It’s not easy being green. Think Kermit the Frog!
Just so, it’s not easy building green. Over the next few months, as our home goes up, I’ll share some tales about the trials and tribulations – and the successes and satisfactions of building a green home.
Here are the basics: one and half stories; typical frame and stucco construction; 3 bedrooms and 2 baths plus a great room consisting of living area, dining area and kitchen. Screened porch (I’m a southerner by heritage – we always have screened porches); deck; front porch. 5 acres just outside of town, but with city water.
Here is the green: super insulated R-40 walls and R-60+ in the roof; southern exposure with passive solar design. That means, by the way, that all main-floor windows face south with a roof overhang that allows sun to penetrate the rooms in the winter, but blocks the sun in the summer, limiting the heat gain when least wanted. Concrete floors provide heat mass to retain heat in the winter. Solar photovoltaic to provide electricity; solar thermal for hot water; wind generated-electricity a possibility in the future. The house will be grid-tied and so will feed electricity into the PNM grid, providing an income source rather than expense for as long as PNM keeps paying for electricity (don’t get me started on that one yet). Double pane Anderson windows with high wind rating and altitude package – but not low e! Low e and passive solar are somewhat contradictory.
Here is the green challenge: Build Green New Mexico or BGNM. BGNM focuses on energy efficiency, green construction and environmental attention. BGNM is a NM state program sponsored by the National Association of Home Builders and provides from $9-18,000 in tax credits against current and future income tax. And we’re shooting for Emerald level, the highest possible. If and when we attain it, we could be only the second house certified in the state to be certified at the Emerald Level. There is one home just certified in Santa Fe; we don’t know how many others in the state are currently building, but we’re not in a competition to find out!
Build Green New Mexico criteria start with the selection of the lot on which to build and the community surrounding the lot and carries through construction, resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and ending with homeowner, builder, contractor and community education! BGNM takes a huge commitment and a real team effort to achieve.
We’re off on this odyssey to build a home that suits the landscape and sits gently on the land and that will be the home in which we (hope to) die! We’re trying to balance the costs of building green against our finite budget; to balance the infrastructure against aesthetics, like solar pv against getting to choose not-the-least-expensive tile; to meet the criteria of BGNM without making us all crazy with details but without missing details that would cost us points in the end. And weighed into that mix, we’re trying to incorporate common-sense aging-in-place features and now, with the Miller fire raging, take into account creating defensible space that in some ways runs contrary to the low-impact requirements of Build Green New Mexico.
Come along on our odyssey and when the house is done, c’mon down and sit on the porch!