Going green doesn’t have to cost more. Experts at the NAHB Research Center have identified design and construction tactics that builders have used to minimize the cost premium for green.

Everyone needs to stretch a dollar these days. This is certainly true for home builders, and it’s especially true for home buyers in the entry-level, affordable, or workforce housing sectors. Green building, once widely perceived to be a luxury approach to home building, can be a viable solution for both builders and consumers in the affordable market.

Constructing a green home does come with some added costs, but a lot of builders find that green practices can actually reduce their construction costs and enhance the quality of the homes they build. Many green practices also result in operational and maintenance savings for homeowners.

Using a combination of input from builders participating in the National Green Building Certification Program and results from recent research we did for HUD on the costs and benefits of green affordable housing, the NAHB Research Center has identified seven beneficial practices to consider when building green for the affordable market.

1. Work closely with your suppliers

If you’re new to green building in general or to building green homes with a lower price point, you may want to start your journey by talking with your product suppliers.

Richmond, Va.-based First Richmond Associates has been building quality workforce housing for nearly two decades. Recently, the builder decided that going green with its homes would provide even greater value to customers and set its product apart from the competition. Susan Hadder, president of First Richmond, admits the company didn’t know much about green building, so she let her suppliers know about the new direction they were taking and asked for their help.

“A lot of them were as new to green as we were,” says Hadder, “but they were excited to help us find the best product options available from various manufacturers. It was kind of fun for everyone to discover something new.”

Hadder says she got very quick responses from all her product reps, along with some incentives, which helped her identify what the company needed to get its new green homes certified to the National Green Building Standard (ICC 700). She was pleasantly surprised to find that many of the green product options that would garner points for the home in the certification process were actually an even swap for her in terms of price.

Specifically with flooring options, she found that recycled-content carpet and padding, engineered hardwood flooring, and recycled tile for the bathrooms were all competitively priced with the products she traditionally used — some a few pennies more per unit, some a few pennies less. First Richmond now has two of their Earth-Friendly workforce homes (sales prices range from the $170,000’s to low $200,000’s) Green Certified to ICC 700 by the NAHB Research Center, and the company has plans for more.

2. Look for two-for-one green product benefits

To maximize green benefits while keeping construction costs low, use products or practices with multiple green features. For example, when specifying cabinets or cabinet materials, look for those that have low- or no-formaldehyde content and are made of recycled material. That way, you may be able to gain green certification points for both indoor environmental quality and resource efficiency. While most green rating systems won’t allow for “double dipping” on points (i.e., claiming points in more than one area for the same green attribute in the same product or practice), most will allow for multiple green attributes in the same product to be counted across multiple point categories.

3. Don’t forget about water efficiency

In our work with HUD, we found that water efficiency improvements for both new and renovated affordable projects are commonly overlooked even though they offer a quantifiable benefit to homeowners for little to no additional construction cost. Be sure not to discount the cost benefits for affordable clients of low-flow faucets, toilets, and showerheads, as well as rated water-saving appliances.

As for finding the products at an affordable price, there is a much wider array of low-flow toilets, faucets, and showerheads on the market today than even five years ago, and the most basic models are cost neutral with comparable non-low-flow fixtures. Most major plumbing product manufacturers now offer these products, eliminating the need for costly special orders, in most cases. With bathroom sink faucets, even if your manufacturer of choice doesn’t make a low-flow version, you can buy replacement aerators that satisfy the requirements of most national green rating systems for around $2 a piece.

New construction on the Goose Pasture Tarn in Blue River, Colorado outside of Breckenridge.


4. Consider alternative framing techniques

Some changes in your framing materials or techniques might provide both cost/time savings and a means to an end in securing points toward green certification. For instance, consider using panels or trusses in lieu of site-built systems. These techniques are labor and resource efficient, resulting in less on-site waste and possibly lower labor and materials cost overall. Fabricated systems often create greater thermal efficiency over stick frames. Many green rating systems, including the National Green Building Standard, also award points for use of panels and trusses.

