The future looks bright for green homes

2013-06-26T00:00:00Z 2013-07-03T18:11:11Z The future looks bright for green homesMichelle Krueger nwitimes.com
June 26, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Construction and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) released their first survey on the green homes market.

Defining green homes as those that are built to a recognized green building standard (NAHB, LEED for Homes, ENERGY STAR) as well as those that are energy and water efficient (addressing both indoor air quality and/or resource efficiency), just 2 percent of the market and an estimated $6 billion of value qualified.

Those numbers made gains even as the housing bubble burst and economic recession took hold. In 2008, green homes made up 8 percent of the market and $10 billion in value and rose to 17 percent of the market and $17 billion in value by 2011.

Now, as the residential market continues to recover, green is booming. The latest survey estimates indicate that green homes will make up 22-25 percent of the market and $32-$36 billion in value by the end of this year and as much as 29-38 percent of the market and $87-114 billion by 2016.

“Very early on I saw green building as a trend, not just a fad,” Jay Lieser of 1st Metropolitan Builders in Munster said. “I’ve been building homes for 17 years now, and energy efficiency has always been a priority. The old vision of green back in the ‘70s during the energy crisis was such a misconception. Everyone thought you needed to have these huge voltaic solar panels installed on top of your home to be green. But in reality, it all starts with basic energy efficiency and the conditioning of the building envelope.”

One of just a handful of NAHB Certified Green Professionals (CGP) in the state of Indiana, Lieser credits the program with teaching him how to build even more efficiently – from learning what different products do, to introducing him to the many benefits of engineered wood.

First launched in February of 2008, the CGP program focuses on energy efficiency improvements including a high-performance building envelope, efficient HVAC systems, high-performance windows and energy-efficient appliances and lighting; water conservation measures such as water-efficient appliances and fixtures, filtration systems and drought resistant or low-maintenance landscaping; resource conservation using materials and techniques such as engineered wood and wood alternatives, recycled building materials, sustainably harvested lumber and more durable products; indoor environmental quality considerations such as effective HVAC equipment, formaldehyde-free finishes, low-allergen materials and products with minimum off-gassing or low volatile organic compounds (VOCs); site design planning such as minimizing disruption and preserving open space; and homeowner education.

“Homeowner education was especially important when there were fewer options from the supply chain. Some things were cost prohibitive in those early years – the economies of scale just weren’t there,” Lieser explained. “Over time, as we evolved as a more green society as a whole, manufacturers started introducing new green products at more affordable prices.”

Certain manufacturers have won Lieser’s loyalty for their ability to consistently produce new green products that meet the needs of his clients.

“I generally go with Pella for doors and windows, Delta and Kohler for water conservation and plumbing, Carrier and Lenox for HVAC, Sherwin-Williams or Benjamin Moore for paint and wall finishes and Weyerhauser for engineered flooring systems,” he said. “In our efforts to always incorporate best of market products, we started using Icynene® insulation after it was introduced several years ago. When combined with an advanced ventilation system, Icynene seals the box completely, eliminates drafts and allows moisture to permeate outward. Since it helps keep the temperature consistent throughout the entire home, we’re able to build up to a third floor, adding more square footage to the box.”

Having grown up in Munster, Lieser now works and raises his own family there.

“You’ll never see anyone in one of my developments more than you see me,” he said. “I never build the same home twice, and I see myself as the conductor of the orchestra so to speak. I’m always trying to keep everyone in harmony – from homeowners to the trades and my suppliers. The same goes for the environment. I like to incorporate natural products in the building process and have always looked at different ways to repurpose things.”

A graduate of Indiana University in Bloomington, Lieser is especially partial to Indiana limestone.

“I consider it a timeless building material. Look at the Empire State Building and the Pentagon. After 9/11, three of the quarries I work closely with fabricated the stone used to make the repairs on the Pentagon building,” he added. “Most recently, I had the opportunity to use some extraordinary reclaimed brick pavers from a street in southern Indiana. These particular pavers have a tremendous range of color that’s highlighted with black iron ore. You just don’t see that in brick today.”

Comparing the process of building an efficient home to building a boat, Lieser strives to make the best possible use of every nook and cranny in the homes he builds

“The technologies available today allow us to build a much more efficient home,” he said. “The trick is ensuring that every inch of the house translates into usable space for the homeowner.”

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