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Tips on Eco-Friendly Green Home Building


We visit an energy efficient, eco-friendly neighborhood in Atlanta for tips on how to save energy and water, use green building materials and methods, and live a healthier lifestyle. Watch this video to find out more. ...More




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Tips on Eco-Friendly Green Home Building

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Find out about the Glenwood Park neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia, which embraces eco-friendly, green building practices that are:

  • Energy efficient
  • Conserve water
  • Improve indoor air quality

Watch this video to find out more.

Read episode article to find out more.

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Danny Lipford: This week we’re in Atlanta, Georgia stepping up to a new level of construction.

Danny Lipford: Over the last 20 years Americans have become far more environmentally aware, and that awareness has extended far beyond just recycling a few soft drink bottles and cans to the way we approach building homes. This week we’re going to look at the green building concept and how it aims to really minimize the impact that building homes has on our environment.

Now that can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people and we’re going to explore a number of different ideas including how to increase the energy efficiency of your home and how to use the right materials and the right processes to really minimize that impact. Now we’re just minutes away from downtown Atlanta and we’re about to go through an entire community of green homes. Stay with us.

Danny Lipford: The stairway just really flows together well Jim. This week we’re looking at different ways to build or remodel being more environmentally conscience and to help us out this week Jim Hackler with Green Builder Magazine. Jim this is the type of home that I envision when I think of a green built home.

Jim Hackler: Yeah most people think oh it’s made from recycled tires and straw bales and it looks like a spaceship. But the reality is you can be environmental and have a beautiful house.

Danny Lipford: Well I know the idea of building green has kind of changed a little bit over the last few years. What is considered let’s say the definition of a green built home these days?

Jim Hackler: Well this house actually really showcases a lot of things that you look for in an environmental home is basically the same thing you look for in any house.

Danny Lipford: Ok.

Jim Hackler: That the house is very energy efficient, that it is quieter, it’s actually right next to downtown and you don’t hear the traffic or anything outside. Some other features, you use materials that are going to last longer so it’s more durable.

Danny Lipford: Right.

Jim Hackler: And then it’s healthier inside. Indoor air quality’s one of the big concerns and you tend to get better air inside.

Danny Lipford: Well with the interstate being so close there and you can’t hear it all, and of course that’s great when you have that acoustic barrier that you have with a home that’s built this tight and this well, but I bet the homeowners are really happy with this thing.

Kim Miller: We weren’t even aware of the neighborhood at first but knew there was a development in Atlanta near the city that was supposed to be this green properties and the homes looked old. I can remember looking at the first picture of this house and going are you sure that that’s a brand new home to the realtor because it actually looked like it had been in existence for a long time, especially with the porch and the old yellow brick. And then when we first pulled in here and saw the park and the development we knew this was the right place to be.

Mitch Miller: This is actually our sixth house that we’ve owned and I think what we really liked about this area is what was the house, was kind of the combination of old and new. We really liked the old classic southern homes and we came from a home that was built back in the 1920s that we renovated to make ultra modern. So our idea was are we better to have an old house that we make new or have a new house that looks old, and I think we decided that the new that looks old is the way to go.

You know you buy a house and you start to learn the processes of the house and this house definitely had a lot more things in it. I love my outdoor, I love my landscaping and I spend a lot of time landscaping, and I’ve got a trip irrigation that runs through that waters everything automatically for me. The solar panels are another thing, so you start to see all these things in the house and you see all this technology and you’re like, oh my God I have to learn all this stuff, I have to be an expert on solar panels.

And really the answer’s no. It just runs itself and that’s kind of the beauty of really all the energy things in the house itself. Nothing really has to be maintained by the owner, everything is automatic for us.

Danny Lipford: I understand the Millers have been in the house about 6 months. I would guess by now they probably are realizing how energy efficient this home is.

Jim Hackler: That’s right Danny last night here in Atlanta we went down to the low 30s and Mitch told me they didn’t even had to turn on their heat.

Danny Lipford: Well that’s a good test of how efficient the house is, but a lot of technology kind of a high end approach here. But you really don’t have to have that to really have a green home do you.

Jim Hackler: That’s so important for people to realize that you can have a green home that’s high end, affordable, or you can even have a renovation that’s made more environmentally sensitive.