If you want to continue framing totally on site, there are several optimum value engineering (OVE) techniques that can save on material or labor costs, and can generate green points at the same time. Look into options like:

  • Ladder blocking — uses less wood; provides more room for insulation; gets green points
  • Two-stud corners — at least one less stud at each corner; allows for more fully insulated corner; gets green points
  • Switch from 2x4s at 16 inches on center to 2x6s at 24 inches on center — may result in small increase in incremental cost initially, but gets a lot of green bang for your buck.

5. Explore low-cost strategies with design

Green, at any price point, is not accomplished through product selection alone. Many of the other “ingredients” for a green home involve strategies that can cost very little or nothing at all. For example, depending on the orientation and size of your lot, flipping a house plan is a very low-cost, low-effort activity that can result in green benefits like positioning the majority of windows on the south side of a home for passive solar and natural lighting gains.

6. Pay attention to placement and sizing of hvac and plumbing systems

Optimize your duct runs and centrally locate your mechanical room for material cost savings and increased energy efficiency. Even for smaller homes, be sure not to have more ducts or longer duct runs than you need in any part of the house. Using a central return also reduces material costs and is a simple system that can provide adequate circulation and cost savings to both you and your buyers.

Placing all your HVAC equipment, including ducts, in conditioned space within the home is also beneficial. In addition to creating significant energy savings for homeowners, this practice may also allow you to spec smaller, less-expensive HVAC equipment and limit or eliminate the need for additional insulation for the duct system. Many homes today, even those that may be otherwise energy and resource efficient, have oversized HVAC equipment. As the building envelope of your homes becomes tighter and more energy efficient, the HVAC burden is significantly reduced. A smaller system obviously costs less and could offset other green upgrades you’re making in your homes.

For your plumbing system, make sure you have chosen the most efficient design for your purposes. For multi-story homes, consider a stacked system, which will probably require shorter plumbing runs, less piping, and possibly less labor time from your plumbing contractor. Also consider centrally locating your water heater, as a central location makes the average of every run shorter, thereby reducing material costs.

7. Rely on green design professionals

Green homes often require a higher degree of precision in their design and construction to ensure that the finished product works the way it was designed to work, as a whole house relying on interdependent systems for its optimum efficiency and homeowner comfort. Having experts well versed in green products, practices, and protocols can save you thousands of dollars in trial-and-error and callbacks in the long run.

That being said, there are different ways to go about creating your design team. One way is to seek out experts in areas such as mechanical systems, plumbing design, and landscape architecture, with specific expertise in green building practices. Another tactic is to rally those with whom you already work to the pursuit of greener, more efficient homes. Similar to the enthusiasm and excitement Susan Hadder generated with her suppliers when First Richmond began seeking green solutions, you may generate the same kind of interest with your existing construction partners to learn all they can and contribute. Either way, it’s important to get everyone in your construction chain on the same page with what you’re trying to accomplish. Contractors and suppliers that are not informed can create inadvertent barriers to your ultimate success.

More information and technical detail about these techniques can be found on the Research Center’s technical website,www.ToolBase.org.

Created in 1964, the NAHB Research Center (www.nahbrc.com) is a full-service product commercialization company that strives to make housing more durable, affordable, and efficient. The Research Center provides public and private clients with an unrivaled depth of understanding of the housing industry and access to its business leaders.

Source : Professional Builder

Extreme remodel on the Goose Pasture Tarn in Blue River, Colorado

Choosing to build a net zero energy home can have a huge effect on not just reducing your environmental footprint, but on the cost of your home over its entire lifespan. You may have to invest more money into building a net zero energy home, but that the savings you’ll experience over the home’s life will be well worth it.

Trilogy Shares Ways to Selecting Zero Energy Home Plans

Source: Shutterstock.com

Once you factor in utility incentives or tax credits, your net zero energy home will only cost between 5 and 10 percent more to build than a normal home. The leftover difference will be recouped over the next 5 to 10 years in energy savings.

One of the key aspects to designing a net zero energy house is to build the most efficient building envelop that you can afford. The building envelope is the thermal barrier between the inside of your home and the outside of your home. The more effective it is, the less heat will leak out during the winter and the less cool air will escape during the summer.

Consider the benefits of designing a net zero energy home and contact us at Trilogy Builds for advice on selecting the green home design for you.

