NEWS & BLOG

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     Dear Visitor, please remember as you read through our site we primarily focus upon creating quality and economically efficient homes and commercial buildings.  This means we seek to build to a higher energy efficiency standard without increasing your purchase cost.  This creates a home that, throughout the ownership timeline, costs you less to own.  In today's economic environment, we believe this is of utmost importance.  We value the thoughts and opinions relating to the "Green Movement" and leave the final decision regarding green items such as solar panels, geo-thermal, cellulose insulation, etc. up to you.

     All stories below are for your reading enjoyment only and are noted for discussion and through provocation only. 

 

News Links Below (click to jump to story)  

- Rates ease back down  (05.05.11)

- Now is a great time to buy   (05.05.11)

- 10 Green Building Trends for 2011

- Green With a View

- The Greener Good

- U.S. Green Building Council

- Case Study : Record Breaking Green Home

- Green Features - but at the right price

- Conventional Hot Water Heaters vs. On Demand

 

Blog Entry Links

   - 05.05.11

 

BLOG ENTRY - 05.05.11

     Why does a buyer not elect to purchase a quality built, energy efficient home?   Doesn't it seem like the cost of basically everything you buy at the store is going up (food, gasoline) as well as items such as health insurance (hey, that's just naming a few)?  That would be a quick summary of why we build the type of home we build.  We focus upon quality and energy efficiency.   We do not focus upon our ego in the homes we build.  We are not out trying to see how many homes we can build.  We are out to see just how great of a home buying experience we can create.   We focus on the entire process of construction from our initial conversations with a propspective homebuyer throughout the years of ownership of our homes.  Our homes are proven to have lower costs associated with ownership, that is the way it should be.  As a homeowner, you should not be working your weekends trying to maintain your home.  You shouldn't be paying more for utility useage than is necessary! 

     Take time to look at Green Forest Construction.  We will guarantee you a totally unbelievable build process.  You have heard of the miseries your friends have had in building, buying and/or owning other builder's homes.....it doesn't have to be that way and we PROVE IT!  

 

 

Rates back down to average of 4.71%

     U.S. mortgage rates fell for a third week, sending longer-term borrowing costs to the lowest level since January as the housing market remains sluggish. The average rate for a 30-year loan dropped to 4.71 percent in the week ended today from 4.78 percent, according to Freddie Mac. That is the lowest since the week ended Jan. 13. The 15- year rate slid to 3.89 percent from 3.97 percent a week ago, the McLean, Virginia-based mortgage-finance company said.....MORE

 

 

Now is a great time to buy

      If you have good credit and savings, now is a great time to buy. According to Zillow.com, "Homes are more affordable than they’ve been in the past 35 years." Not only have home values fallen in many key markets, making homeownership more accessible to the average buyer, interest rates are at historic lows, meaning that once a home is purchased, monthly payments are smaller than in our recent past.....MORE

 

 10 Green Building Trends for 2011

     Green building is going mainstream, no doubt. But exactly how is building science evolving, and where are eco-minded builders and consumers likely to focus their attention in the year ahead, in light of current economic conditions?  The nonprofit Earth Advantage Institute, which to date has certified more than 11,000 sustainable homes, makes some predictions for 2011 in its annual forecast of green building trends......MORE

 

Green With a view.....BUILDER magazine - September 2009 
    
   Jenny Sullivan as author
    Eco-friendly homes come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, but inevitably have one thing in common: Their systems work in concert to achieve maximum energy performance and minimal carbon output. Windows play a pivotal role in any system, given their effect on solar gain, passive ventilation, natural daylighting, moisture control, air-tightness, and, of course, good looks. - the rest of the story at this link : HERE

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The Greener Good - BUILDER magazine - July 2009
        Jenny Sullivan as author
    After an EF-5 tornado ripped through Greensburg, Kan., in May 2007, destroying more than 900 homes along with the majority of its civic buildings, schools, and infrastructure, the town’s leaders and citizens resolved to do something remarkable. They set in motion a plan not just to rebuild, but to come back, in the words of Mayor John Janssen, as “one of the greenest towns in America.” Municipal buildings designed to consume 42 percent less energy would set the tone for subsequent residential and commercial rebuilding.    

     One year later, all eyes are on Greensburg as it struggles not only with the mechanics of recovery, but also those of wholesale reinvention. Redevelopment efforts have been slow to move from theory to practice, and some frustrated survivors have ditched their temporary shelters and left town to find other places to live. But those who remain seem steadfast in their conviction to make something good out of a horrible situation.

