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Homes are joining other types of buildings in the demand for green construction

Green home trend growing in Mississippi

Real estate development is sure to grow greener as more clients demand environmentally-sound projects. Commercial buildings, homes, government facilities, schools and churches are going green.

“Green building is the most significant and relevant development in construction since the beginning of modernism almost 100 years ago,” said Perry Richardson, an architect with the Canizaro Cawthon Davis firm in Jackson.

In the business of design and construction for 40 years, he has observed the change from a time when no thought was given to energy savings or the environment and pollution was everywhere before the landmark federal Clean Air and Water Act. He serves as chairman of the state chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and hopes to organize more chapter branches throughout the state.

More recently, homes are joining other types of buildings in the demand for green construction. On Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, more than 1,000 units are being built to LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification. The project is the largest in the world of this kind and the largest residential green project in the United States, according to Mason Stapham, assistant project manager for the contractor, Hunt Yates Construction Company.

A LEED-accredited professional, Stapham said all of the units will be certified LEED silver. “We’re focusing on energy use and expect these homes to be 40 percent more efficient. They will also be Energy Star certified,” he said. “They don’t just meet expectations, but exceed them.”

Panelized wood construction, which means zero waste, is being used rather than traditional stick framing, and the prefabricated walls are brought to the site. The brick is processed within 500 miles; the windows and roof are rated to sustain winds of 150 miles per hour with the focus on durability.

The demolition of existing military housing is also being done in a green way with an on-site recycling facility. The demolished material is being used for road base and back fill. The project is half completed and will be finished in 2010.

As green building practices are used more, coastal residents recognize the value of marrying environmentally responsible home construction with hurricane-resistant construction. A concrete home is a way to achieve both, and it does not have to look like a bomb shelter.

The home of Dr. John Watts and family on Bayou Circle in Gulfport is an example. With Hardie siding on the outside, the 3,600-square-foot home is a coastal cottage that’s architecturally indistinguishable from other homes on the street, but it has wind and hurricane resistant features the others do not have. At 18 feet above ground, the home even has an elevated swimming pool, putting green and outdoor kitchen. The family moved in last May.

“We wanted to elevate our home and build it stronger. The green benefits were secondary but became more important as we got into it,” Watts said. “With the energy-efficient features, we’ve saved 40 percent on energy bills. With the thick, poured concrete walls, the temperature is easy to control.”

The poured concrete is a heavy mass material, which stores thermal energy like the walls of a cave or marble municipal building. It can also radiate heat out. The manufacturing of concrete is more energy efficient, too, because it does not require the harvesting of trees. Concrete homes also create a healthy interior environment due to air control and the reduction of outside air getting in. Energy recovery ventilators work round the clock to measure the amount of air used.

To encourage more green homes, the Mississippi Home Corporation has launched a contest, Growing a Greener Mississippi, to all builders in the state.

“We have an exciting program that’s generating a lot of interest,” said executive director Chuck Morris. “It can be built anywhere in the state but must cost less than $175,000. We’re trying to create green, affordable housing.”

Cash prizes of $50,000 for first, $30,000 for second and $20,000 for third will be awarded to winners. One unit (home) will be an entry and builders can enter more than one. There will be frequent inspections using the National Association of Home Builders’ standards. Completed homes must receive certificates of occupancy in November with the final certification by an independent panel of five judges done by Dec. 4.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at lynn@lynnsdesk.com.

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