Green Building

Over the years Dan has managed and overseen multiple building projects from large scale room additions and remodeling projects to multi-million dollar Type I construction projects.

Dan enjoys learning and educating others in new technological advances in building science and is well versed in the design and installation of energy efficient, high performance building systems for homes. Dan was excited about green building long before it became a new
marketing trend.

He has incorporated state of the art systems such as geo-thermal heat pumps and radiant floor heating systems powered by high efficient boilers and less expensive dual fuel systems managed by computer automated zone controls and energy management controls that automatically manage electricity usage.

He believes there are at least four main and extremely important features pertaining to energy efficiency which he takes into account on
each project.

1. Building Orientation How a house is oriented makes a significant difference in managing heating and air conditioning throughout different seasons of the year.

2. Building Perimeter (building envelope) Another important aspect of a home is the building perimeter or building envelope. A builder must show great care by providing a home with a proper rain plane using proper building wraps and flashing techniques, proper sealing to eliminate wind and air to enter the envelope, strategic rated windows, and a well-designed insulation system and proper strategies to prevent moisture problems.

3. Engineered HVAC System (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) Investing time and money to professionally design, size, and test the heating, cooling, and ventilation systems in a home will save plenty of money and comfort over the life of a home.

4. Energy Efficient Lighting – The average home owner spends over 20% of the energy budget on lighting alone. With the advancements of compact fluorescent and LED lighting you can save much money employing efficient light sources.

Say goodbye to the green home of the 20th Century simplistic, ultra modern and cold; and meet the 21st Century green home, a stylish, healthy, high-performance home perfectly suited for any lifestyle.

We were featured in Carolina Living Magazine

Economic Benefits

• Reduced Material Consumption
• Lower Energy Costs
• Lower Water Bills
• Low maintenance Due to Durability
• Increased Home Value
• Potential Lower Insurance Costs
• Potential Tax Credits & Incentives

Divine Design

A lot of horse power and snazzy looks.This is how Dan Steward, who has been building luxury custom green homes for more than 26 years, describes a green home.

Mr. Steward, who moved, with his wife, Eva, to Asheville from California in 2005, found himself in a rapidly-growing green building industry in the mountains of western North Carolina.

As Mr. Steward has found, contrary to popular belief, homeowners do not have to give up the personal style and luxuries that they have come to expect in order to build a green home. In the past, a green home could be spotted a block away by its simple design and unmistakable bank of solar panels on the roof. The problem was that not everyone is comfortable with this minimalist design. Fortunately, today nearly any architectural style – traditional or modern, Georgian or Tudor can be built green. The green features are subtle (and often desirable) such as simple awnings and large porches for shade and durable building materials such as copper or steel roofing and brick walls.

Whether French Country or you name it a green home doesn’t have to be contemporary, says Mr. Steward. We like to build homes that are green but don’t look green, he continues, Any style home can be designed to be efficient.

With more than two decades of experience, Mr. Steward has come to realize that not everyone looking for a green home realizes it at first. I see green building as high-performance building, he explains. There are a lot of people looking for high-performance homes, and when we get involved we can explain how a high-performance home is really a green home, and then we can show them how they can continue to make improvements and help the bottom line. It’s just the beginning.

Building a high-performance home, however, does require extensive planning. But this extra attention to detail can really pay off.

In a recent project, Mr. Steward installed a state-of-the-art geothermal heating system for a home. Also called a ground-source heat pump, this system, most simply, pulls heat energy from below ground to maintain a homes temperature. Rather than taking in freezing air during the winter and heating it. . . air [from below ground] is an average of 55 degrees, Mr. Steward explains.

It doesn’t take a scientist to understand that heating a home to a comfortable 72 degrees will require less energy if you start with air that is 55 degrees rather than freezing temperatures. Likewise, in the summer, the system reverses and cools the home using the cooler underground temperatures rather than the outdoor heat. As Mr. Steward foresees, This is going to radically impact the environment and energy bills.

Building Green

After careful research and consideration, you make the decision to build a green home. Now what?

There are numerous shades of green to building a home, which is often initially confusing to homeowners. While working with an experienced green homebuilder can be extremely beneficial, it is not absolutely necessary. One of the most convenient methods in which to guarantee that you are building a green home is to build it to meet a set of criteria designed by a green certification program. The following are the most notable ones in the Carolinas:

LEED for Homes: The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Rating System (commonly known as LEED) is perhaps the most widely recognized standard for building green in the country. Until recently, the USGBC only defined standards for commercial buildings. Now, however, a new LEED for Homes pilot program is currently under development and will publicly launch in 2007. A home can qualify for one of four levels of certification (Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum) based on a points system. The more green the home, the more points it earns. For more information, visit: www.usgbc.org

EarthCraft House: EarthCraft House, a well-established residential green home rating system, actually served as the model for the new LEED for Homes program. Developed by the Southface Energy Institute and the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association, EarthCraft educates both homeowners and the residential homebuilding industry on environmentally responsible practices. In the Carolinas EarthCraft is increasingly becoming an industry standard. For more information, visit: www.southface.org