    It’s an apt metaphor, perhaps, for the thousands of home builders now struggling to emerge from the wreckage of a collapsed housing market. Inevitably, some builders have left the industry, but indications are that a growing number of those still standing are seriously rethinking business as usual, and how they might make their livelihoods not only more economically, but also environmentally sustainable.

    This may well be a watershed moment for the home building industry. Whether change is being driven by legislation, buyer demand, economics, or altruism, it is happening. In this special report, Builder reached out to some of the nation’s foremost green experts to aggregate best practices in land use, residential building design, construction, and marketing. These are ideas that are ripe for the picking.

    Some have credited the housing industry with single-handedly bringing the U.S. economy to its knees. If that’s the case, then the rule of inverse proportion must also be true: An industry with that much influence must also have the power to do massive good. Imagine the possibilities, and start building them.

    Saving the planet is a big job. Fortunately, home builders are just the people who can step up and change the fate of our world. Builders have a tremendous impact, for better or worse, on the land, on air quality, on natural resources, and on the quality of life and health of their buyers. This special report examines the breadth of the sustainable building issue and offers practical solutions for every step of the process.

    Land Planning  As suburban sprawl has continued to creep across the national landscape in recent decades, homeowners have been rendered increasingly dependent on their cars, flooding roads with commuter traffic and the air with noxious fumes. In order to build sustainably, developers and builders will have to start from the ground up.

    Design  Too many builders think that designing a project requires a blank canvas, stripping away elements only to later replace what nature had supplied for free. Utilizing natural drainage, the sun, and trees when designing a project can save the planet a lot of pain, your buyers a lot of discomfort, and you a lot of money.

    Construction  Many a would-be green builder stops before ever starting when faced with what seems to be an insurmountable list of complex considerations and changes. We took a look at both production and custom homes and broke down some important green elements into a list of practical applications that will help you to get going.

    Marketing The health of the planet may not be on the top of all your buyers’ priority lists, but talk about the health of their families and their interest will be piqued. Add to that some info on energy savings and you have a marketing message that will resonate with your prospects. And these days, those are the messages that sell.  BUILDER LINK : HERE

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U.S. Green Building Council
        courtesy of the U.S. Green Building Council

    Demand for green homes is on the rise. The LEED for Homes Green Building Rating System is a third-party certification system that lets homebuilders to verify their green homes as truly green, covering important considerations like energy efficiency, water efficiency, materials and resources use, site selection and innovative design.

    A LEED home is environmentally friendly, good for your buyers’ health, and good for your bottom line.  USGBC offers a host of resources to help you learn how to build the most-efficient, sustainable, healthy houses in the most cost-effective ways.

 

     Green Forest Construction, LLC is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and is currently following the path to LEED Green Associate Certification and LEED for Homes Certification.  Believe us, this is not an easy task!! It's a good deal of education and testing!  We seek to continually seek education so that we can ensure your home is the most up to date product available!

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Case Study: Record-Breaking LEED Home in Eugene, Ore.       

Katy Tomasulo with Builder Magazine/EcoHome

    When Bill Randall and Arbor South Architecture set out to design their first LEED-certified project, they didn’t just limp in—they broke records. The Sage, a 1,447-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath home in Eugene, Ore., earned 110 LEED points, enough to qualify for Platinum status and earn the distinction of the highest-scoring LEED home west of the Rockies.

     The house, completed last month and featured on the Eugene Home Builders Tour, is an educational tool for designer and consumer alike. For Arbor South, The Sage and its LEED certification process was an experience-building opportunity for a firm looking to redirect its design mission toward smaller, more efficient homes. With a modern aesthetic uncompromised by an extensive list of green features, the home also serves as an eye-opener for local buyers unaware that sustainable living and pleasing design go hand in hand.

     “It’s designed and built in a way that shows how you can be off the charts in terms of efficiency, but still be aesthetically pleasing,” says Randall, AIA, LEED-AP. “It’s very aesthetically pleasing and very livable.”

Like most ultra-green homes, The Sage starts with a tight envelope, featuring double 2x4 stud walls, separate plates to eliminate thermal bridging, Demilec Agribalance spray-foam insulation for R-32 in the walls and R-45 in the vaulted ceilings, and tight sealing. As a result, the house is 12 times tighter than Energy Star requirements.

     A heat recovery ventilator is included to ensure fresh-air exchange inside the tight house. A solar hot water system and 2.1-kW solar electric provide 40% to 50% of the home’s energy needs.