One of the things that you should consider when investing in a green building project is making your new home a zero-energy home. A zero-energy home is a sustainable home that produces as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis. The following are a few tips for building a zero-energy home:

zero-energy homes

Source: Trilogy Builds

One of the most important elements of designing a zero-energy home is ensuring that the amount of energy that you need in order to both heat and cool the house is reduced. This is done by making sure the entire home has top-notch insulation to keep air from leaking out or in.

Another element to help reduce energy leaks is choosing the right windows. High-quality, energy-efficient windows will go a long way in making your home more energy efficient. You should also consider the HVAC system you use. Proper sizing software is needed for well-insulated homes so that over-sized equipment isn’t used, which is a waste of energy.

These are just a few elements that will help to create a zero-energy home. For additional information on green building, be sure to contact us at Trilogy Builds today.

Born of a collaboration between Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, passive homes are built to host a comfortable living space maintained using the most efficient heating and cooling possible. One prominent characteristic of these homes is their minimized air leakage, so much so that certified homes can leak no more than 60 percent of their volume per hour. Other criteria impact all parts of the home, including but not limited to its ventilation, its heating and cooling, its insulation systems, and even its building materials.

Such homes are becoming more and more popular because the interest in efficient buildings is continuing to rise. More and more countries are rushing to cut their carbon emissions, which has enormous impact on building prices because buildings are responsible for 48 percent of said emissions.

Passive homes are predicted to increase in value because of both consumer interest and savings from efficient operation. Furthermore, there are other benefits to choosing such homes, ranging from the reduction of noise to tax benefits from using environmental methods and materials. Combined, these strengths suggest that passive homes will be the face of the future.

To capitalize on this trend, please contact us at Trilogy Partners.

Leading media outlets are predicting that sustainable design will increase in 2013. Here are some notable events and trends to watch:

  • National Sustainable Design Expo. This event, sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), takes place on the National Mall in Washington D.C. It takes place in April 2013, so maybe the cherry blossoms will be in bloom!browse
  • Sustainable Design Assessment Teams. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) started SDAT to focus on issues of sustainability in varied communities. For more info, visit the AIA website.
  • Solar panels. Inhabitat predicts that solar panels on rooftops will increase in number. In related news, integrated solar chargers may appear on more batteries.
  • Winter gardens. Fresh food can be obtained all year from winter gardens. And the lack of shipping means fewer carbon emissions. Plus, they can be a beautiful addition to a home’s landscape!

For sustainable design in Colorado and other locales, contact Trilogy Builds.



Image via sxc

Timber Trails Trilogy Partners Net Zero EnergyNet zero energy homes are emerging as the new standard in current energy conservation trends. These homes are called net zero, to signify that the home may not take a net positive amount of energy from the grid, in a one year period. The home may actually use energy from the grid at times, but it must then also deliver energy back to the grid at other times.

The two primary design principles utilized in the net zero home are:

  1. Using energy efficient materials and strategies
  2. The use of renewable energy resources

Details affecting solar orientation, geothermal systems, and passive solar energy technology impact the overall form of the zero net energy home in the early design phase.

Technological considerations such as heat pump selection and location; floor, roof and wall insulation systems; and energy efficient appliances and lighting systems all contribute to the success of the net zero energy home.

Zero Energy Home GE Trilogy PartnersOver 100 net zero energy homes currently exist in the United States. Trilogy Partners completed the first net zero energy home in Breckenridge, Colorado in the Timber Trails neighborhood in 2010. More and more net zero energy homes will be constructed in coming years as the technology becomes more affordable, and as public awareness and education increases.

Photo sources: GE, Trilogy Partners

Water Ripples

Water conservation has become an important part of sustainable living.

A growing concern for sustainable construction is water conservation. For many years, reducing power consumption has been a major focus of sustainable living, and while it is important, our dwindling water supply has slowly made green building exceedingly blue.

New construction specifications should incorporate water efficiency and conservation to reduce the impact on our water tables. The easiest way to conserve water usage is to install ultra-low flow fixtures wherever possible; your water consumption will decrease while leaving your quality of life virtually unchanged.

Proper landscaping makes a dramatic impact on water efficiency as well. Native plants reduce the need for regular watering since they have already adapted to the climate’s average rainfall. Scheduling a controlled irrigation early in the morning or after dusk will also reduce the amount of water wasted by evaporation.

