‘Green’ home by Syracuse Center of Excellence partners earns first Gold rating in New York
‘Green’ home by Syracuse Center of Excellence partners earns first Gold rating in New York May 16, 2007Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
A Skaneateles home has received the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes certification in New York state, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.
The house was built by Kevin Stack, president of Northeast Natural Homes Inc., a charter member of the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems (Syracuse CoE) in collaboration with owners John and Elet Callahan. Elet Callahan teaches sustainable development at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, where she is a professor of law and public policy. The Callahans will move into the three-bedroom house in June.
LEED for Homes is a national, consensus-based rating system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance “green” homes. To be LEED certified, homes must meet rigorous standards in innovation and design, sustainability, energy efficiency, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. LEED for Homes offers four certification levels: certified, silver, gold and platinum.
The Callahan home is one of four gold-certified homes nationally, with another four receiving platinum certification. There were 1.8 million home starts in 2006.
The home has also received the highest certification under the National Association of Home Builders Research Center (NAHB) Green Building Guidelines. Additionally, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) selected the home as one of four in New York state to measure green building performance, materials, systems and principles, and to serve as a demonstration home to educate other builders.
The LEED for Homes program is currently in a pilot phase and is expected to be launched later this year. Ramsgard Architectural Design, Northeast Natural Homes and its subcontractors implemented an integrated design process in designing the home and its systems. Syracuse CoE partners, including Syracuse University and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, also collaborated. NYSERDA and the NAHB served central roles in educating the public and other building professionals and in procuring innovative and new building materials, systems and components.
Elet Callahan says the decision to build green reflects her family’s commitment to the environment. “We wanted to be advocates for sustainability in practice, not just in theory, and I was eager to apply green building research concepts,” she says.
In constructing the home, Northeast purchased locally generated wind power for all onsite construction activities — equal to planting 11,534 trees, not driving 146,188 miles or not releasing 168,840 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A global positioning system directional bore was used when installing the home’s water service to protect the site’s natural capital and ecosystem services. In instances where tree roots had to be disturbed, they were hand dug, bent back and then returned. If they needed to be cut, a Mycohizzal root hormone was added to foster regeneration.
Inside, the home features many materials embodying various aspects of sustainability, including natural materials such as cabinets made from an agricultural-waste product, post-consumer recycled glass tile, rapidly renewable cork flooring, and local and sustainable certified wood products. The unique boiler design is more than 94 percent efficient and passively captures latent waste heat. Low VOC paints were used on the walls. The bathroom cabinets are made from formaldehyde-free wheatboard. The home’s mechanical systems include a dedicated outdoor fresh air delivery system with heat recovery. The house is equipped with dual flush toilets, which save 6,000 gallons of water each year for the average American family of four, and an innovative septic system with a smaller ecological footprint than most systems. Stack estimates that the Callahans’ home is 35-45 percent more energy efficient than conventional homes.
“At the outset, this was a project about environmental responsibility, and we didn’t fully understand the health and comfort benefits associated with green building,” says Elet Callahan. “We are proud that our home is a model of sustainability, but we love it because it is functional, cozy and beautiful.”
Stack says that contrary to popular belief, sustainable building does not cost more than conventional construction. “A misperception exists that green building costs more, and while that was once true it is no longer the case,” Stack says. “Green buildings actually save financial, human and ecological capital over time through lower operating and maintenance costs, higher performance, and better human and ecological health. Sustainable building has actually become the more cost-effective way to build, especially when externalities are factored in.”
The construction of the home fits into the mission of the Syracuse CoE. “The Callahans’ home is a shining example of the leadership and creativity of the people and firms of Central New York,” says Edward Bogucz, executive director of the Syracuse CoE. “People around the world now understand that human activities are causing significant change in global climate. Thanks to the pioneering spirit of the Callahans and the skill of innovative firms like Northeast Natural Homes and other partners in the Syracuse CoE, when people around the world seek solutions for sustainable living they will come right here to upstate New York to find them.”
For images of the Callahans’ home and more information on the Syracuse CoE, visit http://www.syracusecoe.org.