Side Note: North Texas USGBC Chapter

Our house has become the first LEED for Homes project featured on the website of the North Texas USGBC!  Check it out here.  The story’s a nice summary, and the photos look great.  It’s nicely done.

Side Note: Awaiting Certification…still!

Hour GlassI know I can be impatient…but the wait to hear from USGBC regarding our certification application is killing me!  Our final inspection was over five weeks ago, and while I know these things take time, I keep bugging our Home Provider every week.

So, as soon as we know about what Certification level we’ve achieved I’ll post it here, and until then I guess I’ll just stay nervous!

And, by the way, I just checked the USGBC website…it looks like as of 9/23 there are still only two other Platinum homes in Dallas (although one was certified under the less stringent Prelminary LEED for Homes rules).  We still have a chance to be #3 (or #2 if you look at it as I do!).

USGBC Tour Follow Up

dsc_0114We hosted the North Texas Chapter of the USGBC this morning in spite of what turned into an all-day rain storm.  About 60 folks showed up to hear a short talk from our architect, Kelly Mitchell, and our Landscape Designer, Jim Martinez.  I added a few words of my own.

There were lots and lots of questions ranging from how often we should seal our ipe wood deck to how much more did building a LEED home cost us.  I didn’t now the answer to the first question, but am all too keenly aware of the second.  Fortunately the guy we bought our ipe from was there and he told me that we should clean and re-seal the ipe every two years….good to know.

Robert will be posting photos from the event to the website gallery soon (I hope).

Tour de LEED: Homes

leedlogo2This coming Saturday ours is one of three homes being toured by the North Texas Chapter of the US Green Building Council.  We moved in 3 weeks ago and are hustling fast and furious to get the house presentable.  We’ve given our builder this Thursday as their deadline to be done and out (we’ll finish anything remaining undone after that).

The tour is featuring one LEED for Home certified Platinum house, and 2 LEED for Homes registered Platinum house.    Sign up quickly!  They’re limiting the tour to 60 participants!

Indoor Environmental Quality (LEED EQ Category)

The EQ Category is probably the most complicated LEED for Homes category – at least to me anyway!  It deals with HVAC, contamination control, moisture control, etc.  These are all things I’m no way near an expert on.  And as you probably guessed, there’s a separate checklist that can apply to this category, too.  Here’s the deal:

There are two, somewhat alternative paths in this category.  You can choose to follow the Energy Star Indoor Air Package (IAP) path or you can attempt to get your points by complying with multiple individual LEED subcategories.  The reality is that both of the paths share a lot of requirements – the IAP path is a bit more stringent…and of course that’s the one we’ve chosen to follow.

The Energy Star Indoor Air Package (IAP) is a detailed list of requirements that addresses the following indoor environment concerns:

  • Moisture Control – foundation, walls, roofs, plumbing systems,
  • Radon Control – wasn’t an issue in our area (North Texas)
  • Pest Barriers – minimizing pathways, termite prevention
  • HVAC Systems – equipment, ductwork, ventilation, air filtration

The IAP is a yes/no point-getter.  While there are a few optional requirements in the IAP, you either comply or not with the standard as a whole…no partial credit!  We were told by our Home Provider that few builders actually get the points for complying with the IAP.  We believe we will be compliant, although it took a lot of advanced planning and attention to detail.  I couldn’t have worked through this section without our builder’s and our HVAC guy’s help.  If you need a good HVAC specialist, call Greg Gannon at Tempo Mechanical Services.

So, we expect to have the points for the IAP (a whooping 13 points!). 

We are also eligible for a few more points in this category.  Two points that we’re hoping to get are awarded for an advanced whole-house ventilation system.  Our core HVAC came with a ventilation system (basically, whenever the blower runs a motorized damper opens and pulls in fresh air).  However, the system can be upgraded and made more efficient by installing a heat exchange system.  The system works basically the same except that the air coming in from the outside runs through a heat exchange before mixing with the indoor return air.  That way when it’s 104 degrees outside and 75 degrees inside, the 104 degree air gets cooled in a very efficient way BEFORE mixing with the 75 degree air in the return air mechanism.  The upgrade costs us $1600, but we have an issue…the HVAC guy wasn’t told to install it when he was installing the HVAC system and we need to add it back in.  I’m waiting to see if that’s going to be possible.  Yes, it was a mistake!

Indoor Environmental Quality expected points:  20 out of a possible 21.

Materials & Resources (LEED MR Category)

This category addresses those areas of Green Construction that most people are familiar with.  Bamboo flooring, low VOC paints, locally-source materials:  these are the mainstays of environmentally friendly building materials.  The MR category addresses the materials that make up a huge portion of your house, and the vast majority of the finish-out materials. 

To determine the number of points we were eligible for in this category, we reviwed 21 groupings of materials to determine if the materials we are using are:

  1. recycled or reused
  2. had low emissions (low VOCs), and/or
  3. were locally produced

Points are potentially awarded for all three of these characteristics – so if you used wood flooring that you salvaged from a barn less than 500 miles away you get points in both the ‘recycled’ component and the ‘locally produced’ component.  We believe we’ll end up with the maximum number of points for this portion of the MR category.  We’re using materials such as 30% fly ash concrete, bamboo floors, FSC certified woods in our millwork, recycled oak hardwood floors (from the house we deconstructed), locally produced windows and window frames, locally produced cabinetry, low VOC everything, and we have 100% hard surface flooring (meaning no carpet in the entire house).  I’m going to highlight several of these materials in my later posts because we’ve done some really fun things with these products.  The LEED Environmentally Preferable Products chart on Page 80 of the LEED for Home Rating System document is very informative – although it looks scary when you first see it.  Take time to study it and ask me any questions you have. 

The MR LEED for Homes category also addresses the planning that goes into the framing of the house.  Obviously, the framing makes up the vast majority of the wood portion of the house, so LEED cares about whether you’ve planned appropriately and didn’t order too much wood or wasted too much wood in the building of your house.  As a prerequisite, you have to order no more than 10% in excess of what it will take to construct the house.  If you over-ordered more than 10% you’ve missed the prerequisite.  Extra points are received for having detailed framing documents (which we did thanks to the engineer and architect we hired), and for having a detailed cut list (which we had).

Framing efficiencies can get you 3 points.  There’s a chart on page 78 of the LEED for Homes Rating System that outlines 13 types of efficiencies that you can earn points for.  We are following these, some of which are often collectively called “advanced framing techniques”.

  • Stud spacing great then 16″ on center (we don’t have every single stud spaced greater than 16″, but the majority are)
  • Floor joist spacing greater than 16″ on center
  • Roof rafter spacing greater than 16″ on center
  • Size headers for actual loads
  • Use 2-stud corners (also known as California corners)

Why do we care about having greater than 16″ on center studs, joists and rafters?  As LEED puts it, “Reduced framing can reduce the number and size of thermal breaks and increase the amount of insulation installed, leading to better energy performance”.  And it clearly allows you to use less materials.

Waste Management is also addressed in this category.  You must have a construction waste management plan, and you can get extra points for limiting the waste.  I’ll again refer you to a table showing the amount of points you get (page 84 of the Rating System), but the idea is to send to the landfill or incinerator as little as possible.  Our wood waste is minimal because as you read in my post on the deconstruction of our old house, we are having our bare wood shredded to be used as mulch in our new landscape…so ZERO of it ends up in a landfill!

Materials & Resources expected points:  16 out of a possible 16.