To construct your own sustainable designed home in the Colorado Mountain region, contact Trilogy Partners today.

About 6 months ago we at Trilogy Partners completed an 8000 square foot zero net energy home, a first for Breckenridge, Colorado. Beginning with design and until now I’ve been conducting an internal debate as to whether it’s even possible for a home that large to be considered “green,” zero net energy or not. The somewhat difficult conclusion I’ve reached is based on the philosophy of “early adoption.” What I refer to is the process by which new technologies get adopted into the mainstream marketplace. Early adopters are usually passionate individuals who are less price sensitive and are willing to invest in emerging technologies or ideas while they are still more expensive than alternative solutions. In the case of this ski in and out home on the slopes of the Breckenridge ski resort our owner was willing to put aside cost issues to create a platform that would in essence serve as a model for the future. Although the trend is toward building smaller homes, indeed for the foreseeable future larger homes will be built by those that can afford them. This experiment with a larger “green” home will hopefully provide a blueprint for sustainability and accountability.

Using green building materials and products represents one important green building strategy. In fact, the nationally accepted benchmark for high-performance green building, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, includes Materials and Resources (MR) as one of eight categories used to measure a home’s overall performance.

Green building materials are renewable, recyclable, and consist of salvaged or refurbished materials. They offer specific benefits to the homeowner including reduced maintenance and replacement costs. For example, a deck constructed of a plastic wood product (100% recycled plastic) never needs to be painted or stained and will last longer than a wooden deck. Energy and resource conservation are also benefits of using green materials. Photovoltaics and low-use water fixtures are two green products that help conserve energy and water. Additional benefits of using green building materials are improved occupant health and productivity. Using synthetic green products in the home results in lower chemical emissions, and they contain fewer pesticides and pollutants.

Depending upon project-specific goals, an assessment of a potentially green material may involve evaluating one or more of these criteria: resource efficiency, indoor air quality, energy efficiency, water conservation, and affordability. Often, it is difficult to accurately assess the environmental performance of a building material or product over its entire life cycle. Another viable option, therefore, is to rely on third-party certification organizations. For example, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies wood products that come from sources that follow a set of FSC sustainable forest management practices. Other recognized third-party certification organizations include: Green Guard, Green Seal, Green Cross, Energy Star, and Scientific Certification Systems.

In addition to self-assessment or third-party certification, you can use material lists and databases to find green materials and products. GreenSpec, a fee-based service, is a comprehensive source of green building product information. It includes more than 1,850 green building products and materials selected by the editors of Environmental Building News, a monthly newsletter published by BuildingGreen, Inc. (www.buildinggreen.com). Organized in Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) MasterFormat, GreenSpec includes descriptions of each product, along with environmental considerations and manufacturer contact information.

Other notable sources about green materials and products include:

To learn more about Green Materials and Products, visit:

Source: HGTVPro.com

As more homeowners consider ways to reduce their impact on the environment, more and more are choosing sustainable and green building methods. It’s really great that so many people are becoming more environmentally conscious, but according to Buildipedia.com, if you want to make sure the final product is a quality green build, you’ll want to make sure your project is certified through a third-party rating system.

The most popular green rating system here in the U.S., and one that you here us at Trilogy Partners talk about a lot is the LEED for Homes system from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Another program, the National Green Building Standard (NGBS), was created by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the International Code Council (ICC). Today we’re going to share a few of the differences between the two programs with you.

  • LEED for Homes requires a LEED for Homes provider and a Green Rater for each project. The NGBS’ third-party verification depends on which performance path the homeowner chooses to follow.
  • LEED for Homes requires preliminary and final certification of each project, including a preliminary certification and review by the Provider, a preliminary inspection by the Green Rater (typically done before drywall installation), final inspection and testing  by the Green Rater, and a final certification by the Provider.
  • The NGBS’ performance path consists of various inspections and testing similar to that of the EPA Energy Star program. This includes testing and inspecting individual components, such as grading the insulation installation. All testing is performed by NAHB-approved verifiers.

You can learn more about LEED for Homes and the NGBS, as well as the similarities and other differences between the two programs, at Buildipedia.com.

Photo credits: Ecohomemagazine.com and Builderonline.com.

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