better all the timeThis year’s inspiring award-winning homes set an example for smart eco-conscious building.
- Trees surround Verde Design Group’s Forest Studio home, recognized for its careful lot design, preparation, development, and environmental responsibility. Photo courtesy of Verde Design Group.
- Winning an award for their environmental impact, Jody Feyas and Cara Leigh have brought approximately 4,000 visitors through their Santa Fe Dream Home so far and do local and national speaking engagements about environmental and sustainable building practices. Photo by John Baker courtesy of The Dream Home.
- At this award-winning 1920s Albuquerque bungalow remodel, builder Earth and Straw added Icynene, a high-efficiency blow-in foam insulation; a 90 percent efficient furnace; and Energy Star appliances. The remodelers also used low-VOC paints throughout, incorporated gray water irrigation, and sourced materials through “Dumpster diving” as well as Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore for recycled materials consistent with the home’s vintage. Photo courtesy of Earth and Straw.
- This 1920s Albuquerque bungalow remodel by builder Earth and Straw won this year's Green Remodeling Project award. Photo courtesy of Earth and Straw.
From a ridge-top hacienda to a small-footprint contemporary to a production home in a subdivision, winners of the second Green Home of the Year Awards competition conducted by Su Casa Magazine and Build Green New Mexico span tastes, locales, and budgets. This year’s Green Home of the Year impresses for its ability to conserve—and generate—its energy. Designed by Mark Chalom, Architect, and built by Custom Homes by John Di Janni with close involvement from homeowners Susan and Richard Bechtold, the award-winning home was a favorite among the jury because of the intense care taken in placing the home on the land, its energy and water efficiency, and its traditional yet contemporary design. The Bechtold home is certified at the Gold level by Build Green New Mexico, which requires meeting rigorous green-building criteria. (For more about this home, see “Finding the sweet spot,” page 82.)
“Of all of the entrants, [the Bechtold] home was the most articulate in terms of environmental features and the rationale for those features. It was actually inspired by the [green] technologies, and they were integrated into the design,” says Kent Beierle, one of the competition’s three jurors. As design director of Environmental Dynamics in Albuquerque, Beierle has been a long-time fixture of the green-building movement in New Mexico. He specializes in sustainability consulting, including creative and project-specific recommendations for nontoxic, rapidly renewable, recycled, regional, and reusable building materials.
“They went the farthest in pushing passive solar by orienting the house properly and the choice of materials inside,” explains competition juror Ted Owens of the jury’s pick for Green Home of the Year. As CEO and founder of Syncronos Design, Owens is a filmmaker and publisher of Building with Awareness, a book and DVD about the construction of a strawbale home. He has been a board member of the nonprofit Alliance for Green Development in Albuquerque, was chairman of the Green Building Standards Committee, and is currently making a feature-length documentary about green building.
The third member of the jury was Kristy Moyer, director of green building programs for the Foundation for Building, a nonprofit created by the Home Builders Association of Central New Mexico. Moyer oversees Build Green New Mexico and is a local provider for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes certification program.
The jury selected winners according to Build Green New Mexico or LEED for Homes certification scoring, innovation, harmonious integration of green features, and Southwestern design aesthetics. Beyond that, however, they appreciated builders who made an effort to bring sustainable design to different types of projects. For instance, the jury took notice of a LEED Platinum-certified home by Artistic Homes, a house that is reproducible on a production scale.
Awards were open to homes certified by Build Green New Mexico and LEED for Homes and to noncertified homes, though only projects certified by Build Green New Mexico or LEED were eligible for the Green Home of the Year award.
Innovative Green Home Award
EcoHouse Santa Fe’s Passive House was awarded the title of Innovative Green Home in recognition of an outstanding green home not certified by a green-building certification program. One of only a few such Passive House projects in the United States, according to the builder, the house is designed to use only 20 to 30 percent of the energy of a conventionally built house. The home also adheres to principles of “Bau-biologie,” or building biology, criteria to make homes healthier for their residents as well as the environment. Criteria include factors like using passive heating, keeping the lot as undisturbed as possible, and regulating indoor humidity and temperature in a natural rather than an artificial fashion. The house was designed and built by Klaus Meyer of EcoHouse Santa Fe, with architectural designer Andreas Frick and energy consultant Joaquin Karcher of One Earth Design in Taos. (Read about this home in this issue’s Green Home department, page 43.)
