When it comes to green and energy-efficient construction,
builders have a lot of standards and programs to choose from. LEED
for Homes, Energy Star, the NAHB Green Building Guideline —
each offers something, and along most dimensions the programs
In the South, Atlanta-based Earthcraft is a strong contender for
people’s choice. And for a 2009 project in a near-ideal
location, Earthcraft Earthcraft
was the choice of Virginia Beach builder Craig Reed.
Reed's customer came to him after seeing his crew at work on a
nearby new home. When Reed got a look at the home site, he was
eager to start. At the end of the road on a narrow spit, the home
site had 180-degree view of the water. At the tip of Buccaneer Road
in Virginia Beach, on the edge of an intertidal creek near the zone
where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, the lot is
sheltered from the Bay and the ocean by just 1, 000 feet of land.
When the house was finished, Reed says, "Every room had water
views. Even if you're right on the ocean, most houses, the rooms on
the street side of the house aren't facing the water."
Building an Earthcraft house was Reed's idea, not his
customer's. "I was committed to raising the standard of our
construction and giving me a competitive marketing edge. And I put
up the Earthcraft sign right next to my construction signs. I had
one sign facing the water so that all the boaters could see it, and
I had another construction sign facing the road. And within a year
of doing that, I saw three other builders doing Earthcraft homes
going up within that same area. And I know those other builders
were doing that to compete with me. But I still have bragging
rights I built the first Earthcraft house in Virginia Beach, and I
still have the only Earthcraft house that is on the water, and the
only one that's built on a pile foundation."
The house has a full range of green, energy-efficient options,
Reed says, starting with high-performance windows and insulated
exterior doors. Walls and cathedral roofs are insulated with a half
inch of closed-cell spray polyurethane foam against the sheathing,
and the rest of the cavity packed with cellulose. Lights and
appliances are Energy Star-labeled products. Toilets, taps, and
shower heads are low-flow. Second floor ceilings are air-sealed and
insulated with dense cellulose; hvac ducts run in chases within the
insulated space, and the roof sheathing is radiant-barrier
’s rain-barrier sheathing system backs up the
weather envelope. And for heating and cooling, the house has a
closed-loop geothermal system from Florida Heat Pump.
At the end of a slender spit of land in sheltered intertidal
waters, the home site was an ideal waterfront location. Energy
details for the engineered floor system, built on a driven pile
foundation, were a tricky problem to solve. But a well-insulated,
airtight envelope paired well with the geothermal heating and
cooling system, ideal for a mixed-humid climate with moderate
heating and cooling loads.
Perhaps the most difficult detail was the floor system,
installed over an open crawl space. With the floor framed on an
open piling foundation, says Reed, good insulation and air sealing
was problematic. Reed decided on two inches of closed cell
spray-applied polyurethane. “We really couldn’t come up
with anything else that was acceptable,” he says, given the
mixed-humid climate and the risk of flood.
While Reed's client was well-funded, "he wasn't that good of a
client in terms of being ready to jump on board with all the green
stuff. He's almost 70 years old, and he's old school. But in the
end, he was tickled pink. I still get emails from him now and then
telling me how low his utility bills are."
But for the future, Reed’s looking beyond Earthcraft.
“Earthcraft is a regional player,” he observes.
“They got started in Atlanta, and then some people here got
together — I know some of those guys that brought it here to
this state. And it’s actually the most successful green
building program in the state of Virginia — they have the
most houses, quantity-wise. But I decided to hitch my wagon to
NAHB's National Green Building
, , because it’s an ANSI-certified standard, and
it’s a national program. And I feel like that’s where
the whole industry’s gotta go, sooner or later.” Also,
Reed says, he likes the way NAHBGreen is set up for builders to do
all their project submittals and documentation on line.
But regardless of the program, Reed says, he may never top the
experience of building his Earthcraft home, simply because of the
location: “I could go the rest of my career and never get
another lot like that.”