Teran Residence – the green design

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There was no direction offered by the client with regard to their green perceptions or expectations. In fact, there was little green discussion whatsoever, other than leaving it up to the project team to design and incorporate responsible green strategies into their new home. As we inform all clients, in the end, local building codes, prerequisites and durability items addressed by the LEED for Homes Green Building Rating System and quality construction practices take care of the vast majority of what is needed to deliver an entry level green home. Toss in a few optional sustainable credits and the builder will deliver to their client a LEED Certified home. However, this only turns the keys over to the client for a high performance green home. The new homeowner must understand, as with a new car, they have to learn how to drive and maintain it in order to achieve the performance over time they expected when they made their purchase decision. Drive irresponsibly without performing maintenance on that new car, and the owner will likely be disappointed and blame the car for not performing to the level of their expectations. A high performance green home is no different. It is essential that the builder provide sufficient education to the new homeowner as to their responsibilities.

Aside from performing the customary first take of the Project Checklist to analyze the probability of achieving all the mandated rating system prerequisites, a quick check of all the given credits, aka low hanging fruit, will establish the current credit tally. This is used to compare to the required credit points that must be achieved in order for the project to be certified at the targeted level.

A quality builder will generally always install higher performing doors and windows, upgrade mechanical equipment such as the heating and air conditioning systems, as well as the water heater. All exhaust fans are vented to the exterior and faucets, showerheads and toilets are upgraded to water efficient devices. Keep the exterior grade sufficiently below the top of the foundation and oversee proper weatherproofing systems like flashing, water or moisture proofing poured concrete foundation walls, foundation drainage, hurricane hold-down straps for the truss to top plate connection, increased insulation and caulking. A typical days’ work for any quality builder.

However, there will be some credits that may not be included in the builder’s usual and customary product. We picked up a credit point for installing a coat rack and bench in the Garage at the entry point to the Laundry Room, all flooring within 3 feet of major entry points is hard surface hardwood or ceramic, no use of interior wall studs for HVAC ducting and low VOC interior paints and coatings. These are items that can be easily done. Now, we just need to see how many of these additional points we need to pick up.

From the beginning, the intent of seeking LEED certification was to receive the tax abatement offered by the city. However, as previously stated, the fact is that basic LEED certification requires little more than code compliance in most communities and good, sound construction policies. With this in mind, designers, builders and clients should consider that small extra step and employ green building principles into the project for green certification. 

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