Developer Creates LEED-Certified Remodel

September 8, 2008
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The finished master bathroom features such green elements as clay paints, counter tops constructed from recycled paper, and low-flush toilets.

PHOENIX - Philip Beere could see the trends coming: Rising fuel prices, longer commute times, and decreasing home values in outlying areas. He also wanted to apply his passion for living green and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

So that’s why Beere, owner of Green Street Development, a green design-consulting firm based in Phoenix, decided in May 2007 to buy and remodel a 1960s-era, ranch-style home at 3313 E. Medlock Drive, only 10 minutes from downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale. Today, the home - which is also Beere’s residence - is the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified home remodel west of the Mississippi River.

LEED is the U.S. Green Building Council’s rating system for recognizing the design and construction of high-performance, environmentally friendly buildings.

“My primary goal was to make a healthy home for myself and future occupants - a home that is very energy efficient,” said Beere, who learned about LEED while enrolled in Arizona State University’s MBA program for real estate development. “I also wanted to set an example for others who are remodeling homes, to show them that doing it green makes sense. So I chose LEED as the benchmark.”

Beere purchased the property for $465,000. Today, after acting as the general contractor and investing more than $200,000 in green home improvements, the property has an appraised value of $895,000.

From top-to-bottom and side-to-side, the 2,700-square-foot, four-bedroom home is everything green. It features non-formaldehyde bamboo floors, counter tops constructed from recycled paper, a charging station for electric cars, clay paints, re-used framing materials, drought-tolerant landscaping, a satellite-controlled irrigation system, low-flush toilets, bio-based foam insulation, natural lighting, Energy Star® windows and appliances, and a permeable-membrane driveway.

The home also features eco-friendly furniture, including organic bedding. Solar panels will be offered to future projects as an option. Meanwhile, the majority of the material generated from demolition is recycled or donated to the Stardust Foundation and Habitat for Humanity.

The Phoenix ranch-style home’s new green features include drought-tolerant landscaping, a permeable-membrane driveway, and a satellite-controlled irrigation system.

INNOVATIVE HVAC SYSTEM

As if that’s not enough, the home features a state-of-the-art HVAC system, which contributes significantly to lower energy costs. In fact, according to Beere, the home uses only $500 in annual utilities - compared to $3,500 before the remodel.

“The HVAC system is one of the most important parts to attaining LEED certification,” explained Beere. “The SEER level, the thermostat control, the ductwork, and Manual J all contribute to the LEED Gold rating for the home,” noting that the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) Manual J provides complete instructions for estimating heat loss and heat gain for residential structures.

Before the remodel, the HVAC system was a mish-mash of unsealed, square ductwork and old, inefficient, and outdated equipment, including a packaged rooftop unit. Beere knew changes were in order. He turned to his HVAC contractor, Ron Brocks Heating & Cooling of Glendale, Ariz., which has extensive experience in green home remodels and new construction.

“Through the main living area of the home,” Beere recalled, “I chose vaulted ceilings, which allowed no room for ductwork. So we selected a split HVAC system.”

The state-of-the-art HVAC system features two York® Latitude™ 14.5 SEER heat pumps (one shown here), which meet the SEER and Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) requirements outlined in the LEED program.

In this case, the two opted for a system that features two York® Latitude™ 14.5 SEER heat pumps, which Beere said meets the SEER and HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) requirements outlined in the LEED program. Ron Brocks Heating & Cooling purchased the units through U.S. Airconditioning Distributors, a York distributor based in Phoenix.

“We considered higher SEER units, but the overall cost compared to the return on investment was the deciding factor,” said Jeff Wrublevski, superintendent with the Glendale-based contractor. “I believe the energy ratings of the equipment contribute a great deal in reducing energy costs. However, without good windows, foam insulation, and a sealed building envelope, the equipment would not have been able to contribute as much.”

Specifically, Beere said foam insulation is a critical element in attaining LEED certification. He noted that several other elements contribute to the home’s energy conservation, including low-E (vinyl vs. aluminum) windows, Energy Star appliances, an efficient water heater, a programmable thermostat, and natural lighting.

The ventilation system is also considered first rate, allowing the home to achieve “healthy house” certification from the American Lung Association. “The HVAC system does, in fact, contribute to this certification,” said Wrublevski. “Extremely tight and leak-free ducts, as well as a constant source of fresh air, are very important to a healthy home.”

Green Street Development is currently developing future LEED-certified projects that are inspired by sustainable practices.

For more information on this project, visit www.greenstreetdev.com. For more information on the York system, contact York Brand Manager Jeff Hurt at jeffrey.n.hurt@jci.com.

Sidebar: Wave of the Future?

If the experiences of Philip Beere are any indication, healthy and energy-efficient homes - whether they’re remodels or new construction - will continue to be a growing trend nationwide.

Beere, owner of Green Street Development, believes the 3313 E. Medlock Drive project he was responsible for and involved with has already influenced other projects in the Phoenix area, while motivating homeowners, contractors, and developers to use green building practices.

In fact, permits for home remodels in the Phoenix area have steadily increased, while home sales have decreased in Phoenix and nationwide, due largely to a stagnant economy. “There is no need to add more inventory to an already oversupplied market,” said Beere. “Rather, we can improve already existing homes. The cost of remodeling green is not necessarily higher. The main obstacle is educating developers, contractors, and homeowners about green alternatives for remodel projects.”

What advice would Beere give to those who may be considering a green home remodel?

“Having a rating system for the project, such as LEED, is the first step,” he answered. “Even if the certification is not being sought, at the very least you should download the LEED guidebook and use it as a reference for the project. New and improved green products are continuously coming to market. So, do your research and gather as much information as possible before making a decision. And finally, find a team of contractors who believe in building green or are at least open to green principles.”

Publication date: 09/08/2008

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