Monday, May 11, 2009

5 New Eco-Friendly Houses

From Sunday's Commercial Appeal...

Welcome home: Habitat dedicates 5 eco-friendly houses

New homeowner Sharida McCulley chose a shade of pistachio for her house, built by Habitat of Humanity of Greater Memphis.

With the use of environmentally conscious building methods and materials, her house is green both inside and out.

On Saturday, McCulley's home was one of five green houses on Pershing Avenue in Binghamton dedicated by Habitat.

Each year, the nonprofit agency builds about 40 houses that adhere to the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division's EcoBUILD program, said Greg Webb, director of construction for Habitat.

With EcoBUILD, the focus is more on energy efficiency. The homes on Pershing go further, following guidelines set by the U.S. Green Building Council, Webb said.

That includes how the house sits on the lot and smart framing methods that reduce wood waste by 70 percent, he said.

Insulation is installed on the rafters and attic floors and every hole made to install wiring and pipes is sealed. They use low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint and the carpet is made from recycled soft drink bottles.

"They take a Coke bottle and crunch it down and grind it up and weave it," Webb said. "It's a pretty cool system."

Landscaping is done with native, drought-resistant plants.

EcoBUILD houses cost about about $3,000 to $4,000 more to build than standard houses; the cost of going green pushes the price up a few thousand more, Webb said.

The houses on Pershing cost from $50,000 to $60,000 each. Homeowners make a $1,000 down payment, contribute 350 hours of sweat equity and attend 15 weeks of Financial Peace University before purchasing the houses with zero-interest loans.

Only a small percentage of new homes in the Memphis area are being built green, said Don Glays, executive director of the Memphis Area Home Builders Association.

That's largely due to the area's extensive new home inventory.

"It hasn't become very popular locally yet but the interest is certainly on the rise," Glays said.

The National Association of Home Builders has set standards approved by the American National Standards Institute. The efforts adds 5 to 6 percent to the up-front cost of a house.

But, Glays said, the payback is "extremely quick."

Webb said he wouldn't be surprised if the MLGW bills at the new Habitat homes run less than $100 a month.

McCulley hopes he's right.

She and her husband and their four children have been renting a house in Orange Mound.

"I'm thinking about my light bill because now it runs from $700 to $800 (a month)," she said. "It's going make my light bill lower and I'll be able to do more for my kids."

Going green for Vesta Home show

The Memphis Area Home Builders Association will build green for the 2009 Vesta Home Show.

The eight homes that will be constructed by five builders at The Villages at White Oak planned development in Arlington will meet the green standards set by National Association of Home Builders.

Proceeds from this fall's Vesta, Oct. 9-Nov. 1, will benefit Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis.

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