Dream House

I am in the fortunate position of being able to afford to build myself a new house (well...perhaps myself and the bank). Having been to several 3rd world countries and knowing that there are lots of people in the world who don't even have housing, I felt a few pangs of guilt about this. I had a decision to make: rehab the old or build new. The cost to rehab my old house was going to be substantial. It was October of 2009. My husband had passed away in August from liver cancer. I was in the depths of grief and sorrow. I needed a project. I decided that if I had to plunk down a lot of money anyway, it was better to build new. I also decided that if I was going to build new, I was going to build green. My new house will be both beautiful and "green". I will share the journey and the adventure with you.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Energy Star and Green Built Programs

 Its been a challenging week. Its that in between time of year here in Wisconsin. We are anxiously waiting for warm breezes, the songs of the birds, the smell of moist earth, and the pushing through of the flowers and grasses from the ground...and yet it feels like it will never happen! Snowstorm on 3/22!  I dug my car out of the snow before going to work for what seems the millionth time this winter (even though by the calendar its supposed to be spring). Its also been a week where I am faced with the fragile-ness of life. I have heard of several people dying this week that I was acquainted with. The numbers of the dead in Japan from the quake and tsunami keeps on growing.  My brother in law in Seattle discovered he had cancerous mass on his pancreas last week, underwent  a 10 hour surgery called the Whipple procedure, and is on a ventilator in an ICU there.
   The fundamental questions of "Why I am here?", "What is it all about?" come to mind. So for me, part of it is caring for life, caring for the earth, and being compassionate towards this planet that we call earth and the people in it. Faced with our own mortality and limitations, we can either give up or we can do our part to change what we can, to leave a legacy for the next generation. In what now seems to be my grand scheme of building a house, it seemed reasonable to build it green in the best way I could as a way doing just that.
     Its a many layered process. A big part of the process for me is  making the house  Energy Star certified. Energy Star is a national program. Each state has its own certification process and credits that can be earned. Here is what it's website (http://www.energystar.gov/) says: " To earn the ENERGY STAR, a home must meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These homes are at least 15% more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC), and include additional energy-saving features that typically make them 20–30% more efficient than standard homes." So the focus of the program is on certifying new homes to be energy efficient. An outside consultant who is  involved in the Energy Star program does the certification. They make site visits during the building process. First, they review the building plans to determine the efficiency in the design. They make site visits during the framing and insulation portions of the building process. Finally, they do performance testing for air tightness, ventilation capacity, and verify combustion safety. There is cost involved for the builder and homeowner (roughly $800-1000 for the homeowner), but rebates are earned for putting in the extra insulation, and completing the assessment. This first step in building an energy efficient home (before using alternative sources of energy) is to build a tight envelope to the house. This flip side to this is that this sometimes results in poor indoor air exchange, and usually an air exchanger is added in to the house.
     I am also having the house Green Built certified. This is a Wisconsin program. (http://www.greenbuilthome.org/). Its aim is to promote energy efficient homes and buildings that minimize the impact on the environment. The cost for certification is $150. To qualify for a green built home, each home must earn a total of 60 points or more in a number of specified areas. First and foremost, the home must be Energy Star certified. Points must also be earned in the following areas: siting and land use; landscape conservation and stormwater management; energy efficiency; materials selection; indoor air quality; plumbing and water conservation; waste reduction, recycling, and disposal; builder operations; and efficient use of space. For instance, under the efficient use of space, although I won't earn points for having a house under 2500 square feet, I can check off 2 points for having a home designed for flexibility to allow for changing uses in the future, 1 point for having a home that shares a common driveway with at least one other building (my neighbor), and 1 point for having a bonus room over the garage. If my home was under 1500 square feet, I could earn 5 points. The checklists are quite extensive, and you can learn alot about green building by reviewing them, so check out the website. (If the pictures don't show up, then click on the the little box).
My mom recently viewed the house. She said, "I always told you to tear down your old house and build a new one. I never imagined it would be a palace!"

 Below are two of the cultured stones I am debating about. Opinions welcome.

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