In today’s market, when you read any real estate or building magazine you will not get very far without coming across the term “Green Building”. This new “buzz” phrase describes what Michael C. Brown Custom Builder has been doing for over 12 years. We simply viewed the process as “Smart Building Practices” and doing what was best for our clients. It is a process of building homes that are healthy, more energy efficient, friendlier to the environment, and requiring less maintenance after the client moves in. By doing this, our clients live more comfortably, spend less money on utilities, enjoy higher resale values, and reduce their maintenance costs.
We were one of the first builders on the East coast to complete the certification classes in Building America (March 2003), The American Lung Association Health House Advantage Program (April 2003), and EarthCraft House (May 2007), which are all programs geared towards building more energy efficient, healthier homes which helps to limit the homes “carbon footprint”. Ultimately the extent of how “green” we build a house depends on the client. The following are some of the items that we have incorporated over the years.
· Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) – The use of insulated, steel reinforced concrete walls for crawl spaces, basements, and entire exterior house walls, which perform the equivalent of a R-50 fiberglass wall assembly. This assembly can reduce heating and cooling costs by 50%. We have been using the ICF construction since 1997.
· Tankless Water Heaters – A water heater system that can supply an ENDLESS amount of hot water on demand but, remains idle when there is no demand; therefore, no reheating of hot water that isn’t needed. We installed our first tankless water system in 2000.
· PVC Exterior Trim – We have been using this rot free product that eliminates costly repairs for clients down the road since 2000.
· High Efficiency HVAC System – We use properly sized equipment, which is tightly sealed to maximize performance. We also analyze various efficiency units vs. cost to determine the best value for the client. After the installation is complete we are able to perform a blower door and duct blaster test to confirm that the HVAC system and the house are properly sealed. We were the first builder in the area to test our homes this way in 1995.
· Geothermal HVAC – An HVAC system that utilizes the constant temperature of the ground to condition the home.
· Conditioned Crawl Spaces – An insulated and sealed crawl space that is designed to operate like a “mini” basement. This eliminates condensation and moisture issues in the crawlspace while creating an ideal climate controlled space for the HVAC lines to run. We introduced this concept to James City Codes Compliance and were instrumental in getting it accepted in 1997. It is now the recommended method for this area and is in the new IRC code book.
· Conditioned Attics – By insulating the rafter assembly and incorporating the attic into the thermal envelope of the house we are able to improve the efficiency of the house and make the attic a comfortable area for storage. This was another concept that we were instrumental in getting accepted by James City County Code Compliance and did our first Conditioned attic in 2000.
· High performance Insulation – When we are not using ICF walls then we insulate using cellulose insulation or sprayed foam insulation. Both products are designed to increase the air tightness of the house due to their density. This helps to keep the conditioned air from escaping to the outside. We switched from fiberglass insulation to these products in 1995.
· Engineered wood floor joists – These floor joists are manufactured from new growth timber and remain dimensionally stable, eliminate warping, minimize floor squeaks, and are capable of handling long spans.
· Energy Recovery Ventilators ERV – Especially when we are building an ICF house, we typically install an ERV unit which brings in fresh air and exhausts stale air. The benefit of this system is the conditioned inside air transfers its heat or cooling to the incoming exterior air.
· Low VOC Flooring – The use of flooring products that minimize off-gassing of toxic fumes, which improves indoor air quality.
· No VOC Paints – Paints that do not have Volatile Organic Compounds to improve the indoor air quality.