Building a Green Home, a Look Back

When my husband and I embarked on this project I believed green living and a tech lifestyle could co-exist, what I found was that technology helped us be more energy efficient, more connected and smarter in the way we designed, built and live in our home.  Looking back on the 24 months we have invested in this project, I have learned so much and have enjoyed sharing what I’ve learned with you, our daily readers. Today marks the final blog entry on Green Life Smart Life but I will continue to blog on green and energy topics on our Caster Blog and hope you join us there. The site and the blogs will remain intact for your future reference and I wish you well in your green building projects, feel free to email me at info {at} if you have any questions.

Here is my final entry and an overview of what we did.

When we decided to build our new home in April of 2008, we also decided we wanted to build it green. We wanted a home that captured the incredible views of Narragansett Bay and the Newport Bridge; integrated sustainable design with durability measures that would handle the harsh weather elements of the Northeast corridor; and incorporated smart home technology to enable us to live in a high-tech, high-touch, entertainment driven environment.

We were dedicated to building the home to achieve LEED for Homes certification, and despite our 4,529 sq/ft of living space, our home achieved 92.5 points. From energy management to water conservation and from high performance building techniques to a systematic waste management plan, our team worked together every step of the way to bring Gold to this project.

The Nantucket style home was stick built and framed using FSC sourced lumber whenever it was available, FSC-certified white cedar shingles flanked the home’s exterior, with Versatex specified for all eaves, trim and moldings for their long life in the salt ridden air. Being built in a 120-mph coastal wind zone, we selected Pella’s Hurricaneshield windows for both their impact resistance and their ENERGY STAR ratings. With spray foam insulation filling the building envelope the home received a HERS rating of 58. The extra steps that we took in building our foundation included french drains and a sump pump really paid off for us when RI encountered the recent historic flooding; as neighbors pumped their basements, our home stayed completely dry through and after the storms!

We are thrilled with our decision to install a five-zone geothermal HVAC system, including a dedicated heat pump for the wine cellar. Our electric bills are coming in just slightly higher than our previous 2,200 sq/ft oil heated home, but we have no monthly oil or gas bill to pay. The system also included dual water tanks for holding hot water, two Environmental Recovery Ventilators, and a water pump for diverting water from the well to the 5,000 gallon rainwater harvesting system should their not be enough rainfall (looks doubtful) and eliminating any exterior municipal water for irrigation. Our water bill to date has been the lowest we’ve had in years, with no excess usage charges.

I really enjoyed working on the interior finished of our home which included 200 year old reclaimed barn wood floors, a wine cellar with racks made from the reclaimed Point Judith County Club deck, recycled countertops, sinks and tile, low-flow plumbing fixtures including 1.0 gpf toilets, 1.75 gpm showerheads and 1.5 gpm faucets; locally-made FSC early-American cabinetry and zero VOC paints and finishes. Wood scraps were used to make the custom closets, shorter floor boards were relegated to closet sections and even the lavette sink was crafted from leftover materials, but you’d never know it to look at the design of our house. Even our furniture and fabrics choices were sustainable!

One of the real unique attributes to the project was the complete integration of smart home technology to monitor and control every subsystem in the home. We really pushed the threshold of innovative technologies with the goal of saving energy while not forgoing our lifestyle. The design included a Control4 system for integrated management of HVAC, irrigation, Lutron lighting control, security and state-of-the art entertainment. It also includes an energy management system that aggregates data and communicates areas of consumption that can be lowered to conserve energy, which was really important when we first got into the house to help determine if we were hitting our energy goals (and budgets).

I know our home is big and we’ve taken our share of flack for that. But honestly, this is an affluent, waterfront community and a small house would have been both out-of-place and a bad investment. I truly feel our home could be anyone’s home, whether it is in whole or in part.  One of the things I learned during this process is you don’t have to do everything but you can do something and that was the point of this project, to inspire everyone to do something that makes a difference for our environment.

I hope you enjoyed reading us because I certainly enjoyed sharing. Happy greening!

posted by Kimberly Lancaster, founder Green Life Smart Life project (Twitter | newscaster)

Green Homes Show Sales Gains in Real Estate Market, at least in the Pacific Northwest

In the pacific northwest, homes certified as eco-friendly sold for 8.5% more per square foot and were on the market 22% less time than other homes, according to the ECert report that tracks new home sales from September 2007 through December 2009. Homes that underwent the strictest certifications sold for 25% more than non-certified homes. Certified home standards included Earth Advantage New Homes, ENERGY STAR®, and the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® for Homes  (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program.

The Earth Advantage Institute put out their own  report  citing that  green-certified homes in the Portland, Ore., metro area, sold for 12% more than non-certified homes from May 2008 through April 2009. Its analysis, based on data from the Regional Multiple Listing Service, saw a premium per square of $193 for a green certified home verses $173 for other homes. 

“The fact that the number of sustainable homes increased despite a severe slowdown shows that energy efficiency and green building will only be growing in the near future,” said Sean Penrith, executive director of Earth Advantage Institute. “In this economy, consumers are seeing the combined appeal of long-term energy savings with healthier homes that leave less of a carbon footprint.”

posted by Kimberly Lancaster | twitter

Greener Product – a green building resource

One of the most challenging things about working on a LEED or other green building project can be sourcing materials and specifying products that will not only gain points in a certification program but also represent the level of sustainability desired.  If there are limited LEED experts in a given area, that challenge only grows for builders, architects, homeowners and contractors.  That’s why when I first stumbled across Greener Product, I thought it was a perfect solution for these resource problems.   Greener Product’s online provides architects, builders and the public a quick and easy online platform for searching and evaluating “green” products according to the Internationally recognized United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

The database can search by location and determine if the product meets the 500 miles radius requirement that LEED often provides for products used in a project. It will also give the user a checklist of the products in each search, letting them know if the product has recycled content, low VOCs, certified wood and if it’s rapidly renewable.  Maybe one of the most useful features, Greener Product shows the number of points that can be achieved by using a product.

From the Greener Product website:

Greener Product, LLC identified this problem and over the past year has developed a “game changing” web based platform designed specifically for LEED AP’s, architects and builders to identify green building products. This free service platform allows for the building specifiers to quickly search for green building products and then once identified evaluate those product against the LEED standards.

The online service is a platform for manufacturers to “tell their green story” directly to the largest group of American building specifiers. The products are registered on the Greener Product, LLC web site and presented to the LEED community for final consideration. Then the products are evaluated (against the LEED standards) and  the information is prepared in a report supported by copies of independent 3rd party certificates (FSC, CARB, Greenguard, Blue Angel, etc), laboratory testing reports, product environmental attributes, LEED credit and inserted into a comprehensive report ready for submission into the architects project file.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter

3 Easy Sustainable Home Improvement Measures

In today’s world, it literally pays to be eco-friendly; green is the new in color; and if you’re not bothered about the environment, you’re the villain who is hastening the destruction of our wonderful planet. If you’ve owned your home for more than a decade or so, you’re probably only now beginning to understand why there’s a loud clarion call for green building measures. Your energy costs are soaring and you know you’re not using scarce resources in an optimal manner. Even so, it’s not too late to adopt green measures when you renovate or improve your home. It may increase your budget by a small amount, but the rewards you gain in return in the future more than make up for any inconvenience you may face in the present.

Any sustainable home improvement measure should make less of an impact on the environment, make improvements that are lasting, and lower your energy consumption significantly. To that end, here are a few basic sustainable home improvement measures that are easy to implement:

  • Those that save water: Fresh water is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity nowadays, and if each of us plays a role in its conservation, we are going green in a big way. The best way to save water in the home when you’re remodeling is to install dual flush toilets and low flow shower/water heads, adopt recycling techniques so that your waste water is cleaned and then diverted to your plants and garden, build facilities for rainwater collection, repair and replace leaky faucets immediately.
  • Those that save energy: The easiest and cheapest way to cut down on your energy costs is to invest in CFL bulbs to replace your traditional light bulbs. Also, it’s best to replace your appliances with energy efficient alternatives that come with Energy Star ratings. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, homes that use Energy Star rated appliances and products emit 35 percent less carbon into the atmosphere and use 35 percent less energy. Another eco-friendly idea is to install ceiling fans in places where the climate is hot and use them to cool rooms instead of using air conditioners all the time.
  • Those that use eco-friendly materials: And finally, use materials that are derived from sustainable and recycled sources and which are recyclable when remodeling your home. Wood, plastic, steel, aluminum, glass and other building materials are available in recycled forms; they’re also recyclable when you dispose of them during the next improvement or renovation. Use paints that are eco-friendly and are manufactured without volatile organic compounds. And adopt building methods that are energy efficient and eco-friendly.

Some people have the financial wherewithal to install solar panels and other expensive gadgetry to reduce their energy consumption, but in general, it’s best to find the right tradeoff between energy consumption and cost when you’re trying to achieve sustainable home improvement.  



This guest post is contributed by Nicole Adams, she writes on the topic of construction management .  She welcomes your comments at her email id: .

RI Chapter of USGBC announces lineup of events and workshops

The RI Chapter of the USGBC has been planning its events and workshops for the first half of 2010 and has provided an exciting line-up including the NFL’s Climate Change Initiative event coming in mid-March. Information and sign-ups can be found on the Chapter’s website. You’ve should become a member a member and get involved.

 Did you know? The National Football League Is Green

Come hear about the latest efforts involving the NFL’s Climate Change Initiative as well as the green design features at Gillette Stadium and One Patriots Place. This event is Thursday, March 18th 4:00PM-7:00PM. Free to members, we suggest you register now as it will sell out.

 Green Buildings Act now Law

Chapter members will present at the Eastern States Building Code Officials Federation’s 61st Annual Educational Conference to explain the bill and introduce the USGBC LEED™ green building standard. Monday, April 12th 5PM-6PM.

 Celebrate Earth Week at UNFI

Learn how to transform an old mill building into a LEEDcertified building at United Natural Foods. Tour and healthy refreshments included; Continuing Education Credits available. Wednesday, April 21st 4:30PM -7:30PM.

 Green Building Tours Scheduled

The Chapter is organizing tours of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of RI headquarters (new construction) and the Moran Shipping Agency (historic restoration), both in Providence. Friday, May 14th – afternoon.

Save the Date: Summer Soiree for Sponsors

Please join us for a social gathering Upstairs at 41° North, Newport, RI designed to the LEED standard. Jack Robinson of Winslow Management LLC will give the keynote address: Adapting your Portfolio for Climate Change. Friday, June 4th

posted by Kimberly Lancaster | newscaster

Want to start your own weatherization business in NE? NESEA offers a class

The residential weatherization industry is expected to grow dramatically as utility programs and government incentives make it more affordable for homeowners to make their houses more energy efficient. Whether it is improving insulation, replacing old windows, or sealing foundations, there will be millions of dollars spent on weatherization projects over the coming years, and there is a strong need for more contractors to provide these services.

At first glance, this makes starting a weatherization business sound very attractive. But there are many questions that should be considered before jumping into the weatherization business. For instance, what does “Weatherization” really mean? What skills, training and resources does it take to start and run your own weatherization contracting business in Massachusetts? What kinds of equipment will you need to buy? How much does your initial investment need to be? What kind of work will you actually be doing, and what kind of training will you have to get in order to be a success? What licenses, certifications, and insurance are required?

To help ypu get started,  MassGREEN Initiative and NESEA BuildingEnergy are offering a wokrshop in order to help you decide if this is really a business you can succeed in.

WHEN: Thursday, March 11, 3:00pm-6:00pm, Federal Complex

Sponsored by the MassGREEN Initiative, this free workshop will help contractors determine what kinds of skills training and resources it takes to start and run your own weatherization contracting business in Massachusetts. Pre-registration is required. You must be registered for the conference or Trade Show on Thursday in order to attend. Call or email Michelle Rose to be put on the list. 413-774-6051 x17;

Instructor: Mark Hutchins, Conservation Services Group

posted by Kimberly Lancaster | newscaster

Skip a flush or change your system!

Skipping a flush just doesn’t seem right, it’s a personal thing for me but I can’t see it being sanitary.  There are so many way’s to go green and to help you save money and in return are also helping the environment.  Putting low flow water heads throughout your home is a huge step.  Putting in a waterless urinal in my bathroom doesn’t really seem like an option so many greenies have suggested to opt on flushing when not truly necessary. 

The average toilet uses between 1.5 gallons and 7 gallons with each flush.  This is an overuse of water in most cases.  Water is one of the biggest green issues, the earth only has so much water, and so much of it is carelessly being used up and polluted.  There are many way’s to make sure your toilet is saving you as much water and money as possible.  The first thing to do is make sure your toilet is running efficiently

Installing a dual flush system is a great choice for those who are concerned about overuse of water.  The system allows two flushing options one with little water for liquid and a little more water for those that need an extra push.  A dual flush system is available for most toilets and for those who are renovating and replacing their existing toilet can purchase a new toilet with it already built in.  Most major toilet manufacturers carry at least one and many people are opting for his option when remodeling.

Saving money and saving water are the two best reasons to switch the way your toilet works now.  Before ordering dual flush, make sure your toilet is compatible.  Studies have shown that toilets that have been replaced with a dual flush toilet have saved almost 17,000 gallons of water a year. 

Posted by Kate Kiselka, follow me on Twitter