A guide through the sustainable building practice is made easy by EarthCraft's Green Building Program.Last Thursday, August 29th was an all day EarthCraft Home training event for single family builders hosted by Arlington County Parks and Operations in their general very functional conference facility near Shirlington. Although the class was geared towards builders who were looking to green their building practices by learning from the professionals at EarthCraft Virginia, in attendance you could find award winning architects, insulation experts, home energy auditors, Arlington County inspectors, planners and then some. This seminar was really a way to bring together people who are interested in building a community in a sustainable way. EarthCraft is originally based out of Atlanta, Georgia; the program was brought to Virginia through the help of the Home Depot Foundation in 2007. The idea behind EarthCraft Home is to help to educate builders about new and time tested techniques to build high performance and energy efficient homes. EarthCraft Virginia began in 2007 as the scion of Chuk Bowles and his business partner who saw a desperate need for sustainable building practices in their native Richmond area. Seeking a program that he could ultimately take state wide, Bowles looked to the Georgia based Southface Institute to help him put together a green building program modeled after some of the most successful programs in the nation such as Austin Energy's Green Building Program. The program seems to be catching on, as they branch out with more technical advisers (highly skilled construction experts who advise builders while taking their project through the certification process). They have 24 technical advisers working in Virgina at the present time, each of whom is very knowledgeable about their craft. So far, Earth Craft has been able to certify 525 single family homes and 2500 multifamily homes in Virginia.
What goes into an EarthCraft certified home? Well, the short, simple answer is 150+ points (green building techniques and resources) on a new construction that enable the home to be at least 15% more efficient than its regularly built counterpart. The long answer would mean that you need to sit through the basic building science class that is their EarthCraft Virginia training session. Seriously though, EarthCraft is only for new construction at this point, but they are working on a pilot program for remodels/retrofitted homes in the Virginia area. During the training they touch on the hundreds of things that go into building a green home. They discuss everything from the mandatory Manual J (the mathematical formula that ensures that your HVAC is properly sized to ensure proper pressurization, balances and comfort performed by the HVAC professional) to the importance of site orientation. Something that a lot of the folks in the seminar didn't know about is that there are energy efficient mortgages available to assist their clients in building a green home! They stress the importance of building a team that is on the same page from the get go. This reminded me of SEED Home's plans that I was so excited about. All the while, they remind the builders that the house is a system, the walls, the thermal envelope, etc and that a house must be breathable to have a healthy indoor air quality.In the training seminar which is meant to kickstart builders into the Green building machine, KC McGurren, the energetic and enthusiastic Director of EarthCraft gave several hours of straight knowledge to the audience of mixed builders, architects, inspectors and rogue Realtors. She would get some great questions about construction science, and immediately rattle off a very precise answer: Why are we doing it this way? "Green building is trying something new and ultimately coming up with cost effective solutions for problems..." So what happens if A, B or C happens? "Code trumps EarthCraft, just know that this is a collaborative work that is about health and safety." The registration page noted that "This program serves as a blueprint for healthy, comfortable homes that not only reduce utility bills but also protect the environment." The kind folk, of EarthCraft Virginia definitely held up to their end of the bargain and put out some very helpful information for people looking to hit the ground running into the sustainable building field. In a nutshell, EarthCraft Virginia is the only statewide program for certification of a green built home. Skilled and passionate technical advisers are assigned to builders specifically to help them liaise between the tradesmen and even the client to understand how a home should be properly constructed to ensure a healthy environment. The homes are "graded" with the points system and will ultimately achieve a rating through EarthCraft to certify that the home has been built to specific standards of sustainability. This is a wonderful program for Northern Virignia Buiders to become a part of. If you're looking for a green built home, find an EcoBroker that you trust to help you through your sustainable home search! If you find this sort of information interesting, find us on Facebook!