unit and go into the ground, out of the ground, and into the pump, and back to the unit. So we’re just recirculating water, and a ground loop should last around 50 years. These PEX lines go to the hot water tank. We will actually take the heat and send it to your hot water tank, and you can have half your hot water for free.

Earlier we talked about the financial dividends these kind of investments pay, and energy costs are one of the biggest ways you get that payback. Because Jeremy uses the techniques that he used on this house building it, as well as energy-efficient appliances and those type building techniques, he expects his monthly electric bill just to be little over $70 a month. Now that’s incredible for a 3,600-square-foot house.

Hey, while I’m just looking around for a few more green ideas, check out this week’s Best New Product with Jodi. Let’s face it, the constant abuse from the sun or rain and snow can really take a toll on outdoor surfaces. The good news is that you can give them a facelift before the weekend is over, and it’s easier than ever. Thompson’s WaterSeal oxy-foaming action Exterior Multi-Surface Cleaner, now how’s that for a mouthful, is formulated to remove dirt and mildew and other stains on a variety of exterior surfaces including wood and composite decks, concrete, masonry and even some fabrics.

And while most cleaners contain bleach or other harsh ingredients, this stuff is actually oxygen powered, so it’s gentle on surfaces and it covers about 200 ft. per gallon. When using this, though, you’ll want to remember to saturate the ground around the plants to protect them. Then apply the cleaner with a watering can or a pump up sprayer, and let it sit for about five to ten minutes before scrubbing it with a stiff brush.

Then, just rinse it off with your garden hose, or try a pressure washer with a wide spray pattern.

Coming up there still more green to this house from the inside and out.

This week we’re taking a closer look at building green, specifically this house in Fairhope, Alabama, which was the first one in the state to be certified by the National Association of Home Builders green building program.

Now from the beginning, architect Bob Chatham and builder Jeremy Friedman decided they wanted to prove that a green house didn’t have to be ugly. So, aesthetics were very important part of designing this home. Now, when they decided to do all the furnishings to really show this place off, they had two priorities attractive and green.

In this house, we actually got to use a lot of different green materials. For example, all the area rugs they are dyed using vegetable dyes, which are environmentally friendly. Then whenever you get to your upholstery pieces, like the sofa, you can use soy-based cushions. That’s what’s inside the cushion, that’s the filler part. And then also just using natural materials such as linen, cotton, and some bamboo.

My favorite piece is the aluminum table in the master bedroom just because it shows can still have stylish looking furniture that is environmentally friendly. Now in addition to using green materials, it was also important to these guys that the process building a home can be environmentally friendly.

There’s a lot of waste involved, so we should have had a real strict waste management plan. We worked diligently to reclaim or recycle as much of the waste as we could. We actually ended up recycling 72% of our waste. A lot of that recycling of cardboard which is the third largest waste treatment of new construction of plastics, metals were all recycled, and beverage containers. But then with all the waste wood, we ground it up into mulch and reused into the beds.

And speaking of that, green features in his home don’t stop at the front door. Everyone plays a part, including the landscaper.

Well, a lot of people assume that landscaping, because as with plants, means that is naturally green and environmentally friendly, but that’s not true. There’s a lot of plants that people use in their landscaping that are very hard to grow here, and they require a lot of work. Pesticides that require a lot of fertilizers and care and water. And so what I did here is went for plants that are native to this area, so that they had a natural resistance to disease and the pests and water requirements.

The patio in the back to flagstone patio but its set in the permeable base. And what we did there, it’s a natural drainage area for the backyard. And, we had to figure out what to do with the water still have a nice usable patio. It’s what we did is we use some reclaimed concrete called R-base is also environmentally friendly because it’s not going into the landfill. They crush it, and they use it as the base below it. And we set the stone in, and planted mondo grass. And what that area does is it allows the water from the backyard to percolate through that and down into the soil. It takes any pollutants, any pesticides and fertilizers, out and back into the groundwater clean.

The irrigation system is called a SmartLine by a company called Weathermatic. And it is designed to save water and to use water smarter. The heads we used to the controller, it has a weather station. The weather station allows it to, based on your ZIP code and where you live and weather conditions, every day it measures evaporation what they call evaportranspiration, which is the amount of moisture in the air. So it knows what’s going on around your yard.

Those water savings are added to the ones already achieved inside by ultra efficient faucets for the sinks and tubs, plus low-flow, dual flush toilets. The overall result is a beautiful efficient home that people really seem to like.

The response has been overwhelming and a lot of people are interested in what can I do. What from your project can I do in my existing home. Which I think is probably as important or more important than how do we careen our new projects. But how can we take our existing housing stock and make it more efficient and comfortable and healthy.

And that’s exactly what I hope you’ll do. Make the place to you live a little more green. Whether it’s a new house or an existing one, find something that you can do within the budget and skills that you have to make less of an impact on the planet. Really, it all starts with thinking green.

People who live in glass houses are probably thinking green. Okay I know that’s not exactly how the saying goes but it brings up a great point. Green can be totally free sometimes. During the daylight hours take advantage of the natural light bright up the inside of your home. Besides being green, it’s also very healthy for you. Daylight energizes and affects our mood in a very positive way.

Here’s a tip, add mirrors in strategic locations inside your home to reflect sunlight to other parts of a room. And here’s a related way to get natural light into rooms that don’t have windows. Solar tubes are a style of skylight that uses a reflective surface much like a mirror, to bring in the sunshine. With one of these installed, it eliminates the need to turn on the lights during the daylight hours. Which means you’ll be saving money from bringing a little life into the interior of your home.

Most of the time when people look at new homes, they are drawn to the floor plan or its architectural lines, or maybe just the general feel of the place. But, the beauty of this small town home is more than skin deep. Beneath the surface there are systems that make the most of every energy dollar and every drop of water. The materials used are safe and they make wise use of the resources at hand. All in all, a great place to call home.

Well, I hope you enjoyed taking a look at this unique house. Bob and Jeremy did a great job on this thing. You know when you really start finding out more about green building products and practices and techniques, it can be a little bit hard to absorb all of it. And if you’re not able in your building and remodeling project to do everything they did on this house. If you embrace just a few of these ideas, you are making a step in the right direction.

Now, we have a lot more information on our website about this project, as well as other information that will allow you to go green. I’m Danny Lipford. I hope you enjoyed this week show, see you next week.