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"Green" Homes Leave Owners in the Black

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PITTSBORO — Many people looking for a new home these days want three things: low utility bills, low environmental impact, and low mortgage payments. Most builders would start laughing at those demands. But not some home builders in Chatham County, who knows an inexpensive "green" home is serious business.

Kent Pearson and his family are now living in the home they always wanted. They wanted a passive solar home that was well-insulated and used as many non-toxic and recyclable building materials as possible.

"We were immediately excited because we realized we could actually build the house we wanted to build," Pearson says.

After designing and building the Pearson's home at a cost of $160,000, Jim Cameron and Kathleen Jardine built a smaller version for themselves.

Fine Homebuilding Magazine features the design team's efforts. The big attraction is in the walls, made from blocks called AAC, a standard material used in Europe, but new to the United States.

AAC stands for Autoclave Aerated Concrete. "That gives you a single layer, insulated weather-proof wall," Cameron explains.

The blocks actually repel water and maintain a stable temperature year round. Threaded rods run through the blocks connecting the floor to the roof joists, which will withstand 140 mile per hour winds.

Radiant hot water heat keeps the polished concrete floor warm in winter. A steel roof adds to the homes' durability.

"You can get 100 years out of a metal roof," Cameron says. "Many, many shingled roofs will be stripped and hauled to the landfills in that period of time."

The building materials are slightly more expensive than bricks and two-by-fours, but the homes offer long-term savings.

"Houses that last for hundreds of years are a great legacy to give your culture," Jardine says.

A Georgia company called Hebel Block makes the concrete building material. One block costs $4.50, compared to a standard masonry block which costs only $1.50.


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