At a time when our housing market is in a crisis, you wouldn’t expect a homebuilder to try something new and even a bit risky. Emmit Stallworth, President of Alpha Home Builders, decided it was time to break the mold and build one of the Birmingham-area’s first green speculative home.
My Green Birmingham.com took a tour of Stallworth’s EarthCraft and Energy Star certified home under construction in Trace Crossings to learn exactly what it will mean to a potential buyer and the city’s home building industry as a whole.
MGB.com: Why did you decide to build a green home?
Stallworth: I decided to build green certified homes when I realized that being green is more than just being earth friendly. It’s about building homes that are energy efficient, have healthier indoor air quality, and are sustainable. If a home is more sustainable, it will require less maintenance, thus allowing the homeowner to save more money in the long haul.
MGB.com: What type of training and certification did you have to go through to become a certified green builder?
Stallworth: I went through the National Association of Home Building’s Certified Green Professional course. I’ve also had courses with EarthCraft House, which is a Green Building Certification company that was formed as a merger between the Greater Atlanta Home Building Association and the Southface Energy Institute in Atlanta. Being part of those organizations, Alabama’s green building program grandfathered Alpha Home Builders into its Energy Key program. Alpha Home Builders is also in partnership with Energy Star.
MGB.com: What is the cost difference of building a traditional home of the same size, verses a green home?
Stallworth: The only cost for me to certify a home green is the amount of money the third-party verifier charges to come out and verify my house, which is usually around $2,000.Building green is really just good practice on behalf of the builder. I spend a lot of time monitoring and supervising my sites; therefore, it doesn’t require me to dramatically change the way I build. For good builders it does not require much. Unfortunately, production builders and builders who don’t supervise their site as much will find it extremely difficult to certify a home through NAHB and EarthCraft House.
MGB.com: What are the economic and health benefits of building and living in a green home in the long run?
Stallworth:From an economic standpoint, this home will save the homeowner between 25 to 30 percent on all utilities. Wells Fargo also offers an additional 0.25 percent discount rate to anyone who purchases this home. There is also a savings on repair and maintenance, since it will require less upkeep than an ordinary home. For instance, the windows are aluminum clad, therefore, they don’t require any painting and caulking in two years.
This home also has better indoor air quality. The kitchen and master bath cabinets are urea free, formaldehyde free, and have no volatile organic compounds. Those are all slow release agents that cause a lot of health problems for homeowners. There is also a passive radon pipe prevention tube installed in the foundation of the home in order to help relieve the home of radon gas, which has been known to cause cancer and is found in very rocky areas. We have also sized the HVAC units properly. Therefore, the home is removing moisture effectively, which cuts down on mold. These are only a few of the mechanisms in the home that makes the indoor air quality better than a traditional home.
Stallworth: The hardest opposition I’ve faced with my green building commitment is the mentality of my subcontractors. I’ve had to get all new licensed subcontractors (HVAC, plumbing, electrical) because the ones I’ve been using didn’t want to change the way they did their trades. They were not open to any change and most of them hadn’t done enough research to have confidence in new technology. Therefore, their price was so outrageous that I couldn’t pay for their learning curve.
Most builders ridiculed me when I told them what I was trying to do. They told me, “no one in Alabama is going to pay the extra money for a house like that.” These same builders have changed their tune very quickly in the mist of this economic downturn. Who wouldn’t want a home that saves them money? It goes without saying that it is time homebuilders started thinking green. While commercial building has slowly become more eco-savvy in our city, the availability of green certified homes has been unheard of, until now.
Stallworth admitted that it will take quite of bit of education for real estate agents, lenders, appraisers, and even homebuyers to fully understand the benefits of building and buying green, but he is fully committed to leading the way in green certified homebuilding.
Check out our Green Guide to find more information on Emmit Stallworth and Alpha Home Builders!