You’ve heard many in the building business talk about going green, but what does it really mean? Sure, with the price of energy these days, everyone wants to be more efficient and use less fossil fuel. You’ve seen home television programs where people are recycling all sorts of materials into "green" homes, but our suspicion is that it takes a special kind of person to live in a refurbished shipping container. Can log homes really be built green and how much extra will it cost?
The short answer is that just about any type of home—log homes included—can be built "green." As this market evolves and matures, our Katahdin dealers are trying new things, revising existing programs and finding that you really don’t need to upgrade a Katahdin Cedar Log Home by much to achieve a "green" or energy-saving designation.
What is green building?
There’s been a lot of buzz within the building industry about LEED Certification, a program begun by the National Green Building Association to first address commercial and institutional building practices. Recently the NGBA has expanded their LEED certification program to residential applications. LEED designation has a great many stringent requirements, including monitoring the source of all materials, construction waste, energy efficiency and alternative energy sources. These more stringent rules can add to the bottom line of a home, though the LEED designation also adds to intrinsic value.
But building green doesn’t require a dramatically bigger budget. One of Katahdin’s dealers, Bill Seymour, owner of Carolina Log Center in Lexington, South Carolina, truly believes that green building is here to stay. "With the nationwide zoning and code changes that will be enacted in the next few years, everyone will be required to build green," Seymour said. "We wanted to be ahead of the curve."
Seymour was determined to construct a Katahdin Cedar Log Home that would meet the new certification guidelines for the National Home Builder’s Association (NAHB) National Green Building Certification. The NAHB’s Certification program also addressed building practices to reduce a carbon footprint, but can be more manageable for most builders and homeowners.
Seymour had already constructed a home last year that was certified as a Gold Rated Energy Star Home, which through his local utility and a state program entitled the homeowner to a 5 percent reduction in his electricity rate. The Energy Star program focuses on energy consumption, not the energy and resources consumed over the entire building process, from start to finish. A list of state and federal incentives and rebates for residential building green programs are available on the Database of State Incentives and Renewables (DSIRE.org) website.
When Seymour started to research the requirements for a silver level NAHB’s National Green Building Certification, he discovered something that didn’t really surprise him too much. Any Katahdin Cedar Log Home package with the insulation package and a few inexpensive modifications already qualified for the Gold Level. The features that Katahdin included in its construction as a matter of good practice and customer value achieved the point level required for the gold certification.
Certification—how does it work?
The NAHB’s Green Certification program assigns a point value for features included in all aspects of a home’s design and construction. Points are assigned to energy efficiency improvements, water conservation measures, resource conservation, indoor environmental quality considerations and site design. At the beginning stages of the home’s design a verifier, who has been certified by NAHB’s program, will review the features of the house that fall under the certification guidelines. The verifier helps the builder to add to or modify the design to increase the point values and then visits the site periodically throughout the building to confirm that the features are built as specified.
Near the end of the construction process, the verifier will help to conduct a "blower-door test" to determine how airtight — and energy efficient — the home is. The blower door is set up in an exterior doorway and turned on to blow air out of the house and lower the interior air pressure. After a certain time period, the interior air pressure is compared with the outside air pressure to provide data as the to tightness of the building envelope and HVAC systems. By adding the insulation package, another no additional cost option for Katahdin homebuyers, the R-Factor is increased and the continuous insulation keeps the home more airtight and energy efficient.
Seymour said that the computerized precutting and milling that Katahdin does at the mill ensures a tight building envelope. "The splining cut around window and doors and the insulation package ensure an airtight building envelope," he said. "The Andersen windows and Therma-Tru doors also add points to the certification by way of their energy efficiencies." When Seymour added insulation to the basement, the energy efficiency score was dramatically improved, at a cost of just under $700 for a 2,000 square foot footprint. Additionally the practices at Katahdin’s manufacturing facility of nearly 100 percent resource utilization, a sustainable forest product and advanced techniques for keeping on-site construction waste to a minimum, make obtaining an NAHB Green Certification for a Katahdin Cedar Log Home a relatively simple prospect.
What about Green Certification in my area?
Check with your state or local chapter of the NAHB to see if they’ve implemented a state-based certification program. If not, you and your builder can work with the national NAHB Green Certification guidelines.
The benefits of getting your home Green Certified are many. For one, you’ll have a certified assurance of energy efficiency and indoor air quality. You’ll know that your home meets or exceeds national standards that will be implemented over the next few years. You’ll be eligible for any energy or green incentives offered by your city, state, the Federal government or your local power company. And, if you need to market your home in the future, you’ll be able to realize the increased value that a Green Certification adds to a residential building.