The Greenest House in Santa Cruz is Surprisingly Cost-Effective

From on August 18, 2011 in Green Remodeling

greenest-house-santa-cruzMost of us spend more than 80% of our lives indoors, yet according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside new homes can be 10 times more toxic than outside.

Most of this pollution is caused by compounds and chemicals from manufactured products used in construction.

And it’s not just our personal health that is at risk.

Buildings account for 40% of the nation’s energy consumption, cause 39% of carbon dioxide emissions, and are responsible for 13% of water use.

Living Sustainably in Santa Cruz

In an effort to turn these statistics around, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-profit organization committed to promoting a sustainable green building industry, set out to establish a set of gradated standards for its nearly 16,000 member companies and organizations. They decided to set the bar high, creating a “platinum” certification level that is considered the most stringent standard in the industry.

A house on John Street in Santa Cruz, California, is about to go platinum, and owner Marcus Pohlmann couldn’t be happier. As a developer himself, Pohlmann moved to the Santa Cruz area specifically because he wanted to engage in a greener lifestyle.

“I really believe that it’s the way it’s going to go for the future,” Pohlmann said, “because utilities are so expensive and resources are getting rare.”

For cost information on a green remodel in your area, click here.

Project Manager Pete Testorff, of Testorff Construction, ensured that the home used green technologies, methods and materials from the start. The company used framing techniques that use 35% less wood, and all the wood is Forest Stewardship Council certified, which ensures that the wood was grown and harvested responsibly. Instead of covering the concrete flooring, it was inlaid with sea glass and polished.

“It seems sort of silly to be building something that’s a perfectly good floor just to put another floor over it,” Testorff said.

Over 60% of the water used in the home will be filtered for use in the surrounding landscape. The household water supply will be augmented by rainwater collected on the roof and run through an underground cistern. The house will produce all the energy it needs – and enough to power the home charger for Pohlmann’s electric car – from a solar panel power system installed on the south-facing roof.

In fact, the residential solar system will produce excess energy. Recent laws require energy utilities to make significant investments in green power. To meet that mandate, most utilities purchase excess energy produced by solar panel systems. Selling power to the local traditional electric utility means that the entire solar panel system will pay for itself in 12 years.

“Once we figured that out, we maximized the entire solar system,” said Pohlmann.

Testorff puts the project costs at about $250 per square foot, about 20% higher than traditionally constructed homes. To Testorff, that knowledge alone made the project worthwhile. “This is finding out where that price point is and finding out will people pay for this. I think yes, everyone is going to want this. It makes sense. It’s good for the planet,” Testorff said.