Local builders show consumers that by today's standards, it's easy being green 

When it comes to new home construction, green is the thing. Energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly homes are on the rise. But in this generation of Earth friendly, think less geodesic dome and more high-end and low maintenance. Today's green construction is just as attractive as it is efficient and is bringing in buyers by the hybrid carload.

Ideal for the environment
Selling green
Green from the ground up

Ideal for the environment
Since 1990, Ideal Homes has been building houses in metro Oklahoma City, and from the beginning, energy consciousness was key.

"Ideal Homes began as a journey to bring innovative, energy-efficient construction to first-time buyer and first-time move-up markets," said Steve Shoemaker, marketing director of Ideal Homes. "At first, it was simply a point of differentiation. It turned into the fiber of the company."

The concept was successful, even in a less energy-aware era. A 30 percent growth rate was achieved in each of the company's first five years, and in the 20 years since, Ideal Homes has built more than 7,000 houses and has received many awards for its work, including the "2010 Builder of the Year" by Professional Builder magazine.

"We treat the home as a system, not just a bunch of individual parts," said Shoemaker.

Levels are engineered at twice that of Energy Star standards, and guaranteed heating and cooling costs mean homeowners will be reimbursed if bills exceed stated averages. Within the home's structure, an extremely tight seal prevents air leakage, and a third-party audit tests every home constructed. A fresh-air ventilation system, high-performance air conditioning unit, and a 90 percent-efficient gas furnace filters and recycles interior air, while vinyl, low-emissivity glass windows keep homes temperate.

"You cannot become an energy-efficient builder overnight. There are too many building science fundamentals and testing that you have to endure to get it right," said Shoemaker. "The more you do it, the more you learn."

Selling greenMichelle Foy is an Oklahoma City-based real estate agent who holds the Green Realtor designation with the National Association of Realtors and is on the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Association of Realtors Green Resource Council Task Force.

"I think the bottom line is a motivating factor when considering Energy Star or LEED-certified homes," said Foy. "When a builder will guarantee your monthly utility bills, it provides the consumer a feeling that they are making a sound investment."

Foy educates her clients on sustainable features, procedures and materials that affect the homes they are looking to buy or sell.

"There is much more to sustainable design than the mechanical systems that you put into them," she said. "From low-VOC flooring and wall coverings to strategically locating trees and selecting native plants for landscaping, my job is to help clients learn how to distinguish green procedures and methods from 'green washing' that has become a problem with the new eco-boom."

Foy is working with local real estate associations to "green the MLS," which is the Multi-Listing Service used in public searches to identify specific amenities of homes on the market.

"Currently, there are no green fields " a couple for energy features, such as solar panels or an attic fan, but seriously, how many people do you know with solar panels?" said Foy. "I am pushing for a whole slew of features to be added within the next year. It's a big job, but a necessary one."

Green from the ground upManchester Green Homes has been producing energy-efficient homes for the last 10 years, but in the last two, the company has gone strictly green, adhering to Energy Star and the National Association of Home Builders' Green Building guidelines. The company is one of the only in the metro building speculative green homes as a standard.

In 2009, Manchester built the first green St. Jude Dream Home and is currently building the 2010 Oklahoma City Eco-Home within its Stone Manor Lakes subdivision.

"There seems to be a misconception that building and owning a green home means sacrificing comforts or spending oodles of money to save the planet," said Jim Fincher, owner of Manchester Green Homes. "There is no sacrificing of comforts, and our homes should actually cost less to own and operate."

Manchester Green Homes bases its energy-efficient construction on what they call the basic pillars of green building: energy efficiency, resource efficiency, indoor environmental quality and durability.

"The future of green building is bright," Fincher said. "Green homes, when done right, are simply built better, built to last longer and cost less to own and operate than a code-built home. As homeowners become more informed about what a green home truly entails, the demand will increase."

photo The Manchester Elite model green home, 14500 Yorkshire Lane, in the Stone Manor Lakes development in northwest Oklahoma City. photo/Mark Hancock

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