David and Ali Morsch always wanted to live on the water. And when they drove into Long Cove in Deerfield Township, site of three Homearamas, with many homes perched on the shore of a winding lake, they were “just blown away by the level of detail” in the community.

“I’d never seen a waterway community like it … and couldn’t believe the undertaking in its creation. I appreciated it immediately,” David says. “I literally have a boat dock in my backyard. On summer evenings we get in the kayak and paddle around the community.”

Though they were taken with the setting they didn’t welcome the idea of the high energy bills that a 5000 square foot home might carry, and they wanted the marketability of a green certified home if they ever wanted to sell.

So David set out to build a LEED certified home, expecting the process to take a lot longer – at least another month or two he says – and to cost a bit more than a non-certified home.

To his delight he says he was wrong on both counts.

The home was built in only eight months by Kurlemann Custom Building Group in Mason and “it didn’t cost me any more,” he says. “Generally I expected it would cost another five to 10 percent, but it didn’t.”

And one of the biggest pluses? “It’s very common for homeowners of the same square footage – about 5,300 square feet – to spend $500 or more on utilities per month. We spend an average of $180, even in summer.”

“We discovered that builders like Kurlemann were already doing many things that were included in the LEED certification requirements. It really was just a couple of extra steps to get the LEED results.”

That and a lot of paperwork.

Morsch and Jeff Barnes of Kurlemann worked with Barb Yankie of Green Building Consulting in Madeira, who tallied the points and verified the home for the U.S. Green Building Council.

“It’s really not all that different from the way Kurlemann has always built homes,” says Barnes. “It’s pretty much the same quality. The biggest difference is the paperwork. It was the first one we’d done so I was learning the system. But after one you know what to expect.”

Points leading to different levels of certification are awarded in eight categories and “the process starts in the design stage,” says Yankie. “We verify all the way through to completion and run physical diagnostics on the house, keeping an eye on the project all the way through. It’s a rigorous process, but you get a payback in reduced energy and maintenance costs.”

From Morsch’s perspective, the two most important areas in achieving energy efficiency were the windows and the heating-cooling system.

“Using upgraded windows and heating/cooling systems really makes the difference,” he says. “We have two variable speed systems – the Evolution System Plus 90i by Bryant – one for upstairs and one for the lower level and main floor. I wanted to keep the utility bills as low as possible.”

Choosing windows for a transitional style home designed to take advantage of the water views, doors opening to patios and two-story rooms was critical. And though wood windows were required according to Long Cove covenants, Morsch’ s team found what they consider a better solution with Gilkey windows and doors.

“Windows can really make a difference,” says Yankie.

“On a scale of one to 10, if you have a lot of windows in a house, windows rank about four or five in importance. There’s a window-to-wall ratio – comparing the square footage of each. If you get more than 14 percent windows to wall ratio then your house is starting to get inefficient. So these big homes with lots of windows have to do something to keep their efficiency.”

“There were no wood windows at the time that would meet the energy performance that the homeowner wanted,” says Mike Gilkey of Gilkey Window Co.

“The owner wanted to hit some thermal performance numbers and wanted a one-inch triple pane glass that you couldn’t get at the time in wood. So we used a vinyl brick mold system which goes on the outside of the window, like a picture frame, that trims out the window on the exterior. It’s made of vinyl but looks like wood. You can’t tell the difference. The people in the community took a look and Ok d them.”

The window Morsch chose is a triple pane with two air pockets between filled with Krypton.

“The more you chop up the air pockets, the better insulation,” explains Gilkey. But, if you use a triple glaze you add a lot of weight using glass as a middle plate. Instead we used the Heat Mirror FilmTM, a polyester 4 ml. film suspended between two plates of glass that stops conductive heat. Then we seal the glass, pump out the air and pump in Krypton, an inert gas on either side of the film so you don’t get a thermal draft inside the glass.” Each window also has two layers of low emissivity (Low E) coating, one on the inside of the exterior glass to reflect heat but allow light and another on the Heat Mirror film

“When you think of insulation in walls, most have R-13 insulation (how much it resists heat transfer),” says Yankie. “A normal, decent window has maybe an R-3, compared to a wall. The Gilkey window took the R value up to R-5 or R-6, which really gives increased efficiency. And the coating protects from UV rays. These windows also provide sound insulation.

“I use infrared thermography on an infrared camera to detect temperature difference around windows. The scan of the Gilkey window is one of the tightest I’ve seen. They have a very good seal to stop air at the latch and edges,” she says.

Other aspects of building than rack up LEED points include:

Insulation. “Grade One is almost perfect. Grade Two is extremely good. These homes are at least a Grade Two and sometimes a Grade One.” The Morsches’ attic insulation is R-38, she says.

Air sealing. An air seal package secures all the joints where the foundation meets the bottom of the wall so air can’t get in.

Roof. Sometimes you will see raised heel trusses, extra wood blocking that raises the roofline to get insulation all the way to the edge of the roof. Normally trusses sit right on the home’s exterior wall.

Waste Management. Recycling during the building prevents waste from going to a landfill. For example, gypsum drywall is a great fertilizer for farmers, says Yankie.

Materials. Reclaimed and recycled materials and those from the local area keep shipping costs down. Low VOC paint also falls in this category.

Indoor air. Two whisper fans that run 24/7, one upstairs, one downstairs, get extra points for improving air quality.

Appliances. Choosing Energy Star qualified appliances throughout the house get points.

Subflooring. The subfloors are made of a recycled wood product called AdvanTech, engineered for superior moisture resistance, strength and stiffness.

“Most people think these big houses are not efficient,” says Yankie, “But if you compare a typical 2000-2500 square foot house built in 1995 with one like this over-5,000 square-foot house, the smaller one is probably less energy efficient. The newer home probably has low-flow faucets and toilets, Energy Star appliances, an irrigation system designed to use less water, landscaping designed to be drought tolerant. The whole design creates a much smaller carbon footprint than a normal house.”

What’s LEED?


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