    Design and product choices contributing to energy savings include south-facing windows with overhangs and a light shelf of clerestories; the Weather Vane vinyl windows carry a U-value of 0.27. The KitchenAid dishwasher, refrigerator, and washing machine are Energy Star-labeled, and the bathrooms include low-flow faucets from Danze and Kohler dual-flush toilets.

    Sustainable and local materials were used throughout, including reclaimed wood flooring from Pioneer Millworks, Sustainable Flooring cork in the bathrooms (including Showercork, made from discs of wine corks, in the master), and recycled-content Squak Mountain Stone kitchen countertops and PaperStone bath countertops. Accent siding on the exterior was crafted with remilled redwood benches that were reclaimed from a local outdoor ampitheater. 

     Drought-tolerant plants were selected, and a rainchain drains into a 1,000-gallon cistern to be used for watering plants and for the landscape pond in the yard.

     With less than 1,500 square feet, The Sage’s size is a departure from Arbor South’s more recent designs. At one time, the firm had been part of a pilot program for a local efficient building program, Super Good Sense Oregon, but gradually drifted with the market toward larger projects. With The Sage, “We felt a desire to get back to our roots and really get back to smaller, sustainable housing,” Randall explains. 

      The home's price tag of $459,000 is about $100,000 to $180,000 more than typical homes of that size in the area (though a hefty cost for the premium infill location contributed), but Randall says the goal was to educate on all the available possibilities. “We wanted to do a demonstration house to show people what can be done,” he says, noting that the average person may not choose to take every step for their own home, but that the project showcases a range of options to choose from, each another step toward making a new home more efficient and eco-friendly.

    As part of its efforts to educate consumers, Randall put together a package of video clips describing the eco-friendly selections made in The Sage, placing emphasis on why the products were chosen and demonstrating the relative ease of such decisions.

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Home Buyers Want Green Features, but at the Right Price, Study Says

Survey of NAHB members reveals that consumers won’t pay more than 2% more for eco-friendly products and construction.

     Washington, D.C., Sept. 15 -- Prospective home buyers want the benefits of an eco-friendly home, but they aren’t willing to pay much for those features, according to survey of National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) members released today."Although we are seeing significant interest in green building, cost effectiveness is clearly a key concern among home buyers," NAHB chairman Joe Robson, a home builder and developer in Tulsa, Okla., said in a statement.

      "Builders said that among buyers who are willing to pay more for green features … 57% are unlikely to pay more than an additional 2%."Meanwhile, only 11% of builders surveyed indicated that customers have asked about environmentally friendly features, but Robson said that pros are increasingly taking the initiative to educate buyers about the benefits of green construction.

      The NAHB official said that when Congress considers how to encourage green construction, especially energy efficiency, it must keep affordability in mind. “We need to make sure that our energy policies reflect that reality so that builders have the flexibility … to achieve the desired results at the right price," he added.

      Lawmakers also must look for ways to incentivize green construction in the nation's substantial existing housing stock, he continued.On a final note, preferences for specific green building techniques are regional, according to the NAHB survey, with Western builders reporting much more interest in water efficiency than pros in other areas. Interest in homes built with recycled materials is particularly high in the Northeast, the region where the fewest new houses are built, and low in the South, which has the highest number of housing starts. 

         Jean Dimeo is Chief Editor, Online for EcoHome.

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Hot water is a hot issue for builders, architects, and remodelers these days.

Why? Many current buyers are interested in homes that are energy efficient and economical to operate, which are factors that can be dramatically affected by a home's hot water usage. According to the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, water heating is the third-largest expense in most homes, accounting for 14% to 25% of a home’s expenses. In some cases, that percentage may even be higher, which means energy-conserving hot water solutions also could result in big cost savings for homeowners in this difficult economy.

Currently, the most popular energy-efficient option for water heating is a tankless water heater, also known as an on-demand system. Unlike a traditional tank that heats a reservoir of water 24 hours a day, a tankless unit activates only as needed. When there is a demand for heated water, cold water travels through the tankless unit, where a gas burner quickly heats it to the preset temperature.

According to www.smarterhotwater.com, a Web site launched by Alabama-based Rheem Manufacturing, the average annual operating cost for a conventional storage is between $230 and $285, nearly twice the cost for a tankless system. (Rheem estimates a tankless hot water heater would cost $165 to $170 annually to operate.)

