Homes Built by Owners Get Top Sustainability Ranking from Florida Green Building Coalition

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ORLANDO, Fla – Two of Florida’s top Green homes were built by owners who served as their own general contractors.

Mac McCarraher and Ken Old, both of Lake County received Florida Green Building Coalition (FGBC) Platinum certifications for homes they planned and built themselves. Platinum certification is given to homes that achieve the highest level of sustainability for a Florida-specific climate. 

FGBC was formed in 2000 and is the leading certifying agency for green building within the state of Florida, having just surpassed 19,300 projects, by far the largest certifier of green residential and commercial construction, residential communities and local governments in the state.

“It was really an oddity for us, because most of the time we spend our time working with contractors,” said Ralph Locke, FGBC Designated Professional on the projects.  Locke is also chairman of the FGBC Education Committee.

FGBC is dedicated to improving the built environment. Its mission is to lead and promote sustainability with environmental, economic, and social benefits through regional education, community outreach and certification programs.

“Self-contracting means they can build it their way, but sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle. We’re that third set of eyes that tell the homeowner whether it’s being done right or wrong,” FGBC Vice President Bill Kachman said. Kachman is also a FGBC Certifying Agent.

During construction McCarraher bermed the yard to keep waste run-off out of an adjacent lake. One set of berms is required to meet green standards. He built three.

He also installed native landscaping, impact resistant windows, extra structural bracing, a steel roof, solar panels, a solar hot water heater and other green features.

The home received a 14 Home Energy Rating System (HERS) value, the best score ever recorded in the state. The HERS Index is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured. It’s also the nationally recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home’s energy performance.

It received a Silver rating through the Water Star program, a Lake County Parade of Homes award for energy efficiency and was the top-rated FGBC home in Florida for 2017.

McCarraher’s goal was to build a lakeside retirement home that was net-zero. Net-zero energy consumption means the total amount of energy used by the home on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created by the building.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I think if we all were more energy efficient, it would help with some of the climate issues we’re having. I wanted to do my part.”

Old, a retired builder from England, wanted to a build passive home. The idea is catching on in America, and they’re common where he’s from.

He installed a geothermal HVAC system. The system circulates water underground, where temperature remains constant, so less energy is needed for heating and cooling.

He also used R-23 rated insulated concrete forms on the exterior walls, 10-foot roof overhangs to block the sun, a cistern for irrigating the yard, native plant landscaping, water permeable materials for the driveways, and other green features including structural integrated panels.

Old admits the passive home green design is usually more effective in the North, but he wanted to try to adapt the strategy to a warm climate.

“If I did it again, I wouldn’t have used the amount of insulation I used,” he said. It’s been a good lesson. You can only learn by building the house and seeing how well it performs.”

Using FGBC gave him someone to bounce ideas off. “I found them very helpful, because I could always get them on the phone very easily,” he said.

Self-contracting can give an owner a home more customized to exactly what they are looking for in green performance according to Old.

“It’s a much better built home. Able to take it to a higher standard,” noted Old.

Despite the higher quality, both homes cost less than 4 percent more than without the green features.

Unlike other national and international certifications, FGBC five certifications are only standards developed with scientific-based, Florida-specific criteria. They address the state’s hot-humid climate, environment, unique topography, geology and natural disasters.

Going Green? In Florida you have a choice. To learn more contact FGBC at info@floridagreenbuilding.org, visit www.floridagreenbuilding.org call (407) 777-4919.