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Program encourages homebuilders, buyers to go 'green'

Posted November 3, 2008

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— A new program is aiming to make it easier for people to build and buy homes that are environmentally friendly.

Sarah Potter is a homebuilder who specializes in environmentally friendly homes. One of her biggest and most meaningful projects is in Cary.

“This one’s actually my personal home. Next week, we’ll be living here,” she said.

The 30-year-old ranch house was in bad shape when Potter and her husband bought it earlier this year.

“(It had) lots of water damage, mold, terrible energy efficiency,” she said.

Potter remodeled it with “green” in mind. She installed sustainable floors, used spray foam in the ceiling, low-energy lighting and water-saving faucets and toilets.

“In this house, we have zones. The bedrooms are all in one zone, the living area in one zone, and we have a bonus. The thermostats can be set differently,” she said.

The Potters' house is part of the North Carolina HealthyBuilt Homes program – a state project to encourage builders and buyers to go with environmentally friendly homes.

“I think everybody wants to live in a house that’s safer, healthier and more comfortable,” said Dona Stankus, a manager with N.C. HealthyBuilt Homes. “You get to take care of the environment as well and create value for your children in the future.”

Green houses can cost a little more to build than conventional houses, but Potter says it's worth it.

“You spend a little bit more in the beginning, (but) you are going to play less every month for your energy bills,” she said.

Potter said she’s ready to call her "green" house home.

"I can't wait to get in here and experience it first-hand with my little girls,” she said.

17 Comments

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  • katgoesloco Nov 4, 2008

    I just installed a new low-flow toilet and it works incredibly well! Flush power is stronger than the old wasteful toilet it replaced.

  • Hammerhead Nov 3, 2008

    That's the point Methuselah, the more common these things become, the more affordable. There are plenty of things I don't buy because I can't afford them. When I build my green cabin in the woods this year, it will be because I ride a bike whenever possible, grow a lot of my own food, drive a used truck, etc to save money so I CAN afford to build my house. And, it will pretty modest in itself, therefore, more affordable up front. Nothing fancy.

  • Methuselah Nov 3, 2008

    "Green houses can cost a little more to build than conventional houses, but Potter says it's worth it."

    I have two questions:

    1. How much did the house cost?
    2. How much did the "green" improvements cst?

    "You spend a little bit more in the beginning, (but) you are going to play less every month for your energy bills," she said.

    That's great, if you can afford the up-front cost. Everyone would love a more energy-efficient house, but not everyone can afford the higher price (or the cost to upgrade).

  • Pineview Style Nov 3, 2008

    "Have had no problems with them what so ever. Had always heard that loflow toilets were problematic, so was very pleased. Perhaps the newer models are just better!" -sail

    Hopefully so. My experiences with the lowflow toilets have been in houses that were built in the 90's. Would be fine on a liquid diet, but if everyone hit the mexican food joint at once earlier in the day, you better believe a 2-flusher would turn into 5+. That is if the commode didn't stop up all together.

  • Hammerhead Nov 3, 2008

    Passive solar design and incorporating green materials is a plus for everyone. If it's not for you, so be it.....it's not a conspiracy, and not a fad.

  • cocker_mom Nov 3, 2008

    We built our house over 10 years ago and incorporated "green" techniques. Not much is new here, it's using existing materials and resources wisely. We used recycled blue jean material for insulation and worked hard at insulating properly. We used low-e argon filled windows, high efficiency heat pumps with a variable speed blower, low flow, but pressure assisted toilets, planned for make up air to keep the house at a positive pressure, etc.

    It only took asking and pushing our builder and subcontractors to be more creative than slapping an 8 SEER heat pump and minimum fiberglass insulation up. Of course this was before it was cool to be green, so our uplift was probably less - but my guess is was 1% - 2% of the price of the house to do the energy efficient things.

    Out operating costs for this house is much less than our prior house and this house is bigger. Our payback was estimated at year 5 - so that past 5 have just been gravy....

  • sail Nov 3, 2008

    Installed 2 lowflo toilets this year.. basic ones sold at lowes/home depot type places. Certified by WaterSense.

    Have had no problems with them what so ever. Had always heard that loflow toilets were problematic, so was very pleased. Perhaps the newer models are just better!

  • Z Man Nov 3, 2008

    Gooseye - couldn't have said it better myself. 'Negligible' is an excellent description. Going green is simply a fleeting fad and will fade to near oblivion soon.

    Just increase the insulation and change out those incandescent bulbs for flourescent. You don't need to pat yourself on the back or give yourself a title.

  • tcwife Nov 3, 2008

    Wow Gooseye you sound really angry that someone is trying to do something good for the environment. If you think small things don't have an impact you are wrong. Just think the 2006 Census estimates 8,856,505 people in North Carolina and if each of us makes one small change to preserve the environment by going "green" it will really add up not to mention that I know first hand it can save you money in the long run. I didn't see anywhere that this article indicates you or anyone as being "gluttonous, pollution spewing heathens". I just know that anything I can do now to help preserve the environment will help protect it for future generations.

  • Vincenzo R. Abacus Nov 3, 2008

    "you’re having at most a negligible effect on reducing any impact to the environment by using these products"

    Nonsense - properly constructed houses can easily halve your energy usage for heating, cooling, and lighting. Yes, you will pay a little more up front, but most of the time it is well worth it over the long term, creating a far from negligible effect on both your wallet and environmental impact.

    (And yes, many "green" initiatives these days are just so much snake oil to improve some company's earnings figures - but that doesn't mean all of them are)

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