Franklin home first in Indiana to achieve highest LEED certification

Franklin home first in Indiana to achieve highest LEED certification

The floors are bamboo, the appliances, Energy Star. But what puts Mark Jennett's 4,000-square-foot home in a category by itself is the earth-friendly planning that went into every detail, from the angle it sits on his acreage outside Franklin to the color of the roof.

Attention to detail is what it takes to achieve platinum certification, the highest level offered by the U.S. Green Building Council. Jennett is the first - and, as of press time, the only - homeowner in Indiana to achieve it.

He's just a regular guy. He drives a truck and a four-wheeler. He eats red meat. But he says he's learned a lot about recycling from his Swiss-born wife, Sibylle. When it comes to earth-friendly living, he says, "Europe is way ahead of us."

He estimates he paid 10 to 15 percent more to build his house to the council's LEED standards, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, but says he'll recover that cost through lower utility bills.

Since moving into the home in October, he has noticed a difference. He paid $75 in January for natural gas, compared to $300 in his old house, and about $100 for electricity. That's about the same as the old house, but his new house is twice as big.

"You pay a little more for the green stuff," Jennett says. "But it's going to pay off in the long run. Plus, we are helping out the environment. That was our main thing."

The tankless water heaters are 98 percent efficient, the open-cell spray foam insulation reduces his air loss to 3 percent - he says most houses have 35 percent air loss. He chose a gas-electric hybrid furnace because he felt like it would take too long to get his money back with geothermal. The flat roof is white to reflect light, and the back of the house faces south and is 80 percent windows.

"In the summertime, the sun is on top of the house," he says. Nine-foot eaves on the back ensure the house remains in the shade. "We put some thought into it when we put it on the property," he says.

Frank Redavide of highly rated Castalia Homes in Carmel built the house. Of the eight LEED-certified houses in Indiana, Redavide has built five of them, according to the USGBC.

Redavide says the LEED program requires third-party verification. Putting in Energy Star appliances or using special insulation, low-VOC paint or "green" carpet doesn't really make a green home, Redavide says. "You just have one or two facets that are green," he says. Getting LEED certification, he says, is "a big deal."

You have to seek it from the start. "You cannot come to them right at the end and say, 'I'd like to certify this,'" Redavide says. "You have to follow the steps. I bring [LEED third-party inspectors] in halfway through the process. They inspect everything. They want to see everything behind the walls."

LEED certification for homes is only about 2 years old, Redavide says, and he expects more Indiana homes to be built to the standard because it adds value to the house. "If you have two homes that are fairly identical right next to each other, the utility bill on one home is $450 a month and on the other $125 a month," he says. "Which one are you going to pick?"

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