Why 5 Stars Are So Important … And how we got them on Jewell Street

March 7, 2008 at 5:39 pm Leave a comment


Originally uploaded by thenelsonproject

Contributing Writers: Renee Lafair & Alex Ferdman, http://www.GreenPlaces.com
Copyright GreenPlaces 2007©

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904 Jewell, Austin, TX 78704.
908 Jewell, Austin, TX 78704.
100% 5-Star Green, 100% Luxury.
That’s exactly what our “5-Star Austin Energy Green Building Program” homes stand for- the perfect combination of environmental consciousness and exquisite design. Despite the societal shift toward green building, there are only about 40 of these quality homes in Austin and of those only a few have come up for sale. Why? Because once you experience 5-star green with 100% luxury, you’ll never settle for anything less.

Zero corners cut.
As the popularity of building green rises, so does the risk of purchasing a home that’s not fully green. At Green Places, we took every step and made every decision based on our desire to build green homes without cutting a single corner. We even took the time to meet with a representative of the Green Building Program before any plans were created, ensuring every square-inch of our homes is authentically green.

It’s not easy building green.
After much research, we decided to partner with Webber Studios, the firm that designed the 5-star remodel for the PBS series “This Old House.” We presented them with a challenge: How do you take an existing 1940s home, bring it up to 2007 building code requirements, and add an addition which meets the standards of the Green Building Program? After several months of back and forth, we arrived at what you see today.

However, as difficult as designing the homes were, building them was infinitely more complicated. Because of our mission to revisit every element from a green perspective, we were exploring territory unfamiliar to most builders. In fact, many of the contractors we approached simply refused to work with us because of the amount of effort building truly green would take. But in the end we made it happen. From the positioning of the windows (north-facing allows light in but not the heat of direct sunlight) to designing around the trees in the back yard, we successfully created homes that have attained the highest and most difficult green rating in Austin: 5 stars.

Every detail matters- seen and unseen.
At every turn, we were presented with the challenges that come with building green. But we were determined to give every detail the time and attention it deserved.

To add a modern design touch to the front of the homes, we constructed a cantilever where the second story extends over the first story to serve as the carport.

The studs used in the framing of the houses are finger-jointed studs, which are structurally stronger and less wasteful to trees than average studs.

Another difficult endeavor was finding the right windows. After a month of research we selected vinyl, double-paned, Energy Star windows. But then we went a step further. We asked that even lower SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient) panes of glass be placed in the windows. The result? Some of the lowest SHGC windows ever seen by the Green Building Program’s staff.

For plumbing and electrical wiring, the green building standards require minimum consumption. We installed durable, long-term PEX piping and a tankless water heater, the latter offering on demand hot water, less use of space in the house (it is mounted on an outside wall), and use of considerably less energy as it does not have to keep a large tank of water hot at all times. In addition, there are dual flush toilets throughout our homes. Every major room was wired for a fan, and few light dimmers were used as CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) do not work well with dimmers.

Insulation was one of the most important aspects of making our homes as energy efficient as possible. One of the best-performing insulations on the market is Icynene, a spray foam insulation that costs significantly more than standard batt insulation. Few builders would spend so much more on something the buyer never sees. But again, our mission wasn’t nearly green or almost green- but fully green. So we went with the Icynene. Our decision quickly paid off. Most mechanical contractors put a 5-ton A/C system into houses this size. However, because of design, high-performance windows and Icynene insulation, the heating and cooling loads were reduced. We had created such a “tight” house that only a 3.5-ton A/C was needed, resulting in less energy consumption and lower operating costs.

Again the cost dilemma arose when deciding on a roof. Most often, shingles are used as they are the least expensive option. But we chose standing seam metal roofs for their reflective quality, ability to keep the home cooler, and because they last considerably longer than shingles.

In the end, we brought the same attention to detail to the aesthetics of the house as we did to its structure. There is no carpet in the home- only hard-surface flooring (a combination of tile, engineered wood, and stained concrete). The paint is low VOC (volatile organic compound) and we chose high quality finish-outs from cabinets to tiles to granite to Ceasarstone Quartz surfaces. The fans we installed are Minka-Aire, the appliances are Jenn-Air, and even the sliding deck doors are a special order 8-foot size as opposed to the smaller and less grandiose 6-foot sizes.

Why did we do it?
Many people have asked us why we did what we did. To be honest, at times we asked ourselves the same thing. But the truth is, we saw a need in Austin for homes that genuinely combine form and function. There was no room in our plan for anything less than beautiful 5-star homes that are green in every sense of the word. We’re proud of our accomplishment. So much so that we hope our buyers consider submitting their “5-Star Austin Energy Green Building Program” homes for next year’s Green Homes Tour. They certainly qualify.

What does it mean for the buyers?
It means living in one of the most thought out green homes in Austin. It means choosing the best. It means living in a more comfortable space. It means using less electricity and water with no sacrifice to luxury or comfort. It means being at peace and being proud of the choices you have made.

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Entry filed under: Green, Neighborhood Navigation, Smart Real Estate. Tags: , , , .

So, what is Green Building, anyway? What are the Most Important Factors that Make A Home Green?

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