What better way to understand a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) home, than to live in one. Paul Abueva, owner of Abueva Builders LLC is the definition of practice what you preach. Paul owns and manages a small residential construction company out of Kalamazoo. His company recently completed its first LEED home in October of 2015, which Paul and his wife currently live in. “We wanted to have a sense of just how much it costs to be green,” said Abueva.
Unlike most builders, Abueva has a degree in environmental science. His business unites his educational background and passion for the environment with his 14 years of construction experience. As a builder, Abueva strives to educate his customers on the added value achieved by incorporating green features into their homes. “We encourage our customers to think beyond their immediate needs and incorporate features that will make their homes functional for years to come,” said Abueva.
Abueva’s business philosophy encompasses three things: exceptional energy efficiency, environmental consciousness, and universal design. Abueva’s new Sandy Cove home in Kalamazoo was built using this triple threat philosophy. It is one of the first LEED homes in the greater Kalamazoo area and the first to receive gold level certification.
Abueva’s team designed the house using a seven-year strategy. Meaning that any green feature implemented would need to pay off within 7 years, and anything that didn’t was not incorporated into the house. “We strived for an achievable goal,” said Abueva.
You can’t avoid waste when it comes to construction, but you can always plan for it. This house was designed with waste in mind. Abueva’s example was, “carpet typically comes in a 12’ roll, so the bedrooms were designed to be 12’ wide.” This planning system was utilized for all materials purchased for the project. The house was built around 2’ increments to maximize materials and minimize waste. A commercial dumpster was never on site. Every product or material purchased was either used up, recycled, or donated to their local habitat for humanity.
Abueva wasn’t just thinking about the future of the house when he designed it. He built this LEED home with the future of the homeowners in mind. It’s called universal design. Universal design is a building procedure that ensures inherent accessibility to all people regardless of age or ability. Abueva pre-framed this home for wide hallways, ramps, a zero clearance entry, and an elevator shaft. “It’s designed so that anyone could see this as a forever home, for whatever may happen,” said Abueva.
The Numbers Speak for Themselves
The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured. The lower the number, the more energy efficient the home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a typical resale home scores 130, while a standard new home is awarded a rating of 100. Abueva’s home achieved a HERS score of 32. This means that Abueva’s home is 68% more energy efficient than a standard new home.
The home achieved its impressive numbers using a design that incorporated a 10” thick double stud wall and air sealing details that were incorporated into the framing. This allowed for almost double the insulation of a house built to current codes.
Abueva said one of the most impressive and rewarding aspects of certifying his home was the blower door test. A blower door test is done to measure a building’s leak rate. Their result was 0.04 ACH (air changes/hour) natural. “It was the tightest non passive house certified project our green rater Michael Holcomb has ever tested,” said Abueva.
Passive housing is another building standard, also voluntary for buildings owners to adopt. Abueva’s team did not implement the passive house standard into the Sandy Cove home, instead, they designed the house to be passive ready. “We wanted to design a system that could meet Passive House certification,” said Abueva. “That way in the future we could utilize the same system should we decide to go for their certification.” The house is also designed to achieve net zero energy waste. It was sited and built to allow for solar panels, should they want to incorporate them in the future.
This is the first of many LEED homes for Abueva Builders LLC. Abueva plans to use his LEED home as a guide for future projects by tracking his return on investment, and benchmarking his home for many years to come. He will be able to not only tell his customers about the remarkable paybacks of his LEED home, he will be able to show them.
Grab your hard hats folks, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County is creating an explosion. An affordable green housing explosion that is. Recently named a finalist for a Governor’s Energy Excellence Award for Best Communication/Education Program. The Governor’s Energy Excellence Award honors Michigan organizations and individuals for their commitment to responsible energy production and consumption.
Habitat Kent is a Christian nonprofit dedicated to providing affordable homes in the greater Grand Rapids area. The business model enables them to build affordable homes by engaging volunteers and implementing efficient building practices into their work. “We have between 4,000 – 5,000 volunteers every year,” said Brandyn Deckinga, director of construction at Habitat Kent. “Forming strong partnerships with organizations and volunteers is what helps us build affordable housing for the community.”
Partnering with educational groups such as Grand Rapids Public School (GRPS) and Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) to provide the next generation workforce with hands on experience. Together they have built a combined 36 homes in Kent County. In the past year Habitat Kent has helped communicate, instruct and train 31 GRPS students and over 50 GRCC students. “That’s 80 students last year who specifically worked on a house, received training in construction and learned ways to be energy efficient” said Deckinga.
The staff at Habitat Kent is excited to be one of the finalists for a 2016 Governor’s Energy Excellence Award. In 2015 the Michigan Battle of the Building’s Awards and Recognition Program took home the honors for Best Communication/Education Program. “We look forward to August 11th when the 2016 winner will be announced in Lansing,” said Cheri Holman, executive director of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) West Michigan Chapter. “Congratulations to all the finalists for executing outstanding programs that encourage us all to be better stewards of our resources.” Other finalists include City of Holland and Muskegon County Department of Veterans Affairs.
Along with volunteer work, choosing sustainable building options enables Habitat Kent to build affordable homes. By implementing things like energy efficient wall assemblies that include DOW’s XPS continuous insulation, paying attention to detail with air sealing, using EnergyStar appliances, LED lighting, installing Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV’s), and low flow plumbing fixtures Habitat Kent is able to reach their low cost goals.
Habitat Kent has excelled across the leaderboard when it comes to sustainable building. They were recently recognized for building the first v4 LEED certified house in Michigan. The LEED v4 certification is the newest version of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system.
Among 25 honorees, Habitat Kent was also recognized by the USGBC as a 2015 Power Builder. To be considered a Power Builder, organizations must have obtained LEED certification on 90 percent or more of their homes or units. Habitat Kent’s team has certified 142 homes to LEED standards in Kent County, 10 of which were v4 certified and more than 70 are EnergyStar certified.
Also noteworthy, Habitat or Humanity is a founding member of the Grand Rapids 2030 District. A groundbreaking, private and public led building district focused on fostering a sustainable, efficient, thriving downtown Grand Rapids.
Habitat Kent aspires to build LEED certified buildings. Currently they have 6 homes in progress, 4 of which will be underway in the next month and all aiming for LEED v4 certification. “We have plans for a multifamily unit coming in 2017 that we would like to build net zero energy ready,” said Deckinga. “It will be a challenging project but we’re ready for it!”
There really is no place like home. With the help of Habitat Kent, many homeowners are able to live affordably in high efficient homes that will last a lifetime.