Charlotte green building helps homeowners build for a sustainable future
David Roberts could talk at length about any one of several earth-friendly features in the home he and his wife, Patty, built on the shores of Lake Wylie in South Carolina, but focusing on just one thing would miss the point, he says. "This house is a system," Roberts says. "If you take one piece of it away, it doesn't work like it needs to."
A small but growing group of homeowners in the Charlotte area are choosing, like the Roberts, to think green from the ground up, either starting from scratch with a custom home or embarking on a gut rehab that brings an older home up to green standards.
For Angie's List member Deborah Edwards and her husband, Michael, earth-friendly thinking began in 2008 with the deconstruction of their 1940s-era home in the Dilworth neighborhood. They hired highly rated Segue Builders of Charlotte, which recycled shingles, bricks, lumber and concrete. The resulting 4,800-square-foot house is certified "gold" by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
Segue owner Grady Moseley says "green" building oftentimes is simply doing things in a more durable way. For example, he primes the back of fascia boards and other wood trim, not just the front, to prevent moisture from penetrating the wood.
The new house also includes an extensive rainwater collection system that the Edwardses use to water their lawn and flush toilets. "We are able to irrigate without depleting the public aquifer," Deborah Edwards says. "Our power and gas bills are amazingly small for a 4,800-square-foot home."
Planning for eco-friendliness saves money upfront and down the road, says architect Jim Gleeson of unrated AIA/Design Integration in Charlotte, which designed the Roberts' home. He says it meets the regional EarthCraft House standards but is not formally certified.
"It's got to start with the basic design," Gleeson says. For example, Roberts' home features south-facing windows with eaves that block sunlight in the summer when the sun is high in the sky, but let sunlight in during the winter. "That makes a huge difference and it doesn't really cost anything," Gleeson says. "If you ignore that, you are about 30 percent in the hole before you start."
Roberts says he pays about $60 a month to heat and cool his 2,500-square-foot home, which is a fraction of what he used to pay.
Edwards says it pays to do your own research. "A lot of things that seem to be green, aren't," she says. "Bamboo was all the rage. Turns out they are bulldozing rainforests at an alarming rate to make room for more bamboo crops. Is that really good for the environment?"
She also says the 5- to 10-percent premium she paid for green construction may take a long time to recoup. However, "you have to be motivated beyond just the financial gain," she says.