The term “Green Building or Building Green” is widely used in the construction industry today. Green is here to stay and is a part of every home we build for our clients. However, each project must be evaluated for the level of green construction that is appropriate. All green technology should have an associated return on investment that can be defined in terms of value to our clients.

The major segments of green construction include minimizing impact on the environment by:

• Utilizing recycled and recyclable materials
• Utilizing energy efficient materials
• Utilizing energy efficient building systems and technologies
• Conserving water and energy
• Providing a healthy interior environment
• Building more permanent, longer lasting structures

For some clients, building green is a sufficient justification to spend 20%, 30% or more extra budget to achieve the higher levels of green construction. In such cases, we work with Green Building Consultants to help evaluate the appropriate technologies for each project. We have recently completed only the second LEED Pilot Home project in the Houston area. The home is expected to receive a Gold Level certification. The home included the use of Structural Insulated Panels or (SIPs) for the walls and roof of the home, providing a superior envelope in terms of energy efficiency and strength. The project also included the use of solar water heating, rainwater capture systems, high SEER HVAC system, PEX plumbing system with Manablox manifold systems, etc.

At current prices, most, if not all, green building systems and materials add to the cost of construction and are evaluated to determine the economic value to the project. Wall systems such as “ICF” and “SIP” construction can add 5% to 15% to the cost of the home and must be justified based on energy savings, insurance savings, safety, resale value, etc. Generally, if you expect to live in your home 5 to 10 years, then these technologies become very viable. Lenders will also adjust their lending ratios to allow you to borrow more money to build a home if commensurate savings in operating costs are achieved.

We are strong advocates that you should put your “green money” into building the best envelope of the home, paying attention to the energy efficiency of the wall and ceiling systems, the type of insulation, the quality of windows and doors as well as the orientation of the home and landscaping to minimize heat gain from the sun. You should then look at the quality and SEER ratings of the HVAC system and ensure that a quality contractor has done an optimal design of the system based on the envelope of the home and the lifestyle of the family. It is critical to use extremely competent HVAC suppliers when dealing with the tighter, better insulated homes that we build. The HVAC system must be properly designed to cool and heat properly, but also to introduce fresh air into the home and to control humidity. Remember, the “greenest energy” is energy that you never use. Design and build with this in mind.

The HVAC system should include programmable smart thermostats and should control temperature and humidity settings. These smart thermostats should be integrated with the home automation system and programmed for day and night modes, at home and away modes, summer and winter modes and other modes that match the lifestyles of the families.

We are constantly evaluating and implementing new technologies and materials for green building and believe every project should be analyzed for the appropriate level of green design and construction.