Going green doesn’t have to cost more. Experts at the NAHB Research Center have identified design and construction tactics that builders have used to minimize the cost premium for green.

Everyone needs to stretch a dollar these days. This is certainly true for home builders, and it’s especially true for home buyers in the entry-level, affordable, or workforce housing sectors. Green building, once widely perceived to be a luxury approach to home building, can be a viable solution for both builders and consumers in the affordable market.

Constructing a green home does come with some added costs, but a lot of builders find that green practices can actually reduce their construction costs and enhance the quality of the homes they build. Many green practices also result in operational and maintenance savings for homeowners.

Using a combination of input from builders participating in the National Green Building Certification Program and results from recent research we did for HUD on the costs and benefits of green affordable housing, the NAHB Research Center has identified seven beneficial practices to consider when building green for the affordable market.

1. Work closely with your suppliers

If you’re new to green building in general or to building green homes with a lower price point, you may want to start your journey by talking with your product suppliers.

Richmond, Va.-based First Richmond Associates has been building quality workforce housing for nearly two decades. Recently, the builder decided that going green with its homes would provide even greater value to customers and set its product apart from the competition. Susan Hadder, president of First Richmond, admits the company didn’t know much about green building, so she let her suppliers know about the new direction they were taking and asked for their help.

“A lot of them were as new to green as we were,” says Hadder, “but they were excited to help us find the best product options available from various manufacturers. It was kind of fun for everyone to discover something new.”

Hadder says she got very quick responses from all her product reps, along with some incentives, which helped her identify what the company needed to get its new green homes certified to the National Green Building Standard (ICC 700). She was pleasantly surprised to find that many of the green product options that would garner points for the home in the certification process were actually an even swap for her in terms of price.

Specifically with flooring options, she found that recycled-content carpet and padding, engineered hardwood flooring, and recycled tile for the bathrooms were all competitively priced with the products she traditionally used — some a few pennies more per unit, some a few pennies less. First Richmond now has two of their Earth-Friendly workforce homes (sales prices range from the $170,000’s to low $200,000’s) Green Certified to ICC 700 by the NAHB Research Center, and the company has plans for more.

2. Look for two-for-one green product benefits

To maximize green benefits while keeping construction costs low, use products or practices with multiple green features. For example, when specifying cabinets or cabinet materials, look for those that have low- or no-formaldehyde content and are made of recycled material. That way, you may be able to gain green certification points for both indoor environmental quality and resource efficiency. While most green rating systems won’t allow for “double dipping” on points (i.e., claiming points in more than one area for the same green attribute in the same product or practice), most will allow for multiple green attributes in the same product to be counted across multiple point categories.

3. Don’t forget about water efficiency

In our work with HUD, we found that water efficiency improvements for both new and renovated affordable projects are commonly overlooked even though they offer a quantifiable benefit to homeowners for little to no additional construction cost. Be sure not to discount the cost benefits for affordable clients of low-flow faucets, toilets, and showerheads, as well as rated water-saving appliances.

As for finding the products at an affordable price, there is a much wider array of low-flow toilets, faucets, and showerheads on the market today than even five years ago, and the most basic models are cost neutral with comparable non-low-flow fixtures. Most major plumbing product manufacturers now offer these products, eliminating the need for costly special orders, in most cases. With bathroom sink faucets, even if your manufacturer of choice doesn’t make a low-flow version, you can buy replacement aerators that satisfy the requirements of most national green rating systems for around $2 a piece.

New construction on the Goose Pasture Tarn in Blue River, Colorado outside of Breckenridge.


4. Consider alternative framing techniques

Some changes in your framing materials or techniques might provide both cost/time savings and a means to an end in securing points toward green certification. For instance, consider using panels or trusses in lieu of site-built systems. These techniques are labor and resource efficient, resulting in less on-site waste and possibly lower labor and materials cost overall. Fabricated systems often create greater thermal efficiency over stick frames. Many green rating systems, including the National Green Building Standard, also award points for use of panels and trusses.

If you want to continue framing totally on site, there are several optimum value engineering (OVE) techniques that can save on material or labor costs, and can generate green points at the same time. Look into options like:

  • Ladder blocking — uses less wood; provides more room for insulation; gets green points
  • Two-stud corners — at least one less stud at each corner; allows for more fully insulated corner; gets green points
  • Switch from 2x4s at 16 inches on center to 2x6s at 24 inches on center — may result in small increase in incremental cost initially, but gets a lot of green bang for your buck.

