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.