Danny Lipford: OK, some of the simple things I guess that we use on almost any addition or any renovation really plays into this.

Jim Hackler: Right like windows.

Danny Lipford: Uh huh.

Jim Hackler: These windows here, double paned, they have the glazing that’s called Low E and they’re filled with argon gas that makes them a little more energy efficient but…

Danny Lipford: I see.

Jim Hackler: But really good, good practical things that you can put into your house, compact fluorescents. This is something easy that you can switch out, very energy efficient, and they’ll last for years.

Danny Lipford: And they don’t have the build up of heat that you have with the incandescent bulbs.

Jim Hackler: Exactly, energy star appliances, any of the stores you can go out to, look for those and the top of the line for helping save energy and water as well.

Danny Lipford: I recognize this thing…

Jim Hackler: That’s right.

Danny Lipford: We changed a lot of these out, the programmable thermostat, that helps a lot.

Jim Hackler: That’s such a no-brainer in fact I just switched mine out a couple weeks ago and if I can do it anybody can do it.

Danny Lipford: Now what about some of the other technology here within this house because this is a little more complex than some tradition homes of course.

Jim Hackler: This is a show home and there are some really cool, sexy technologies. For example they collect their rain water and then they actually have a satellite system that is able to tap into the forecast so that they don’t water the lawns on…

Danny Lipford: Wow.

Jim Hackler: …when we’re expecting rain. Some other things, tankless hot water heaters, they’re energy efficient and save on water. And another thing too is they have what’s called open cell foam insulation. This serves as insulation as well as air sealant, which means that you don’t have the drafts that you might get in some other homes.

Danny Lipford: Well there’s a lot to know about green building and we’ll have more for you coming up next.

Joe Truini: The best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten from a professional painter was to buy the very best brushes you can afford. Now good paint brushes are expensive but if you take care of them they’ll last you a lifetime.

Now, to make a brush last a lifetime though, the first rule is you have to clean it thoroughly after each and every use. But to make that job even easier, what I’ve discovered is if you prepare the brush before you use it, it makes clean up really quick and easy. In this case I’m going to take some masking tape, this is blue painter’s tape, about one and a half inches wide.

I’m going to wrap it around the metal ferrule which is the band that joins the handle to the bristles. I’m going to wrap it around the ferrule, overlapping the bristles by about a quarter of an inch or so. And what that’s going to do is prevent paint from seeping up and getting stuck in that joint between the metal and bristles. Because when you dip it into the can the paint will get in there and dry, and it’ll be hard to clean it up because the next time you go to use the brush the little dried paint chips will break off into your new paint finish.

So when you’re done painting just peel this off and what you’ll discover is that you have a perfectly clean joint between the ferrule and the bristles. Then you just clean the brush and store it properly and you’ll be ready to use on your next project.

Danny Lipford: This week we’re looking at the strong building trend of building green and to help me out on this show, Jim Hackler with Green Builder magazine. Jim what a porch on the front of this house.

Jim Hackler: Isn’t this wonderful? And what a lot of people don’t realize is the wrap around porches you have in the south were really to shade the windows so you didn’t get as hot during the summer.

Danny Lipford: Right, right. And I can see they’ve used a lot of high quality materials with composite decking and the different columns. I guess that’s part of green building as well.

Jim Hackler: The durability, low maintenance, it’s all part of the story.

Danny Lipford: Now I understand that all of these houses were built with that green approach.

Jim Hackler: They’re certified under Atlanta’s green building program called Earth Craft House it’s similar to a number of green building rating systems that are across the country. And another wonderful story about this community is that it used to be an industrial sight, in fact the soil was so contaminated with metal shavings they had to ship most of it out. But what the developers had in mind was to create this sense of community in this wonderful neighborhood.

Walter Brown: And what we started with was 100% concrete coverage out here, we recycled about 120 million pounds of concrete, used it in all of our roads, under ground, and so forth. And that began the process of turning this into Glenwood Park that you see today.

We’re here at what we call our central park, this is actually Glenwood Park, it’s also a storm water park. And the pond in the distance there is used to collect all the rain water that falls on the streets here and we have a well that’s dug beside that. And between the well and the pond we’re able to use about 1.5 million gallons a year for irrigation at Glenwood Park. We don’t use any city water for irrigation. That’s a very important feature to us.