5. Explore low-cost strategies with design

Green, at any price point, is not accomplished through product selection alone. Many of the other “ingredients” for a green home involve strategies that can cost very little or nothing at all. For example, depending on the orientation and size of your lot, flipping a house plan is a very low-cost, low-effort activity that can result in green benefits like positioning the majority of windows on the south side of a home for passive solar and natural lighting gains.

6. Pay attention to placement and sizing of hvac and plumbing systems

Optimize your duct runs and centrally locate your mechanical room for material cost savings and increased energy efficiency. Even for smaller homes, be sure not to have more ducts or longer duct runs than you need in any part of the house. Using a central return also reduces material costs and is a simple system that can provide adequate circulation and cost savings to both you and your buyers.

Placing all your HVAC equipment, including ducts, in conditioned space within the home is also beneficial. In addition to creating significant energy savings for homeowners, this practice may also allow you to spec smaller, less-expensive HVAC equipment and limit or eliminate the need for additional insulation for the duct system. Many homes today, even those that may be otherwise energy and resource efficient, have oversized HVAC equipment. As the building envelope of your homes becomes tighter and more energy efficient, the HVAC burden is significantly reduced. A smaller system obviously costs less and could offset other green upgrades you’re making in your homes.

For your plumbing system, make sure you have chosen the most efficient design for your purposes. For multi-story homes, consider a stacked system, which will probably require shorter plumbing runs, less piping, and possibly less labor time from your plumbing contractor. Also consider centrally locating your water heater, as a central location makes the average of every run shorter, thereby reducing material costs.

7. Rely on green design professionals

Green homes often require a higher degree of precision in their design and construction to ensure that the finished product works the way it was designed to work, as a whole house relying on interdependent systems for its optimum efficiency and homeowner comfort. Having experts well versed in green products, practices, and protocols can save you thousands of dollars in trial-and-error and callbacks in the long run.

That being said, there are different ways to go about creating your design team. One way is to seek out experts in areas such as mechanical systems, plumbing design, and landscape architecture, with specific expertise in green building practices. Another tactic is to rally those with whom you already work to the pursuit of greener, more efficient homes. Similar to the enthusiasm and excitement Susan Hadder generated with her suppliers when First Richmond began seeking green solutions, you may generate the same kind of interest with your existing construction partners to learn all they can and contribute. Either way, it’s important to get everyone in your construction chain on the same page with what you’re trying to accomplish. Contractors and suppliers that are not informed can create inadvertent barriers to your ultimate success.

More information and technical detail about these techniques can be found on the Research Center’s technical website,www.ToolBase.org.

Created in 1964, the NAHB Research Center (www.nahbrc.com) is a full-service product commercialization company that strives to make housing more durable, affordable, and efficient. The Research Center provides public and private clients with an unrivaled depth of understanding of the housing industry and access to its business leaders.

Source : Professional Builder

Extreme remodel on the Goose Pasture Tarn in Blue River, Colorado

When designing a new home you should strive to create a passive house. A passive house is basically a home that is incredibly energy efficient, thereby helping you to reduce your environmental footprint as well as save up to 90 percent of your space heating costs.

Passive homes are houses that are insulated extremely well and practically air-tight. They are primarily heated through passive solar gain in addition to internal gains from electrical equipment and people, thereby helping to minimize the loss of energy. Whatever additional heat demand exists is provided through a very small source.

The layout of the home, such as the window orientation and the shading of the building, also helps to limit the home’s cooling load. Not to mention that passive homes also contain energy recovery ventilators to provide a balanced and constant fresh air supply. Other features of a passive home include triple-glazed high performance windows and high quality insulation.

To save as much energy as possible and to make sure your home is as efficient as possible, you should consider designing your home with a passive home system in mind. Be sure to contact us at Trilogy Builds for additional information and advice.

One of the things that you should consider when investing in a green building project is making your new home a zero-energy home. A zero-energy home is a sustainable home that produces as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis. The following are a few tips for building a zero-energy home:

zero-energy homes

Source: Trilogy Builds

One of the most important elements of designing a zero-energy home is ensuring that the amount of energy that you need in order to both heat and cool the house is reduced. This is done by making sure the entire home has top-notch insulation to keep air from leaking out or in.

Another element to help reduce energy leaks is choosing the right windows. High-quality, energy-efficient windows will go a long way in making your home more energy efficient. You should also consider the HVAC system you use. Proper sizing software is needed for well-insulated homes so that over-sized equipment isn’t used, which is a waste of energy.

