We’re all in this together, and as homeowners today try to make sense of all the green home madness, they need all the help they can get. Aspiring green homeowners have numerous questions – “Can I afford it? “Will it actually help the environment?” and “Where do I start?”
Yes. Yes. And right here.
When seeking inspiration and direction, it’s often helpful to hear from other people who have already tackled building green at home. Nearly always you find happy homeowners, relishing their beautiful, efficient and healthy high-performance homes.
LAKE BOWEN GREEN HOME
“Gael has been designing this home for over 60 years,” says Gary Scott, of his wife, from the comfort of their new green home on Lake Bowen, a 1,600-acre lake in the Upstate of South Carolina. “It’s a collection of the best of all of the homes we’ve lived in and all of the homes we’ve visited over the years.” With such careful thought and planning, it’s no wonder that their dream retirement home turned out so well.
“Every day we wake up in the morning and even before we look out at the beautiful lake we think about how amazing our home is,” says Mr. Scott.
The couple always knew they wanted their home to be green. “We were very aware that this would be our last home and we were determined to get it right;” says Mr. Scott, “it’s truly our legacy for our grandchildren.” After 12 years of searching for the right homesite, the dream really began to materialize when the couple partnered with their builder, Compass Homes.
Compass, which is based out of Greenville, S.C., is committed to building custom homes that have minimal environmental impact and is certified to build both ENERGY STAR and EarthCraft-certified homes, which are two popular green building certification programs (others include LEED for Homes, NC HealthyBuilt or Environments for Living®). Compass even has a Certified Green Professional on staff, Dave Awde, to guide homeowners through the process. Mr. Awde served as the general contractor for Mr. and Mrs. Scott’s home. “We had good synergy with Dave from the start,” recalls Mr. Scott. “Compass really puts the customer first, and also the environment, ahead of their own needs,” he says. Mrs. Scott somewhat disagrees, “I think they put the environment first,” she laughs.
Either way, they both agree that it was both helpful and satisfying to work with a builder that wanted to honor Mother Nature. “Dave was so encouraging and enthusiastic,” says Mrs. Scott, “and he helped us to make changes mid-way through the project that made the best use of the space.” Mr. Scott, the self-proclaimed “onsite subordinate supervisor assistant,” was always on the lookout for possible improvements as he and his wife kept a watchful eye on the construction from their temporary home in a cottage next door.
With everyone’s help, the home turned out beautiful and efficient, and ultimately earned a 5+ rating by ENERGY STAR, which is the highest rating awarded and means that the home complies with the strictest energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. The home came by this certification honestly, from the foundation up. “Our home is oriented to face south,” says Mrs. Scott, “and we have 11 windows on the south side to take advantage of that low winter sun.” She adds that they hope to add solar panels one day to take advantage of their ideal orientation.
Since the home is on a lake and is built into a slight slope, a prominent concern for the Scotts was a damp basement. To remedy the situation, three of the four sides of the home’s foundation were formed using insulated pre-cast concrete panels that rest on a compressed gravel bed, and there is a six-inch poured concrete floor in the basement. Consequently, “the basement is very warm and dry,” attests Mrs. Scott.
Up in the attic, radiant barrier sheathing by TechShield blocks up to 97% of radiant heat from entering the attic space, and the roof is crowned by 50-year shingles. Outside, the cottage-style home has durable CertainTeed Fiber Cement board and batten siding, and a brick foundation. Four-foot eaves offer further protection from the elements, shading the windows in the summer and allowing the winter sun to warm the house.
Pella® low-e windows were used throughout, and on the second floor there are two wide dormers – one that faces the lake and one on the opposite side of the house, which bathes Mrs. Scott’s art studio in northern light.
Inside this durable and tightly insulated framework, the Scotts’ home is spacious, warm and inviting, and, due to Gael’s thoughtful design, natural lighting permeates all rooms and stairwells. ENERGY STAR appliances and a tankless water heater keep the home running smoothly and efficiently, although the clothes dryer does not get much use (Mrs. Scott usually hangs their laundry to dry on a western-facing side porch). Everywhere you turn there is a detail that was perfectly customized for the Scotts. “It’s rare to find a contractor who is interested finding a way to make what you want happen,” says Mr. Scott.
For this savvy couple, building green stems from economics as much as helping the environment. “I’m frugal,” admits Mrs. Scott, “and green saves money.” Period. Fortunately, they are already reaping the monetary rewards of their careful planning. “Our heating bills are half of what they were when we lived in the cottage, which was half the size of our home,” attests Mrs. Scott.
But helping the environment is obviously important to the couple as well. Mrs. Scott admits that she spends part of each day organizing their recycling, and the family mantra is: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!” Mr. Scott even initiated his own “recycling program” during construction, dumpster diving each night to retrieve extra lumber and building products that he later used to finish off Gael’s upstairs art studio and the grandchildren’s playroom. Inspired by Mr. Scott’s efforts, Compass Homes now employs a strict construction waste recycling program on all of their projects.
It just goes to show, when there’s a little collaboration – from homeowner to builder and everyone in between – it’s a “win-win” situation for all concerned.
Share this article: