Going green starts with the basics

When builder Luis Imery tells people he focuses on sustainable construction, the first thing they typically mention is solar panels.

“They think immediately about technology. That’s the least of the things you focus on when building a high-performance home,” said Imery, owner of Imery Group, winner of the 2011 National Association Home Builders’ Green Building Project of the Year.

The Proud Green Home at Serenbe, a sustainable-focused community in Chattahoochee Hills, hopes to educate people about the elements of an energy-efficient home, and snag a buyer in doing so.

The 2,570-square-foot home, listed for $699,000, is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. The Proud Green Home, which has three finished bedrooms and two-and-a-half finished baths (plus another unfinished bedroom and bath) was built by Imery Group, designed by LG Squared Residential Design and produced by ProudGreenHome.com. The contemporary home is just down the street from what was the 2012 HGTV Green Home, surrounded by cottage and Craftsman-style properties in Serenbe’s walkable setting.

From the foundation to the mechanical systems to the dark brick and metal exterior to the interior fixtures, all decisions were based on creating a home that showcases the latest in green building, building science, construction techniques and unique products from companies such as Boral Brick, Kohler, LG Electronics, Benjamin Obdyke, Zehnder America and Huber Engineered Woods.

“To get it to be the most efficient, the most durable, you can’t just say, ‘Let’s pick something that looks good and then who cares if it works well with that or this,’” said Chris Laumer-Giddens, architect and co-founder of Atlanta-based LG Squared.

The idea is to design the house like a system of systems, where everything is connected, he added. With every incarnation of the floor plan and elevation, or selection of items inside and outside the home, Laumer-Giddens said it was important to consider how it would impact the “performance” of the home, from an energy usage standpoint.

The home achieved an EarthCraft Platinum rating – the highest rating by Southface, an Atlanta-based non-profit – and is a “net zero,” residence, meaning the home is expected to have no net annual energy cost. Other certifications include: ENERGY STAR Version 3, EPA Indoor Air Plus and EPA Water Sense.

“Theoretically, the home is gong to produce more energy than it consumes,” Imery said. “All that depends on how they, obviously, use it.”

From the outside in

The process of sustainable building should start with what Imery says “Mother Nature gave us for free,” or the setting and location of the home on the lot. The Proud Green Home is visually striking and unique, but it is often the underlying materials that aren’t visible that really differentiate the house, Tara Murray, marketing manager at Benjamin Obdyke, a provider of roof and wall building materials, said in a release.

• Foundation: The concrete slab foundation is insulated at its edges to retain heat during the winter and keep heat outside in the summer. KleenWrap was used to cover the slab to trap dust, dirt and other products during the construction process and then removed. The foundation is integrated into the wall system, and that seamless transition seeks to eliminate air leaking from the home.

• Insulation: Decisions about the insulation and materials used to build the house were focused on temperature, reducing air leaks and stopping water intrusion. Spray foam insulation and air sealing techniques made the Proud Green Home about 90 percent “tighter” than a home built to standard code, Imery said.

• Exterior: The metal roof, metal siding and bricks are low-maintenance and add texture. The brick (in the Cannon color) used as the home’s primary exterior cladding material is clean, simple and monochromatic, said Crysta Thomas, brand manager-bricks division for Roswell-based Boral Bricks. “They did a nice job of combining materials to prove that you don’t have to live in a bunker to have an energy-efficient home,” she said.

Overhangs limit heat from entering the home but also serve as a design feature, said Jodi Laumer-Giddens, architect and president of LG Squared. Pergolas were designed to let light in without cooking the interior, she added.

“Once you really max out all those features, then if you want to push the envelope, you could say, ‘OK, let’s think about solar panels and let’s think about solar hot water heaters,’ ” Imery said. “Building green is not about technology or a particular component. It’s a holistic approach in how you mix everything to deliver the maximum potential of each part working at its best.”

An energy recovery ventilator (ERV) enables fresh air to flow in a way that keeps the temperature even and keeps moisture at the right levels.

“It basically uses the heating and cooling energy from the inside air to pre-condition the fresh air coming in,” Chris Laumer-Giddens said. “When the fresh air gets into the home, it’s closer to room temperature, which is more efficient than just dumping fresh air into the house and opening a window. It mechanically controls it so you have just the right amount of fresh air for the people there.”

A key to having a net zero home was the ability to generate electrical power, using 40 LG Solar photovoltaic panels on the roof. A LG HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system – the new Multi-V Mini ductless system – offers the ability to control multiple zones in the home and control the amount of energy being used to heat and cool the house.

Creating an appealing, energy-efficient interior

The brick on the exterior is reflected indoors, with a large brick wall serving as a backdrop to a floating staircase. On the ground floor, the concrete slab was polished and sealed, for durability and low maintenance, and on the second level, whitewashed bamboo was used. The paints are low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds).

The “heart of the home” also needed to be as energy-efficient as possible. In the kitchen, LG Electronics provided a three-door French-door refrigerator that has earned Energy Star’s “Most Efficient” designation. Other Energy Star-certified appliances include an LG steam dishwasher, a 36-inch gas cooktop and a built-in double oven.

The countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms are quartz, and low-flow Kohler plumbing fixtures were chosen (including a toilet seat that plays music and is heated). Light fixtures are Energy Star certified and use LEDs and compact fluorescent bulbs.

For people interested in green homes, Chris Laumer-Giddens said it boils down to indoor air quality, low or no power bills and lower maintenance because the design and construction of the home has tried to reduce moisture problems. One specific comment from an individual touring the home on opening weekend made him proud of the Proud Green Home.

“He said there was something about it that just sort of made it almost sound, feel and look more comfortable,” Chris Laumer-Giddens said.

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