These are just a few elements that will help to create a zero-energy home. For additional information on green building, be sure to contact us at Trilogy Builds today.

The importance of energy modeling in zero net energy home design cannot be overstated. Energy modeling is an early design phase analysis used to determine the projected energy needs of the structure to be designed.

Michael Rath, a Breckenridge, Colorado zero net energy home builder and managing partner at Trilogy Partners, says, “One of the most important aspects of creating the ZNE structure is energy modeling. This takes place early in the design phase. It’s important to estimate accurately the energy requirements of the finished structure. An energy census is completed and sophisticated computer modeling is employed. Once the energy needs of the structure are estimated, systems can then be employed to provide enough energy to the structure so that it consumes no more than it produces and can indeed be called a ZNE building.”

Energy modeling analysis utilizes a proposed building program to define and quantify the energy demand, and to establish design criteria that are technically feasible and economically realistic. It takes into account all of the environmental data, and physical and programmatic information about the proposed net zero energy building.

Trilogy Partners was the first to build a zero net energy home in Breckenridge, Colorado in 2010. Contact us for information on building a home in the Breckenridge, Colorado area that emphasizes sustainability and zero net energy by visiting the Trilogy Partners website or calling 970-453-2230. Trilogy Partners of Breckenridge, CO “Design smart. Build beautiful.”


We were saddened to hear the news that Ray Anderson, founder of Interface Carpet, lost his battle with cancer this week. Anderson was regarded by many as a visionary business leader who helped champion sustainability. He founded Interface Carpet in 1973 and helped transform an entire industry with his “eco-epiphany”.

Ray shared with Metropolis Magazine that his “late-night encounter with Paul Hawken’s seminal book, Ecology of Commerce, changed his life.” Ray was so inspired by Hawken’s words that he set a goal for Interface, in which he called “Climbing Mount Sustainability”, of zero environmental impact by 2020.

It was only fitting that Paul Hawken deliver a eulogy at Anderson’s memorial service yesterday in Atlanta.

“People called Ray a dreamer. To be sure, he was, but he was also an engineer. He had definitely seen the mountain, but he also dreamed in balance sheets, thermodynamics, and resource flow theory. He dreamed a world yet to come because dreams of a livable future are not coming from our politicians, bankers, and the media. For Ray, reimagining the world was a responsibility, something owed to our children’s children, a gift to a future that is begging for selflessness and vision.”

Read about Ray’s “Climbing Mount Sustainability” on Metropolis Magazine.

Timber Trails Trilogy Partners Net Zero EnergyNet zero energy homes are emerging as the new standard in current energy conservation trends. These homes are called net zero, to signify that the home may not take a net positive amount of energy from the grid, in a one year period. The home may actually use energy from the grid at times, but it must then also deliver energy back to the grid at other times.

The two primary design principles utilized in the net zero home are:

  1. Using energy efficient materials and strategies
  2. The use of renewable energy resources

Details affecting solar orientation, geothermal systems, and passive solar energy technology impact the overall form of the zero net energy home in the early design phase.

Technological considerations such as heat pump selection and location; floor, roof and wall insulation systems; and energy efficient appliances and lighting systems all contribute to the success of the net zero energy home.

Zero Energy Home GE Trilogy PartnersOver 100 net zero energy homes currently exist in the United States. Trilogy Partners completed the first net zero energy home in Breckenridge, Colorado in the Timber Trails neighborhood in 2010. More and more net zero energy homes will be constructed in coming years as the technology becomes more affordable, and as public awareness and education increases.

Photo sources: GE, Trilogy Partners

About 6 months ago we at Trilogy Partners completed an 8000 square foot zero net energy home, a first for Breckenridge, Colorado. Beginning with design and until now I’ve been conducting an internal debate as to whether it’s even possible for a home that large to be considered “green,” zero net energy or not. The somewhat difficult conclusion I’ve reached is based on the philosophy of “early adoption.” What I refer to is the process by which new technologies get adopted into the mainstream marketplace. Early adopters are usually passionate individuals who are less price sensitive and are willing to invest in emerging technologies or ideas while they are still more expensive than alternative solutions. In the case of this ski in and out home on the slopes of the Breckenridge ski resort our owner was willing to put aside cost issues to create a platform that would in essence serve as a model for the future. Although the trend is toward building smaller homes, indeed for the foreseeable future larger homes will be built by those that can afford them. This experiment with a larger “green” home will hopefully provide a blueprint for sustainability and accountability.

Using green building materials and products represents one important green building strategy. In fact, the nationally accepted benchmark for high-performance green building, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, includes Materials and Resources (MR) as one of eight categories used to measure a home’s overall performance.

Green building materials are renewable, recyclable, and consist of salvaged or refurbished materials. They offer specific benefits to the homeowner including reduced maintenance and replacement costs. For example, a deck constructed of a plastic wood product (100% recycled plastic) never needs to be painted or stained and will last longer than a wooden deck. Energy and resource conservation are also benefits of using green materials. Photovoltaics and low-use water fixtures are two green products that help conserve energy and water. Additional benefits of using green building materials are improved occupant health and productivity. Using synthetic green products in the home results in lower chemical emissions, and they contain fewer pesticides and pollutants.

Depending upon project-specific goals, an assessment of a potentially green material may involve evaluating one or more of these criteria: resource efficiency, indoor air quality, energy efficiency, water conservation, and affordability. Often, it is difficult to accurately assess the environmental performance of a building material or product over its entire life cycle. Another viable option, therefore, is to rely on third-party certification organizations. For example, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies wood products that come from sources that follow a set of FSC sustainable forest management practices. Other recognized third-party certification organizations include: Green Guard, Green Seal, Green Cross, Energy Star, and Scientific Certification Systems.

In addition to self-assessment or third-party certification, you can use material lists and databases to find green materials and products. GreenSpec, a fee-based service, is a comprehensive source of green building product information. It includes more than 1,850 green building products and materials selected by the editors of Environmental Building News, a monthly newsletter published by BuildingGreen, Inc. (www.buildinggreen.com). Organized in Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) MasterFormat, GreenSpec includes descriptions of each product, along with environmental considerations and manufacturer contact information.

Other notable sources about green materials and products include:

To learn more about Green Materials and Products, visit:

Source: HGTVPro.com

by Bill Sutton | Green architecture is definitely not black and white.   Green architecture is inherently organic and integrated.   There are currently many varying approaches and schools of thought behind this.   I am no architect but I do have a huge appreciation for the art.  I thoroughly enjoy the very few times in my day job as a construction manager when I’m able to sketch out details in the field or use my architectural drawing skills to get my idea across to the team.

I have started to notice the following trends in the green architecture arena.

1.) Passive Design – Orienting the building so that it is able to use the natural warmth and light from the sun. Just as important is the proper insulation of the building so comfort is preserved throughout the day.  Another critical item is to make sure that the most efficient windows are used on the exterior of the building. The passive house (haus) system has become widely popular and they are able to use these methodologies to save over 80% energy usage when compared to conventional design. Here is a link to their website:http://www.passivehouse.us/passiveHouse/PassiveHouseInfo.html .

  • Trombe walls
  • Thermal bridge free construction
  • High efficiency glazing
  • Conserving resources through design


2.) High Performance Design – High performance design includes pushing the limit in all areas of the building. This includes the most efficient and typically most expensive envelope (exterior skin of the building), mechanical system, the electrical system, the lighting system, and even the plumbing system. ASHRAE publishes a truly great resource called High Performance Magazine which spotlights these types of buildings throughout the world, for more information visit here: http://www.hpbmagazine.org/

  • Geothermal (Ground Source) heating & cooling
  • Chilled beam technology
  • Integrated design
  • Technology pushing performance
  • [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIX-J83lmaI&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

3.) Smart Design – Smart design refers to the proper sizing of the building and it’s systems to fit the needs of the occupants. Traditionally buildings and their systems have been grossly oversized when compared to their actual needs and functionality. We are starting to see more homes and commercial buildings being built with this simplistic approach which can have major benefits for the environment and energy usage. My favorite local example of this is the Lofts at 909 –http://loftsat909.com/lofts/ . They used an old abandoned school and converted it into ultra modern, compact urban apartments. They look really awesome.

  • Shared spaces
  • Multi-Functional spaces
  • Easily convertible spaces
  • Emerge Alliance


    Feel Free To Share Others!

If you haven’t heard of green architecture, you might be living under a rock, which is actually a pretty green way to live, taking advantage of the natural coolness of a rock-formed shelter. And if you’ve heard more than enough about eco-conscious, environmentally friendly and green stuff, test your knowledge and see if you’re retaining the information or are still green behind the ears. To take the quiz go here.

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