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Issue Date: July 2008

All About the Green

By Lori VALYKO Weber
More than just a pretty ranch with a vaulted-ceiling great room, this year’s Dream House sets a respectable standard by being a gold-certified green home. The YMCA, developer, builder, technicians and 15 designers produced a 2,700-square-foot Concord Township three-bedroom that is comfortable and environmentally responsible, incorporating sustainable materials, green building practices and renewable energy resources.

“There’s a strong trend now to be environmentally mindful during the building process,” says George Davis, owner and president of ProBuilt Homes, the Dream House builder. “Every year we work hard to wow people with our creativity, and this year we wanted to take the Dream House to the next level and showcase that our best work can be attractive as well as efficient and conscientiously built.”

ProBuilt has worked on the past three of the 15 Dream Houses and has incorporated green features into the project; but this year marks a teamwide effort. “Everyone pulled together and came up with effective, efficient designs, furnishings, textiles, floorings, décor, energy and water systems,” Davis says. “Even the chosen subdivision is a conservation development.”

All that collaboration resulted in the green rating from the Northeastern Ohio Green Building Initiative.

The developer, 20th Century Construction Co., provided the half-acre lot in Summerwood, a subdivision that could have put approximately 100 houses on one-acre lots, but opted for smaller lots so that 59 acres could remain undeveloped. This retained conservation park area was donated to Concord Township. Consequently, the homes are clustered in a smaller area, but because they sit next to the park, many actually have anywhere from 50 to 2,000 feet of adjacent open area. Developing on smaller lots uses fewer natural resources and construction materials.

“We didn’t have to run longer pipes, wires and other infrastructure elements,” says Tom Riebe, president of 20th Century Construction Co. “Plus, everyone gets the benefits of having a park right outside their door. It’s the best of both worlds. A subdivision that provides a family community, along with a natural park setting.”

Build Green and Save Green

Building green not only preserves natural resources, its efficiency helps homeowners’ budgets. Consider the HVAC system. Grace Geothermal is donating a $20,000 geothermal system for the Dream House, but the company’s president and owner, Tony Preziuso, says it will pay for itself within six to eight years, plus it will substantially reduce that family’s carbon footprint. Geothermal technology takes stored heat from the summer out of the ground and converts it into energy.

“From a green perspective, geothermal is the way to go,” he says. “It’s all electric, so there are no carbon emissions. It’s renewable and cuts power costs.” The system includes a solar attic fan that minimizes attic heat, thereby reducing air conditioning costs. To compare, an annual geothermal bill of $726 would translate to approximately $1,946 for natural gas and $3,074 for propane.

Wide walls provide the Dream House with an R-50 extra insulation opportunity, and all insulation materials come from recycled newspapers. “We used renewable resources everywhere we could and installed energy-saving devices and appliances,” Davis says. Framing and flooring materials are from sustainable forests. Joists are engineered I-beams that use less wood than their typical stud counterparts, and a truss roof uses less lumber as well. Compact fluorescent bulbs, LED lighting and federally certified Energy Star appliances also help save money and energy. The home’s cement siding uses less energy to produce than vinyl and also has a significantly longer lifespan.

The irrigation system senses when Mother Nature is taking care of the lawn, and does not deploy on its normal schedule when it’s raining. And, the Dream House’s three and a half bathrooms are equipped with low-flow toilets and efficient faucets. “But, people won’t know they’re conserving water when they use the showers,” Davis says. “Water pressure is still good. Even though we’re promoting efficiency, we’re not sacrificing comfort or quality.”

Davis and the design team worked together to choose not only sustainable building materials, but also ones that would create healthful indoor environmental quality conducive to keeping pure air. Even the drywall’s face is fiberglass, not paper that commonly harbors mold in damp conditions. “Many building materials give off volatile organic compounds [VOCs] that make people sick,” Davis says. “We were careful to select low-VOC-emitting varnishes, carpets, insulation, stains and other materials.” The Dream House’s ventilation system also helps keep air pure and circulating.

Repurposed Materials, First-Class Look

This year’s Dream House is designed for a busy couple with grown children. The master suite is on one end of the ranch and is separated from the two other bedrooms by the great room, kitchen/breakfast room, dining room, powder room, reading room and open space. A finished basement with a full bathroom and kitchen area provides indoor entertaining and accommodation possibilities, and the covered outdoor kitchen offers prime summertime party space with its grill, sink and refrigerator. Dramatic, energy-efficient windows are part of the architectural design, and allow passersby to see completely through the front entrance to the back yard. Other built-in features such as bookshelves, curved archways and cubbies add visual interest as well as practical storage.

Although the look is elegantly simple, its green design adds a whimsical mood. Some of the furniture pieces are second hand, and were picked up at thrift shops and then restored. The breakfast nook’s chairs, for instance, come from different sets but are refinished to match nature’s colors in the kitchen. Other familiarly timeless furnishings are new and certifiably eco-friendly.

Strange? It’s all part of the design, and taken as a whole, it works.

“Our designers really ran with this idea of doing what comes naturally,” says Beverly Nobles, design coordinator. “And it was challenging because they couldn’t just go around and buy everything and anything. It had to meet green standards. Even the detail work, fabrics and furnishings had to be eco-friendly. And it all came together beautifully. This is a wonderful Dream House.”

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