ENERGY STAR: In addition to rating the efficiency of individual appliances and products, ENERGY STAR also affixes its blue star of approval on homes that meet energy efficiency guidelines defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. ENERGY STAR accreditation signifies at least a 15 percent improvement in energy efficiency over the current energy code, and homes are often rated by ENERGY STAR in conjunction with other forms of certification. For more information, visit: www.energystar.gov

HealthyBuilt: Across the country there are numerous localized green building certification programs. One example in the Carolinas is the North Carolina HealthyBuilt Homes Program. NC HealthyBuilt Homes primarily works with small- to medium-sized builders across North Carolina, offering certification similar to the national programs. For more information, visit: healthybuilthomes.org

To officially receive one of the above green certifications, homes must first pass inspections by certified inspectors. These inspections typically carry a fee that varies by the program, size of the home, rating level pursued and additional factors. However, this is a valuable assurance for the homeowner that their home is as high-performance as was planned and many builders appreciate the double check.

Elements of a Green Home

Innovations in green building technologies are immeasurable, with researchers developing new green products and strategies each day. Consequently, there is a vast array of areas in which a home can be designed to be green.

Sustainable Community: If you desire to be steadfast to the principles of a green home, consider building it within a sustainable community. These forward-thinking neighborhoods strive to strike a balance between the natural systems of the area and the new homes. Every effort is taken to preserve natural resources while enhancing the community with pedestrian-friendly tree-lined streets, bike trails and sidewalks, thus creating inviting outdoor spaces. To reduce car trips, some communities incorporate shops and small cafes within walking and biking distance from homes.

Solar Orientation: Sitting your home on its home site refers to orienting your home to true south to take advantage of the sun’s natural path across the sky. In winter the southern sun helps to warm your home, and the exposure is particularly important if you have solar panels. Although not every home site will afford this orientation, attempt to get as close as you can.

Storm water Management: Storm water runoff from sidewalks and driveways and can be funneled into underground storage tanks where it is filtered and gradually absorbed into the ground, drastically reducing the need for elaborate sprinkler systems. On a simpler scale, rainwater runoff from roofs can be funneled into birdbaths or storage barrels to later be used for watering plants.

Size Matters: As a general rule, less is more. . . more green, that is. The larger the home the more energy it requires to operate. Reduce your home’s footprint on its home site by building up rather than out (if you don’t like climbing the stairs, consider installing an elevator). Small trade-offs, such as building the garage under another part of the house, can make a big impact by leaving more of the home site untouched.

Recycling: A green home may incorporate a diverse selection of products actually made from recycled materials, and due to modern innovations in production, they may be difficult to spot. Everything from carpet to countertops to hardware can be made from recycled objects. Continue the sequence by recycling construction waste (this is particularly important with home renovations). An easy example: Any trees cut down during construction can be turned into firewood or mulch for landscaping.

Solar Power: If you don’t think that solar panels fit into the architectural design of your home, think again. New breakthroughs in solar panel design offer the option to use a collection of small panels that resemble roofing tiles, seamlessly blending in with your roof.

North Carolina residents who choose to install solar panels to generate electricity even have the option to plug directly into the local power company’s grid (rather than installing expensive batteries to store electricity). With this arrangement, the utility company credits the homeowner for the electricity created as measured by the utility meter. In the event that more electricity is created than the homeowner uses, the utility meter will actually run in reverse.

Home Envelope: A vital step in making a home energy efficient is reducing uncontrolled air leakage. Innovative foundation systems insulate the actual foundation and lower floors of a home, as do state-of-the-art low-E (low emissivity) windows that improve the insulation value of the window itself. For the remaining exterior walls, increasing the R-value (resistance to heat flow) of insulation increases thermal performance and energy efficiency. Spray foam insulation, which is literally sprayed within a wall cavity as foam, expands into every nook and crevice, tightly sealing all corners. (Editor’s Note: When homes are built air-tight, controlled ventilation is typically added to maintain indoor air quality.)

Durable roofing systems: such as steel or fiber cement rarely need to be replaced in a lifetime (experts refer to this trait as being sustainable) and suit a variety of design styles. Incorporating subtle overhangs over windows and doors and covered porches (a most popular Southern home accessory!) further protects your home against the elements.

Landscaping: In order to honor your community’s sustainable design, make your landscaping sustainable as well. Planting native species of plants and other drought resistant varieties (called xeriscaping) as well as minimizing grassy lawn areas reduces irrigation needs, saving water (and money). Plus, native plants are less likely to die another money saver. Tree and shrub selection and placement can also decrease energy usage by protecting the home from sunlight and wind. Finally, don’t forget natural pest control options, including that for termites and mosquitoes.

Only the Beginning: There are hundreds of other green products and practices that can be incorporated into your home. Please visit this Website often to read a constantly-growing collection of in-depth articles and resource directories focused on all things green in the Carolinas.

Kristen E. Fischer has worked in magazines, newspapers, marketing and corporate communications. She has contributed to a variety of projects, from an award-winning newspaper special section on veterans to the 2006 Southern Living-Progressive Farmer Idea House. Now a resident of Columbia, S.C., Kristen earned her BA in Communications Studies from Furman University in Greenville, S.C.