Small Town Green: Building an Energy Efficient Home
By: Danny Lipford
This 3,600-square-foot, eco-friendly home in Fairhope, Alabama, was developed by architect Bob Chatham of the Chatham Design Group and builder Jeremy Friedman of Kaloosa Builders to showcase practical green building techniques.
The Fairhope Green Home Project is the first house in the state to receive Gold Certification from the National Association of Home Builders Green Building Program which requires standards for water conservation, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and the use of sustainable and recycled materials. Due to all the energy efficient techniques used in the home, the power bill is expected to average only a bit over $70 a month.
Advantages of a Green Home
While it costs more to construct an energy efficient home, there are many benefits to be gained from the additional investment including:
- Lower utility bills to operate the home.
- Health benefits from improved air quality.
- Overall positive benefits for the environment as a whole.
Heart pine flooring resawn from old beams.
Using Recycled Materials
Recycled materials—including heart pine flooring sawn from old beams and doors made from antique cypress—are an important component of the home. A pecan tree that had to be removed from the site was sawn into lumber at a small local sawmill for use as beams and mantels in the house. In addition to custom sawing, Roy Hyde, the operator of the sawmill, also fashions the wood he cuts into unique furniture and millwork.
Handmade furniture made from salvaged trees by woodworker Roy Hyde.
Environmentally Friendly Sheathing
The walls and roof were sheathed with the Zip System from Huber Engineered Woods, which is made from wood certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. The panels are covered with a moisture resistant coating and joints between them are sealed with formaldehyde free adhesive strips. This not only makes for very tight house construction but eliminates the need for house wrap and felt paper.
Zip System wall and roof sheathing from Huber Engineered Woods
Geothermal Heat Pump
A geothermal heat pump made by WaterFurnace was installed to heat and cool the Fairhope Green Home Project. Geothermal heat pumps extract heat from water pumped from wells, making them much more efficient than standard air source heat pumps. The excess heat generated by geothermal pumps can also be used to provide much of the hot water in the home.
Foam Insulation for Energy Efficiency
To further reduce the home’s heating and cooling bills, Icynene Foam Insulation was sprayed in the walls and between the rafters in the attic. This can reduce the heating and cooling loss by 60% to 70%. The additional cost of foam insulation is recouped by energy savings in 3-5 years for new construction.
When using standard fiberglass insulation to insulate your home, be sure a face the paper or foil vapor barrier toward the inside of the home (down in attics, up under floors) to prevent condensation from occurring. If an additional layer of fiberglass insulation is applied to your attic, use unfaced insulation on top of the existing insulation.
Reducing Building Waste
Every effort was made to make the actual building process as eco-friendly as possible. This included a waste management plan that recycled or reused over 70% of the waste created on the jobsite. Any remaining scrap lumber was ground up and used as mulch around the home.
Waste wood being ground into mulch for use in planting beds.
Other eco-friendly aspects of the landscaping for the home included the use of native plants, which are better suited to the local environment and require less water, pesticides, and fertilizer. A permeable base of reclaimed concrete was installed under the flagstone patio to allow it to serve as a natural drainage area for the backyard. Mondo grass was planted between the stones to further increase absorbency.
Pervious flagstone patio planted with mondo grass.
The SmartLine irrigation system from Weathermatic employs water saving sprinkler heads and has a built-in weather station that monitors the moisture in the air to reduce unnecessary watering.
Conserving water was an important consideration inside the home as well. Low-flow sinks and showerheads where used throughout the kitchen and bathrooms, along with water saving dual-flush toilets.
Even the furnishings in the home were made from environmentally friendly materials. Rugs made use of vegetable dyes while furniture was constructed using soy based cushions covered by natural fabrics such as linen, cotton, and bamboo.
- Plans for the Fairhope Green Home Project can be viewed or purchased at the Chatham Design Group website.
- Additional information about the Fairhope Green Home Project is available on the Green Building in Fairhope website.
- Find a wealth of information on eco-friendly living at Your Green Home.
Watch Videos from This Episode
- Foam Insulation Increases Energy Efficiency in Your Home
- How to Install Fiberglass Insulation in Your Attic
- Geothermal Heat Pumps for Energy Efficient Heating and Cooling
- How to Choose Environmentally Friendly Furnishings for Your Home
- Environmentally Friendly Landscaping for Your Home
Other Tips from This Episode
Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
DIY Rain Barrel
This homemade rain barrel to recycle rainwater for use in your lawn and garden is an easy do-it-yourself project that costs less than $50. Start by drilling a hole in a large garbage can near the bottom and attach an outside faucet to it. Next, cut a hole in the top that fits a drainage grate to filter out any debris. Use cable ties to hold the lid on securely, then set the barrel on concrete blocks next to the house under the gutter, and direct the downspout into it. Attach a hose to the faucet to water the plants in your yard. (Watch This Video)
Best New Products with Jodi Marks:
Exterior Multi-Surface Cleaner
Thompson’s Exterior Multi-Surface Cleaner with oxy-foaming action is formulated to remove dirt, mildew, and other stains from a variety of outside surfaces including wood and composite decks, concrete, masonry, and even some fabrics. The powerful oxygen cleaner contains no bleach, making it gentle on surfaces. Apply with a pump up sprayer or watering can and then allow 5-10 minutes for the cleaner to soak. Scrub the surface with a stiff brush, then rinse it off with a hose. Thompson’s Exterior Cleaner is available at The Home Depot. (Watch This Video)
Thinking Green with Danny Lipford:
Natural lighting in homes can have a positive influence on our mood while reducing the energy used by artificial lighting. To increase the natural light in your home, install mirrors in strategic locations to reflect sunlight to other parts of the room. For areas with little or no natural light, tubular skylights can be installed in the ceiling to provide a source of natural light.
(Watch This Video)