While other building pros struggled to stay afloat during the recent housing slump, a Northwestern custom builder has carved out a successful niche for himself building affordable green homes. Scott Bergford credits his success to the use of high-performance products and technologies that add to a home’s value without breaking the bank.
Thanks to this cost-effective approach,
Craftsman-style cottages are in demand with energy-conscious buyers on a budget.
The recently completed $450,000 Inspiration Home in Olympia, Wash., is an example of Bergford’s judicious choice of products. For starters, instead of specifying pricey radiant heat or budget-busting geothermal, Bergford went with a $4,000 Mitsubishi FE12 ductless heat pump system that helps keep the heating and cooling load to about $15 a month. He estimates that going with the less-expensive system netted a savings of $11,000 over radiant heat and $21,000 compared to geothermal.
To keep the home comfortable year-round, Bergford selected mid-range Vinyltek triple-pane windows with a U-factor of 0.21 for solid performance at an inexpensive price. Expensive German-made windows could provide a slightly lower U-value but would cost four times as much, says Bergford.
Bergford thoroughly considered building envelope costs as well. The beefed-up 10-inch SIPs walls and 12-inch SIPs roof were worth every penny, he says, although the material cost was a bit more than traditional framing. The assembly was super-fast—the entire shell was up in five days—and it helped make the home practically airtight, with 1.6 air changes per hour.
“In this home it was about the whole package,” he says. “We were trying to reduce the total energy use of the home in as many ways as possible and show that you can make a really efficient house but not pay as much as some other green homes.”
Morton Safford James III Architects
with built-in bookcases, coffered ceilings, a brick fireplace, and custom breakfast nook, the two-story, 2,020-square-foot bungalow exudes an authentic 1920s feel. Built on spec as a demonstration home, it was sold before it was completed.
Knowing that customers often experience sticker shock from the typical $25,000 pricetag of a full PV system, Bergford kept the cost of the home’s solar thermal hot water system to a minimum by installing a starter kit with infrastructure and wiring but only three panels. The .7-kW system cost about $7,000 and can be added on to in the future. Other sustainable product picks include:
--A Caroma dual-flush toilet in the master bathroom features an integrated sink for enhanced water savings. Fresh water from the faucet drains into the toilet tank after hand washing to be used for flushing.
--A Lifebreath recirculating HRV keeps the air temperature throughout the house balanced by within two degrees to help occupants stay comfortable year-round.
--A Whirlpool induction range cooks food more quickly than electric- or gas-powered models.
--A two-car garage under the house is tightly sealed and utilizes a ventilation system tied to the garage door opener to exhaust fumes.