Key Energy-Efficient Features for Today’s Boomer Buyer

Craig Havenner, president of Christopher Companies — one of a trio of developers building out the active-adult community The Crest of Alexandria — understands the benefits a high-performance building provides his customers. Therefore, his company has made a commitment to building green and certifying to the National Green Building Standard (NGBS) and ENERGY STAR program. The company looks at a variety of design and construction elements, from insulation and windows to interior features, to build homes that are efficient and comfortable.

Baby boomers moving into communities like The Crest desire energy-efficient features, especially windows and appliances, and in addition, 84% of potential home buyers recently surveyed favor whole-home energy certification. One of the main strategies for providing the efficient homes boomers want is to minimize air leaks, also known as reducing infiltration.

Brendon Roark, NGBS verifier with Nations Capital Energy Solution, points out the mastic, which looks like dark-gray paint, used for the ductwork. The metal bars are used to minimize vibrations from the unit above to reduce overhead noise.

“One area that has evolved over the past 20 years is infiltration,” Havenner noted during a recent property tour with NAHB staff. “People began to realize infiltration is a big deal, especially when unintended. It adds to owners’ energy bills because, in addition to heating and cooling the home, you are heating and cooling outside air as well.”

Christopher Companies and its teams minimize infiltration by achieving a tight building envelope as part of their certification strategy through multiple design practices, including:

  • Insulation:
    • 5-inch-thick open cell spray foam in the upper sections of the exterior walls
    • batt insulation enclosed on six sides in the exterior and party walls
  • Windows:
    • ultra-low U-factor windows (ranging from 0.26-0.30 vs. standard of 0.35)
    • solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) ranging from 0.18-0.21
  • Sealing:
    • building envelope — including the top and bottom plates and around all windows
    • ductwork with a combination of tape (fiberglass or foil, not ‘duct tape’) and mastic

As part of the NGBS certification process, the verifier conducts two inspections to confirm these design strategies are properly constructed: one before the drywall is hung, and one at the completion of construction. The first inspection includes checking the insulation installation and envelope sealing, as well as conducting a duct leakage test. Brendon Roark, NGBS verifier with Nations Capital Energy Solutions, noted that the units he has tested to date in Christopher Companies’ buildings at The Crest have performed well, meeting the ENERGY STAR requirement of less than 4% leakage — with some even as low as 2.5%.

Christopher Companies has already completed two phases of the project. Heat pump condenser farms can be seen on the roof, which is painted white to help reflect the sun and keep the building cooler.

When creating a tight building envelope, though, it’s also important to focus on practices that impact indoor environmental quality (IEQ) — especially when you consider that the average American spends 90% of his or her time indoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Crest employs the following IEQ practices that contribute to NGBS certification:

  • Low or no VOC paints, adhesives and sealants;
  • Non-emitting hard surface flooring;
  • Ventilating bathrooms, clothes dryers and kitchen range hoods directly to the outdoors; and
  • Balanced ventilation to ensure proper conditioned fresh air supply.

Christopher Companies has 323 properties in Delaware and Virginia certified to NGBS and is pursuing certification for another eight communities currently under development. To date, in the United States, more than 175,000 homes and apartment units have earned NGBS Green certification. The program continues to grow at a healthy pace, with 120,000 housing units currently in process for certification.

For more information about NAHB’s sustainable and green building programs, contact Program Manager Michelle Diller.

To stay current on high-performance building, follow NAHB’s Sustainability and Green Building team on Twitter.

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