An organization promoting green building in North Carolina that started 15 years ago with a handful of building professionals is now celebrating the certification of the 1,000th home under its Green Built North Carolina program.
A 2,000-square-foot three-bedroom house at 87 Fenner Avenue in Asheville pushed the Western North Carolina Green Building Council past the mark in April.
Maggie Leslie, the organization’s executive director, told the Mountain Xpress that builders and buyers alike have warmed up to the idea of sustainable building.
“When I began working in the industry in 2003,” she told the Xpress, “there were few builders that knew how to build high-performance green homes, and just as few people asking for them. But now, 230 contractors have built at least one project, and it’s no longer difficult to find a subcontractor to install insulation or a heating and cooling system to our standards.”
Most of the certified houses are near Asheville, a city of about 80,000, where 50 percent of the permits pulled for new construction last year were for green homes, Leslie said by telephone.
“Theoretically, we serve all of the state of North Carolina, but we’re focused in western North Carolina,” she said. “Of those 1,000 homes, probably 95 percent are in Buncombe County, so when you look at that it’s a high number. If you look at all of western North Carolina, it’s not a very high number. We’d like to be doing a lot more out of the county.”
Asheville’s location in the state’s mountainous west has long been a draw for tourists as well as permanent residents, and probably has contributed to the city’s better-than-average commitment to green building.
“We do live in a community surrounded by beautiful mountains,” Leslie said. “People come here because of the beauty, and a lot of people have an environmental commitment and want to protect the environment. We definitely have a strong number of people who believe in our cause.”
Similar to LEED for Homes
Like the LEED for Homes program administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, Green Built North Carolina has four levels of compliance: certified, silver, gold, and platinum. The two programs, however, are separate and have checklists that are slightly different.
“It is just designed to be a more cost-effective, builder-friendly program that’s really focused on our local market and our local needs,” Leslie said.
Certification starts with a list of prerequisites requiring, among other things, a minimum HERS index of 85, a blower door test, sealed duct work with maximum leakage rates, HVAC equipment sized with Manual J calculations, whole-house mechanical ventilation, and either sealed-combustion or power-vented gas appliances.
From there, builders gather points in a number of separate areas: site opportunities, water opportunities, building envelope, comfort systems, appliances, lighting and renewables, indoor air quality, and materials. There also are a number of bonus opportunities.
The number of points determines the level of certification.
On sale for $415,000
The house on Fenner Avenue was listed at $415,000 and, according to the Mountain Xpress, had a buyer ready to close in late April. At a tick over $200 a square foot, the house was about average in cost for a new custom home in Asheville, in part because land prices there are relatively high.
With a silver-level certification, the house came with a 16 SEER heat pump, a tankless water heater, R-19 walls, and a roof deck sealed with R-26 worth of spray foam insulation. The slab is insulated to R-11.
Leslie said that certified houses cover a wide range of styles and prices. About 30 percent of them, she added, have been built as affordable housing.