Green Remodeling Project Award
Facing the challenge of making an older home greener while retaining its original character, Earth and Straw remodeled a 1920s downtown Albuquerque bungalow. The home proved a great example of reuse, winning the Green Remodeling Project award. This house originally had a leaky roof, unheated bedrooms, inoperable windows, no insulation, and no functional water heater. For other builders, the home might have been worthy of a scrape, but Rose Morin of Earth and Straw salvaged vintage elements and added features to make the house more energy and resource efficient. “This is the kind of stuff that should be happening every day [in older neighborhoods],” Beierle says.
Energy Efficiency Award
A LEED Platinum-level home already Energy Star certified and certified at the Gold level by Build Green New Mexico, Kreger Design Build’s ridge-top Santa Fe home features high R-values and conscientious energy features. This home by Bob and Nancy Kreger is superinsulated and airtight. The Kregers included a 95 percent efficient gas boiler and a solution for indoor air quality: ceiling fans with constant negative air pressure balanced by passive air inlets.
Water Efficiency Award
This year’s Green Home of the Year was also recognized for its water efficiency. With a water system by Richard Jennings of Earthwrights Designs, the Bechtold residence waters its landscaping with treated septic water and collected rainwater, which is stored in an impressive 10,000-gallon tank. Filtered rainwater serves nonpotable uses inside the house. The home sits on the property in such a way that the natural water drainage is relatively undisturbed.
Lot Design, Preparation, Development, and Environmental Responsibility Awards
Verde Design Group’s Forest Studio impressed the jury with its site-specific design and its resource conservation approach to building. (Read more about this home at SuCasaMagazine.com.) Rather than cut and clear the site, designer Amy Stone placed the home’s footprint between two existing arroyos that provide natural drainage. The home is oriented to receive passive solar heat gain in the winter and shade in the summer.
Sam Sterling Architecture’s 1930s remodel in Albuquerque’s historic Nob Hill neighborhood also received a nod from the jury for its thoughtful lot design and environmental responsibility. Sterling added a significant number of green features to the home. “They really maximized the buildable space on a small lot,” Owens adds.
Use of Materials and Resource Efficiency Award
EcoHouse Santa Fe’s use of Bau-biologie and Passive House technology—building principles based in the conscious use of materials that have the least impact on health and environment—make the Santa Fe Passive House a clear winner for its use of materials and resource efficiency. The builder used locally available natural materials such as adobe, locally harvested lumber, and recycled newspaper insulation. Interior finishes are toxin- and solvent-free clay plaster.
Indoor Environmental Quality Awards
To build-in sustainability for a custom home is one thing, but to do so in an affordable, reproducible production home is a different challenge. Artistic Homes’ Zero-Energy Home has a HEPA filter in conjunction with a heat recovery ventilation system, low-VOC interior materials, a passive radon ventilation system, a pressurized interior environment, and an Energy Star fan in the kitchen.
The jury also recognized EcoHouse Santa Fe for its indoor air quality. The home’s heat recovery system refreshes the air about nine times a day, and the home uses many natural materials. “This builder really paid attention,” Moyer says, noting how designer and builder Klaus Meyer used low- or no-VOC materials and no formaldehyde-based products. A feature in the master bedroom gives residents the option of a space free of electromagnetic fields and radiation.
“There is a lot of focus in the green-building industry on energy efficiency, water, and resource conservation,” Beierle says. “As people get a handle on those aspects, we will begin to see a greater trend toward nontoxic environments—environments devoid of chemical and electromagnetic pollution. These elements inform quality of life and should be embraced.”
Operation, Maintenance, and Homeowner Education Award
Panorama Homes’ house situated in the Paa-ko community in the East Mountains near Albuquerque educates its residents with a 300-page owner’s manual that doesn’t leave out any details. The builder invites homeowners to be involved in decisions every step of the way; at a minimum, they can walk through the house weekly during construction and take part in systems demonstrations at installation and at move-in.
Environmental Impact Award
The Dream Home, owned by the husband and wife design/build team of Jody Feyas and Cara Leigh, impressed the jury with the owners’ desire to educate people about their project. In addition to using locally available and energy-efficient materials, the home serves as an educational facility. The builders have an extensive website, www.thedreamhome.info, that details the home’s products and process. “They’ve spread the word about green building,” Moyer says. The jurors note that such outreach is as important as choosing environmentally friendly products and design.