Given those numbers, the decision to go tankless seems a simple equation; tankless water heaters have proved popular in Europe and Asia, according to W.B. "Butch" Aikens, tankless resource manager for Rheem, which manufactures both tankless and conventional tank water heaters. But like many other construction technologies, tankless water heater usage in the United States lags behind the rest of the world, Aikens says.

Cost could be a factor for the low penetration in the U.S. market--tankless heaters cost significantly more than a conventional system. But it also could be a matter of educating the American market about the product. In recent years, manufacturers say awareness has grown significantly, and so has usage, which has seen double-digit increases. The driving force? Consumers. They are “mainly the ones driving this demand for tankless water heaters more than builders,” Aikens says.

Does that mean that every builder and remodeler should install tankless in their projects? Maybe, maybe not. While tankless technology can reduce a home's energy costs by as much as 25% annually compared to a standard 40-gallon tank heater, there are other considerations. Standard storage tanks now qualify for Energy Star certification. And tankless systems may have other issues that negate its energy performance and lower operating costs.

What's a smart builder to do? Make the best decision possible, given the parameters of your homes, buyers, business, and locality. Here's a handy guide outlining the pros and cons of tankless water heaters versus conventional storage tanks that you can use to evaluate the options for your customers.

Conventional Hot Water Storage Tanks

Pros for Conventional

Proven technology that builders and home owners know and trust. The straightforward system has been around for years and works well.

Low product cost and low installation cost. A basic 30-gallon electric tank can be purchased for less than $300. Installation is fairly simple.

Inexpensive replacement cost. If and when a water heater goes bad, the system can easily replaced with a similar unit for about $500 to $800.

Energy Star tanks are now available. As of this year, the Energy Star program certifies conventional high-efficiency gas water heaters, so it’s possible to save energy and money. Units must have an energy factor of .62.

Cons for Conventional:

Conventional tanks are always on. No matter how energy efficient it is, a storage tank cycles on a regular basis to heat and reheat water at a preset temperature, using energy to heat the water whether a homeowner needs it or not.

Big and bulky. Most storage tanks take up precious real estate in a mechanical or laundry room, especially in smaller homes such as apartments, condos, or townhouses.

May be inadequate. Depending on the capacity and household hot water needs, a conventional storage tank may not be able to meet demand. “If not sized correctly for peak demand, tank water heaters will run out of hot water,” according to www.smarterhotwater.com. In addition, only about 70% of the hot water in a typical storage tank is available for use, says Aikens.

Less versatile installation. The unit needs a fairly large space for installation and cannot be located outside the home.

Less durable. The life expectancy of a conventional hot water tank is about 12 to 15 years.

Tankless Hot Water Heater

Pros for Tankless:

Saves energy. The unit only operates when there is a demand for hot water, which can reduce its energy cost by about 25% annually.

Highly efficient. The most efficient storage tank has an energy factor of about .67, but, according to Energy Star, some tankless units have energy factors as high as .95.

Reliable. If a unit is sized properly, a gas tankless heater can deliver a continuous supply of water at a preset temperature (plus or minus one degree) at a rate of typically 2 gallons to 5 gallons per minute. The units never run out of hot water, though the flow rate may be inadequate during times of peak demand, according to www.smarterhotwater.com.

Compact size. The typical tankless heater is about the size of a small suitcase, which takes up significantly less space than a conventional tank.

Durable. It has a life expectancy of 20 years or more.

Versatile. The unit is easy to zone and it can go almost anywhere in the house. It also can be installed outside on a wall.


Cons for Tankless:

Tankless units cost about twice as much as traditional storage tanks. A typical tankless unit may cost about $700 and can easily top $1,500.

Installation is expensive. In addition to the high product cost, installation for the unit and the necessary piping can be pricey. They also need very good venting, which is also expensive.

Retrofit is pricey and complicated. Unlike a traditional tank, retrofitting a home with a tankless unit is difficult and expensive. “In new construction, the labor time required to install a tankless water [heater] is about the same as a tank water heater,” according to www.smarterhotwater.com. But the equation changes in a remodeling situation. The process is complicated, and the installed costs to replace a tank water heater with a tankless unit can be as high as $3,000.

Best performance comes from gas units. Though gas-fired tankless units are great performers for whole-house use, electric units are woefully inadequate. Electric units are not Energy Star-rated, Aikens says, and “require significant amounts of energy to use.”

Nigel F. Maynard is senior editor, products, at BUILDER magazine.
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770 Newnan Road, Suite D., Brooks, GA 30205

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