Troy Johns, now president of Urban NW Homes in Vancouver, Washington, started building green when he saw how it improved his wife’s health.
“My wife has severe asthma, but when we traveled to a resort a few years ago, her respiratory problems disappeared,” he said.
At first they thought the resort’s climate was alleviating her asthma — and were ready to move to the area. But they eventually realized the cleaner air within the facility was letting her breathe easy. They wasted no time in creating their own sustainable home. And Troy, who was a land developer, went into the green home construction business.
The Salmon Creek single-family home was their first Net Zero Energy project — or a house where energy production and consumption are equivalent. Some energy-efficient measures include staggered stud construction, triple-pane windows and solar panels. The heating system, Troy added, is so efficient that the county was skeptical it would keep the occupants warm.
“We had to prove to the county that the heating system would work, and we installed a back-up system just in case,” Troy said. “The owner has not had to run it.”
Troy incorporated many recycled materials into the house, including recycled glass for the backsplash and countertops, recycled plastic soda bottle carpeting, and recycled wine barrel flooring. They had to source the materials from within 500 miles to reduce their transportation footprint.
“We also use products with less chemicals to keep the air clean, such as low-VOC glue and paint,” Troy said.
Probably his biggest challenge was getting the value for this property. The first appraisal, he said, came in under value because the appraiser didn’t fully grasp many of the sustainable features. His team has worked to develop relationships with appraisers who understand the value of green.
For builders considering going green, Troy advised to start slow.
“Take it one step at a time, go for the bronze level [of the National Green Building Standard] at first,” he said. “But definitely do it. It will be something that separates you from other builders.”