We also clean all the water before it goes back into the system and it also is flood control and the field could in a huge flood actually inundate itself up to the little playground over here and then it would drain quickly back down. Many features are built into Glenwood Park that we consider green. The sidewalk that we’re walking on right now is actually 50% recycled material using slag and fly ash. And that’s a very green product that anyone can select it’s called a ternary mix.

Also, the houses that you see are part of the story. Every one of them is built to a local green building standard called Earth Craft and that typically translates to about a 20 to 30 percent reduction in energy use in the home, a little less water use, as well as better indoor air quality, tighter construction. A lot of cellulose and foam sprays are used to really make sure these homes are very, very tight.

Well, I think what we’re most excited about having done Glenwood Park and getting near it’s termination in development is how successful it’s been from the community perspective. People really seem to love living here and they keep telling us over and over again you know I moved from another neighborhood, even some in town neighborhoods, or suburban neighborhoods, where I didn’t know my neighbors and here they know everybody.

Yes, the houses are closer together; they’re brought closer to the street intentionally, with porches lining the street. You can’t avoid your neighbor here. You know if you’re going to be a recluse you don’t want to live here because these people interact constantly with each other. They have conversations together, they meet in the park, and it’s part of the story of the redeveloping the inner core of Atlanta. But we think we’ve been able to put it together in a very positive way here, and we’re very excited about that.

Danny Lipford: Boy I could really get used to this, having your favorite coffee shop and other stores just within walking distance of a house that just makes a lot of sense.

Jim Hackler: It’s hard to believe we’re only a block away from Mitch’s house. It’s part of a growing trend across the country it’s called traditional neighborhood development, the idea behind it is creating neighborhoods like they used to be before we had automobiles.

Danny Lipford: Right.

Jim Hackler: In fact Georgia Tech has a study where they find people who live in these neighborhoods are 20% less likely to use their car ,which of course means saving gas and we’re helping out the environment.

Danny Lipford: Plus you save a lot of time instead of looking at the windshield for several hours a day you’re able to enjoy this. Now we spoke to Walter earlier he talked about how they use a lot of recycled materials in some of the common spaces, I know that’s also a big part of green building.

Jim Hackler: It certainly is. In the house that we were in the hardwood floors are actually made from reclaimed lumber and the driveway is made from ground up asphalt where it’s in a pebble form that allows the water to percolate through so you don’t have storm water problems.

Danny Lipford: Oh ok, I guess that helps a lot. Now what are some of the other aspects about green building that they’ve embraced around here?

Jim Hackler: Here’s one of the favorite one of most homeowners is durability; it means you don’t have to spend a lot of time painting you house or maintaining it. A number of the homes here have features like fiber cement.

Danny Lipford: Mhmm.

Jim Hackler: What’s great about that? Termites can’t eat it.

Danny Lipford: Right.

Jim Hackler: You paint it, the paint lasts sometimes 15 to 20 years.

Danny Lipford: Yeah we’re seeing that being used all over the place and of course the durability of brick and stucco, you can’t really beat that. Hey Jim thanks for showing us around this neighborhood and kind of getting us up to date on some of these green building practices and hey thanks for a pretty good cup of coffee too.

Jim Hackler: My pleasure.

Danny Lipford: More and more homeowners are choosing natural stone for their countertop, but these selections come with a little higher price tag. Now you can get the look of these luxury surfaces with a laminate. Wilsonart high definition laminate has subtle variations in both a matte and gloss finish on the material, so it looks as though it has the same depth and texture that you would see with some of the natural stone surface. But because it’s a laminate it’s more affordable so you really can get the look for a lot less.

Now here’s a laminate that has a wear resistance that’s three times the industry standard; so you’re free to cook, clean, raise children, spill, and basically live in your kitchen. The surface is also non-porous; so unlike other costly surfaces, you won’t need to reseal your countertops from time to time. And the price depends on how much you need and the type of edge treatment that you select, but generally it runs around $25 per square foot installed.

