setting a new standard

Two overachieving houses from opposite ends of the market share our Green Home of the Year award. See how these builders and our other award winners are bringing sustainable design to a neighborhood near you.

This article first appeared in Spring 2008 Su Casa.

A pair of houses bracketing a range of green-building choices share the top honor in the first Green Home of the Year Awards competition conducted jointly by Su Casa and Build Green New Mexico and sponsored by the Green Building Initiative.

The awards jury had little trouble reaching consensus to grant the joint Green Home of the Year award to the 1,800-square-foot Duranes barrio house designed and built by Hale and Sun Construction and the 4,500-square-foot Bernalillo luxury home built by Durano Construction and designed by Jim Beverly Company.

Winning an honorable mention in the competition was the tasteful adobe remodel by Earth and Straw of Albuquerque. Build Green New Mexico has not yet established green-building guidelines for remodels, so although the home was not eligible for the open Green Home of the Year award, the jury believed it deserved recognition.

Both the Hale and Durano houses exemplify the demanding high levels of sustainable construction embodied by the Build Green New Mexico guidelines. The two Albuquerque-area residences accomplish these results in markedly different ways and on strikingly different scales. For a complete rundown on this exemplary pair, see “Embodied ideals” on page 102. Making up the jury were Norm Schreifels of Sun Mountain Construction in Corrales, Su Casa columnist Vishu Magee of Archetype Design in Taos, and Su Casa editor Charles C. Poling.

“In honoring these two houses we have the chance to underscore that green building can be applied to any house, regardless of size of budget and level of detail,” Magee said. “The Durano house clearly had a generous budget which was applied across the board to thermal, photovoltaic, and roof-water systems—not as a token gesture, but with real rigor considering how big and comfortable the building is. But we loved the Hale house for its economy of scale, the appropriateness of its presence in the neighborhood, and the careful use of green materials and systems within a limited budget. Small is beautiful in the arena of green building, but big can be beautiful, too.”

The jury also appreciated the green effort that went into the remodel project by Earth and Straw. A delightful 1960s adobe in the Alameda neighborhood, this house renovated by builder Rose Morin now boasts increased energy efficiency, additional insulation, water conservation features (including gray water reclamation from household use and a rainwater catchment system), passive solar heating, and extensive reuse of materials salvaged from the property and used in the project. Nontoxic paint, wood sealers, and diamond-finish plaster foster a healthy indoor environment. Morin accomplished all this while staying within the home’s original footprint. It’s also as charming as can be.

Magee summed it up this way: “We felt that the Earth and Straw remodel project deserved special mention: even though green-building opportunities were limited because it was a remodel, the builder did a good job of retaining the flavor of an old adobe while utilizing green systems and materials where it was possible. Retrofitting is always a challenge, but it’s a challenge worth taking up. Kudos to this builder for doing so.”

Best green features
The jury also granted these Best Green Feature awards in specific categories based on the green-building guidelines:

Lot Design, Preparation, and Development. Receiving an honor in this category was the Arroyo San Antonio Condominium project in Santa Fe by Clear Creek Management Corporation. The jury appreciated how this infill project nestled new construction into existing vegetation, minimizing its impact on the neighborhood despite the condos’ high-density living arrangement. Green areas and two seasonal streams surround these dramatically modern residences. A Best Green Feature award in this category also went to Hale and Sun Construction, co-winner of the Green Home of the Year award, for its creative use of an infill lot, its rainwater catchment system for irrigating plants on the property, and the use of a courtyard for outdoor living space while linking the house and separate garage.

Energy Efficiency. For its diversified portfolio of energy-saving strategies, Daniel Buck Construction won this category. The Santa Fe residence addressed superior energy efficiency through a tight, well-insulated shell, passive solar design features, an active solar hot water system, a high-efficiency boiler for radiant heat and backup hot water, and a full Energy Star appliance and lighting package.

Indoor Environmental Quality. Although it was one of the more modest homes in the competition, the Hale and Sun Construction entry took top honors for its use of materials, ventilation, and even its floor plan, all designed to support a healthful interior environment. Features include hard-surface flooring throughout the home, central vacuum system, no-VOC paint, a fresh air cycler integrated into the heating/cooling system, automatic humidity-sensing fans in bath and laundry to prevent mold, high windows to induce cross ventilation and reduce the need for mechanical cooling, and a separate freestanding garage to eliminate toxic fumes in the house.

Resource Efficiency. Despite its large footprint, the Green Home of the Year co-winner by Durano Construction maximizes resource efficiency by incorporating advanced framing techniques that minimize the use of lumber and maximize the effectiveness of insulation, engineered materials that reduce dependence on virgin lumber of large-dimension trees, and recycled materials. The home features a range of recycled finish materials such as carpets, urea formaldehyde-free particle board, and recycled-tire rubber flooring in the exercise room.

Water Efficiency. The Durano Construction house also garnered an award for its overall water efficiency. Features include Energy Star dishwasher and laundry appliances, two tankless water heaters that deliver instant hot water without wasting cold water, bubblers and drip emitters for irrigating xeric landscaping plants, a roof-water catchment system for outdoor irrigation, dual-flush, low-flow toilets and other low-flow plumbing features, and synthetic turf.

Rigorous standards
The Green Home of the Year Awards competition was open to homes either already certified or in the rigorous process of certification by Build Green New Mexico, a program of the Home Builders Association of Central New Mexico. The certification process employs a points system to rate the “greenness” of a home in the areas of Lot Design, Preparation, and Development; Resource Efficiency; Energy Efficiency; Water Efficiency; Indoor Environmental Quality; Operation, Maintenance, and Homeowner Education; and Global Impact.

While among the general public, green building might seem an elusive, subjective term, the Build Green New Mexico guidelines establish rigorous, verifiable standards in the key areas of sustainability. Build Green New Mexico adapted its guidelines from the research-based guidelines set forth by the National Association of Home Builders and endorsed by the national Green Building Initiative. A home can’t achieve a Gold certification without proving its green credentials. For instance, part of the certification process requires third-party verification and site inspections by Build Green New Mexico staff. Further, within the categories, a home’s score earns a Bronze (lowest), Silver, or Gold (highest) rating. The lowest category rating determines a home’s overall rating—that is, the home is only as green as its least green area.

The Green Home of the Year Awards jury considered each entry’s rating scores, its architectural appeal within the design traditions of New Mexico, and the builder’s descriptions of its green features, which were subject to verification through Build Green New Mexico staff and records.