THE GREEN PREMIUM ON A LUXURY HOUSE? 2.5% (GREAT DESIGN INCLUDED)
A retired engineer can’t help himself when it comes to analyzing the cost of his new green home The decision to build a new house to LEED certification was a simple one for Lewis and Valerie McMahan. “We chose LEED because my last manufacturing building project at Texas Instruments (before retiring after 37 years with the company) was a couple of LEED Gold buildings (a wafer manufacturing plant and an office building) built in Richardson, Texas,” Lewis explains.
“I became very familiar with the criteria and knew that it helped drive a good process for a green construction project, which resulted in lower energy cost and a smaller carbon footprint,” he says. “I also serve on the Texas Water Development Board charged with planning the water resources for the State of Texas for the next 50 years, and understand that we must start using our resources differently or face some tough environments down the road.”
Bringing commercial construction lessons home
Running construction projects for Texas Instruments to exacting standards of quality, including LEED certification, Lewis knew that the right design and construction team is critical to success: “We interviewed several well-known architects and builders who said they knew and understood green construction. It was clear that the team we selected was the most experienced and innovative.” The McMahans chose landscape architect David Hocker, design architect John Brooks, and building contractor Jim Sargent (Anderson Sargent) “based on their experience and passion with green construction.”
Editor’s Note: Jim Sargent is a GBA Advisory team member. John Brooks is a GBA Pro member and an early, and frequent, contributor to the forums. We didn’t know who he was, but we thought we ought to. We learned during this interview that John was the architect, which was a nice surprise.
Very early in the design/construction, Jim also brought in Andrea Fair of Guaranteed Watt Savers to help with the LEED process.
The cost of building green: minuscule
Lewis says he is always being asked “How much extra did it cost to build to LEED certification?” In a rough estimate of “the extras we put in for energy conservation and LEED certification that we would have not done otherwise,” the extra cost was about 2.5% of the total cost of construction (just under $900,000). “Much of the extra costs for our home were based on architectural style and finishes,” Lewis explains, but there were certainly some energy efficiency and IAQ upgrades.
The cost of living green: fruitful
The payback on that 2.5% upgrade for energy efficiency and IAQ is 50% lower utility bills compared to the house the McMahans moved out of, which was similarly sized and located only 1/4 mile away. Electricity bills, Lewis says, are a little higher than forecast, “some due to higher rates using all green power (Green Mountain Energy) and some due to using a heat pump instead of a gas-fired heat system.” The neighbors are very interested in the house that bears a new LEED Gold plaque. Valerie and Lewis recently had an open house for neighbors and the building contractors. They “believe it is important to have our contractors see the finished product so they can be proud of what they created and share it with other prospective customers in the neighborhood,” Lewis says. And that’s good marketing for the builders and architects.