When Darren Brinkley, owner of REAL building, created the miniature model of the concept home he wanted to build, his focus was not entirely on building a green structure.
“I wanted to build smart, not just green,” Brinkley said.
Yet, the home he created in St. Petersburg, Fla., recently received Florida’s first gold-level certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ for homes. While more than 200 projects have been certified by LEED for homes, projects like Brinkley’s demonstrate that sustainable structures can provide multiple efficiencies, increased safety, and an improved quality of life for the homeowners.
Green Features Work Together for Greater Good
The intelligence of Brinkley’s design literally begins from the ground up. The original walls and terrazzo floor of a 744-square-foot home that previously stood on his building site now serve as the walls and floor of an oversized two-car garage. To minimize the risk of flooding, the new 2,000-square-foot four-bedroom, three-bathroom home rests on top of the garage.
Although fiber cement was originally considered for the home’s exterior, Brinkley selected insulated vinyl siding and vinyl soffit after weighing the benefits of both options. Working with C.W. “Cookie” Brinkman and ASI Building products, the builder identified various benefits in the vinyl product that could affect the home’s sustainability in the present and future.
“The Alcoa Home Exteriors Structure® EPS insulated siding we used has a wind load of up to 190 mph wind speeds and stands up well in a storm, which is important in our region,” Brinkley said. “Different aspects of vinyl siding’s weight and transport makes its carbon footprint a lot lower. Also, it is low maintenance – you can hose this down and don’t have to paint it every few years like you would other products.”
The insulated vinyl siding contributed to the LEED points the project earned for construction materials, due to its transportation efficiencies, the lack of on-site finishing, such as painting or staining, and its insulation properties, which contribute to the home’s energy efficiency.
Brinkley also appreciates the long life of the insulated vinyl siding, which is backed by a lifetime warranty, and its potential for recycling.
The home’s exterior also includes a 1,000-gallon rainwater cistern used to irrigate the landscaping, and a backyard pond, fed by dehydrator runoff, that attracts birds and wildlife. An outdoor living space overlooking the backyard features soy foam between the soffit and roof. Brinkley says the design keeps the outdoor space cool and useable even in the hottest Florida months due to heat absorption by the foam.
Adding Style to Simplicity
The simple box design of Brinkley’s home contributes to its sustainability by promoting good airflow and efficient use of space. To add character and visual interest to the design, architectural features were added that would require minimal maintenance. For example, the arched ceiling over the back porch features low-maintenance Mastic/Alcoa Home Exteriors vinyl soffit that provides the clean, classic look of bead soffit for an impressive visual affect.
Additional green features incorporated in the home’s interior include bamboo flooring, low- or no-VOC paints and finishes, and a geothermal heating and air conditioning system. The efficiency created by the home’s innovative design virtually eliminated the need for solar panels. Even without relying on solar energy, Brinkley anticipates the monthly utility bill will be around $75.
While Brinkley is excited about the current interest and enthusiasm for sustainable building, he also recognizes a need for more information sharing and consumer education.
“Education needs to happen,” Brinkley said. “We need to create a better understanding of what makes a structure sustainable. Homeowners and builders need to know the right questions to ask and how to identify solutions to create more efficient and intelligently designed homes.”
Learn more about REAL building and Structure EPS at www.realbuilding.com and www.mastic.com.