Zahn Development was recently featured in the Miami Hearld South Florida Home Section.
Read the article below or download the PDF file.
GREEN BUILDING PUTS LESS STRESS ON THE ENVIRONMENT
Green construction gaining popularity with home buyers
BY JANA SOELDNER-DANGER
Special to South Florida Home, Miami Hearld
February 13, 2010
Some builders looking for ways to differentiate themselves from competitors have discovered a solution that can be a double winner: green construction. By employing environmentally sustainable building practices, they can help the planet, and also draw the interest of potential clients who are concerned about global warming.
Environmentally conscious builders are taking time to educate themselves to become LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. The designation is offered by the Washington, DC- based Green Building Council, a nonprofit coalition of industry leaders. The goal of the GBC is to encourage design and construction practices that leave a lighter footprint on the environment, yet allow builders and developers to achieve reasonable profits.
There are three levels of LEED certification: silver, gold, and platinum. A builder usually decides in advance of starting a project which level he or she will strive for. Certification can also make a builder eligible for a growing number of government incentives. Andrew Zahn, of Lighthouse Point-based Zahn Development, is currently building a waterfront spec home that he plans to have LEED certified at the Silver level. He became interested in green construction after seeing that builders in other states seemed to be ahead of Florida in their practices. “I wondered why South Florida was so far behind,” he says. “We think this is a smart business move, and that green homes will maintain their value better over time.”
When Brett Handler of Dreamstar Custom Homes in Palm Beach Gardens became interested in green construction back in 2005, he found there were misconceptions about it. “Both builders a
nd clients thought it cost too much, so they didn’t want to deal with it,” he says. “But I think the mindset is changing.”
Green construction is about more than fixtures and finishes, although they fit into the overall picture. “It’s a process of trying to create an entire environment of energy savings and cleaner air that has less impact on the environment,” Handler says. “And it’s about having knowledge of the products and systems that are available to create a home that’s energy efficient.”
While a green home may cost more initially, owners may get the additional dollars and more back in energy savings. “It’s a compromise between cost and ben- efit,” Zahn says. “But the upfront costs are often less than what people think. And how can you put a price on a health- ier environment and better quality of life?”
Homeowners should not feel that green construction has to be an all-or- nothing proposition. “Green comes in many shades,” Handler says. “Even doing little things can help, and some of them don’t have to be more expensive. I can order a low-flow faucet as easily as I can order one that’s high-flow, and it doesn’t cost more. If everyone does a little, it will make a big difference.”
The process begins with site selection. “An urban infill project (where an older home is knocked down to make way for a new one) doesn’t require disturbing new land and the natural resources there,” Zahn says.
Aligning the structure so it runs north and south rather than east and west can save energy by reducing the entry of heat from the sun. “We’re putting most of the windows in our home on the north side,” Zahn says.
Insulating can help keep out heat and humidity. Handler prefers to use a form of insulation that is sprayed against the roof deck rather than on the attic floor.
“That way, the heat doesn’t get into the attic to start with,” he says. “We also then don’t have to put vents in the sofits, so humidity doesn’t get in through the vents. The air-conditioning duct work in the attic stays cooler and is more efficient. It’s important to understand how one thing works off of another.”
When possible, green builders like to choose products manufactured close to home, thus saving the energy necessary to transport them from long distances. Handler uses drywall produced in central Florida at a plant located next to a Florida Power & Light coal fire pit. “Gypsum (used in drywall) is the main byproduct of the coal,” he says. “The drywall company also use recycled paper, and it doesn’t cost me any more.”
The concrete mix favored by Zahn contains fly ash, another reclaimed sub- stance. “It’s a byproduct of power plants that they clean out of smokestacks,” he says. Paints, carpets, cabinets and other materials with low or no volatile organic compound (VOC) content can result in cleaner, healthier air. Using wood prod- ucts certified by the nonprofit Forest Stewardship Council can help encourage the responsible management of the world’s forests.
Solar panels to produce electricity are gaining popularity in Florida. “A home with solar panels can be equipped with a meter, and if the home produces more electricity than it uses, the meter runs backward and FPL gives credit for it,” Zahn says.
Responsible handling of waste gener- ated at the building site is another impor- tant part of green construction. Both builders interviewed for this article work with Southern Waste Systems, a company that hauls away waste products and recycles them at its own plant. “We receive monthly reports, and we have diverted 85 percent of our materials from the land- fill,” Zahn says. “The construction indus- try is one of the greatest creators of waste, so we’re trying to reduce our impact.”
Today, builders voluntarily comply with green building standards, but Zahn believes that won’t always be the case. “I think we’ll see that what LEED certification calls for now will soon become part of the required building code,” he says.
Educating consumers about the bene- fits of environmental responsibility can go a long way toward building a positive attitude. “Our clients have chosen us not only because we build nice houses, but also because of our attention to energy conservation,” Handler says. “It’s amazing how much people are talking about it, which means they’re also thinking about it, and that they care about it.”