Danny Lipford: This week we’re looking at the concept of building green, and we’re in a community where all of the homes are considered green homes. Even this park area has recycled granite that was salvaged from buildings in downtown Atlanta, even a little graffiti left over on the face of some of the pieces. Now this trend is so popular it kind of begs for a national standard on what really constitutes a green home. That’s exactly what the folks at the US Green Building Council thought so they developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, or LEED.

Laura Uhde: LEED for homes is an important certification because it provides a national standard for all homes to adhere to that ensure that the house has taken into account how this home is going to impact the society, the environment, and generations to come. So by obtaining the LEED for home certification you are documenting to the homeowner what steps you’ve taken to improve the house, the home’s durability, quality, and its impact on the environment.

Danny Lipford: An architecturally designed home really has some very distinctive features and the services of an architect can really help you obtain that level and that look that you really want for the outside of your home but the same is true for the interior. Maybe a kitchen or a bath or that special designer look on the interior is well worth the professional services that are available. Now if you want to win the best yard in your neighborhood think about a landscape architect as well, but have you ever heard of an eco-designer?

Jillian Cooke: Well, the difference between an eco-sensitive designer and a regular designer is that an eco-sensitive designer really has taken the time to respect the environment and teach and educate our clients. What that means is through different products and resources that are available to us. If you have an eco-sensitive environment you should have a healthy environment as well and that’s basically just making sure that you have low toxins in everything that you use or no toxins at all.

Eco-sensitive paint is a perfect example of that. Inclusive of the different resources that we might be bringing into the home that might be different types of wood, making sure they’re grown in a controlled environment, that they’re stamped by the forestry department as being sustainable. Really it is a team effort but I would say the builder and the designer probably are the ones that drive the bus in terms of getting everyone on board and making sure that they’re all thinking in a certain way.

Danny Lipford: This Atlanta home which is being built on the LEED standard is Jillian’s latest project and it features some really unique green elements like recycled drywall, veneer doors made from pressed wheat, cabinets made from eucalyptus grass, and systems that save tons on energy. But how do builders and subcontractors who use these materials feel about this trend?

Jerome Rossetti: Most everybody gets an education on the job every day anyway so my subs are receptive for using the new products. Some of them roll their eyes at first and let’s say usually they say this is not even more difficult to use than the standard product so. I mean this house has been kind of a learning situation for a lot of the subs but it’s worked out well.

Danny Lipford: The environmental awareness that green building generates has even changed the way job sites operate. This machine called Grindzilla recycles scrap building materials like lumber and drywall. It grinds up the wasted material and removes the nails and screws so that the resulting mulch can be used for erosion control or as soil amendments right on the jobsite.

John Ulitsch: What we do is we divert about 70% of the waste by weight out on a builder’s site and we turn their waste into product so that the builders can use it supplement some of the cost. In turn we divert all that material from going in a landfill which costs everybody money going to landfill in their taxes.

Danny Lipford: One thing I really like about this community is there are so many different architectural styles within this neighborhood and that just illustrates how you don’t have to compromise on design or style to have a home that’s considered green. And these guys must be doing something right because most of these houses sell before they’re ever even completed.

Trisha Craven Worley: There are lots of reasons that you need to trim or prune a tree and actually it’s one of my favorite jobs in the garden. Now this particular tulip tree, you know it has a mind of its own like so many trees. Up here unfortunately it has a dead branch and I’m going to get to that in just a little while. But there are a lot of branches that cross over and that’s really not very good for the tree.

I removed this one a little bit earlier, so that I could get to this long branch. Now I have already removed some of the weight out here and I also cut it into 3 foot lengths because in my area we don’t have collection right at the curb, we have to do it in bundles and then it’s picked up for recycling.

Now, one of the reasons you want to reduce that weight is when you get to this point you don’t want the weight hanging on the limb. Because when you make your final cut close to the trunk you want to make sure it’s nice and clean and if you have that weight holding it down it’s going to have tendency to pull the branch and that might cause it to tear, tearing leads to disease. And what you want is a healthy tree.

Danny Lipford: Mitch and Kim have a great looking house and isn’t it neat this whole community has embraced green building practices. Now green building will cost you just a little bit more, 10 to 15%, but just think how much better it is for our environment and how much these folks will be saving every month on their utility bill.

Hey, we want to thank the folks here in Glenwood Park for allowing us to see their vision for the future of building.

I’m Danny Lipford, we’ll see you next week.