Sustainable Houses

Idaho Green Cottage Proves Sustainable Living Doesn’t Have to Cost a Fortune

In Idaho, a state with no building department and little local oversight of builders, Scott and Barbara Schriber have proven that with a little planning, construction technique and good material choice, any house can be sustainable without having to break the bank.

When the recession and housing crisis of 2009 hit, Scott and Barbara, the owners of Selle Valley Construction, had to look for ways to attract new clients. But that was easier said than done in a time when banks stopped giving housing loans and hardly anyone was willing to invest in new houses. Determined to beat the crisis, the two realized they had to bring something new to the table, if they wanted to beat the competition, and they chose to explore high-performance home building.

“We learned that when you say the word ‘green’ up here, people think it’s about being a tree hugger,” Barbara remembers about their first attempts to educate locals about the benefits of green-building. So when they met with architects, realtors and potential customers, she tried to focus on the financial incentives of sustainable housing, to get them interested. But words alone could only get them so far, so Scott and Barbara started work on a real sustainable house to show people just what they were talking about. That’s how the Red Cottage, their first NGBS-certified home was created. They figured if it failed to impress anyone they could just move in, but they hoped people would respond to the various green features they had implemented.

The Red Cottage included a heat recovery ventilator, bamboo flooring, wool carpeting, an on-demand hot water, a drip-irrigation system, dual-flush toilets, and WaterSense fixtures. Heat was provided via a mini-split ductless heat pump with a gas fireplace for backup, and the exceptional insulation gave the house an excellent HERS rating of 57. But what really impressed local clients was the winter heating bill which averaged around $45 a month. The Red Cottage sold six months after completion, for $200,000, and caught the eye of other people interested in sustainable living conditions. “It was the first step in our efforts to hopefully broaden this market in our area,” says Barbara.

Since then, Sell Valley Construction has built another NGBS-certified house next-door, and six others are in development, but Barbara admits the Red Cottage had the biggest impact on the local community. “The best part of putting the house out there is now we have proof; we can show the electricity bill and explain the HERS score,” she says. “We can show that these are better-built houses and the weirder this economy gets, the more that’s going to help.”

“Our homes may cost a bit more, but with a 30-year mortgage amortized, the monthly mortgage increase may be less than the water, sewer, and electricity savings made possible by the efficient features,” Schriber says. “Plus, on average, electricity and utility rates increase at a rate greater than the rate of salary increases, so utility savings are compounded over time.” She tells customers to expect a 1% to 3% markup (about $3,000 to $4,000, including the cost of Energy Star and NGBS certifications), compared to a traditional cost of the same size, and the Red Cottage proves a sustainable home can actually b cost-efficient.


via Eco Home Magazine


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