EarthCraft Breathes New Life into Decatur Green Homes

Green certified home renovations are sure to become more common in Decatur starting this spring, thanks in large part to the research efforts of Southface’s EarthCraft team.
Last month, Southface conducted preliminary energy and cost-savings analyses of three recently renovated homes pursuing EarthCraft Renovation certification as part of the implementation of the City of Decatur’s “High Performance Building Standard,” requiring all new construction and commercial renovation meeting certain thresholds to be certified under a green building standard.
EarthCraft, one of three residential green building certification programs that qualify under the High Performance Building Standard, is a partnership between the Greater Atlanta Homebuilders Association and Southface. It is designed to address the specific climate challenges of the Southeast within the built environment through energy and resource use. The motivation behind the ordinance is to promote a more sustainable and prosperous quality of life for the City and its residents through better building performance. Later this spring, the City will look to include residential substantial renovations in the standard to which, up until now, the green building certification requirement has not applied.

Renovated Kitchen

The renovated kitchen focused on energy consumption, and includes ENERGY STAR appliance upgrades and energy-efficient lighting.

The houses in the study were more than 65 years old and, at the time of the project, had been mostly untouched by any previous improvements. Three local home builders, Century Craft Homes, John Willis Custom Homes and Pinnacle Custom Builders, worked closely with certified technical advisors who oversee some of the crucial building performance elements of the EarthCraft program. Everything from the heating and cooling equipment to the ductwork to the quality of wall insulation was updated in these projects.

For builders like Ted Baltruisits (Century Craft Homes), renovating a home to a green building standard doesn’t make his job much harder. “It takes about the same amount of time compared to a non-green standard. Once I was aware of how the process works, I realized I didn’t really have to change what I had already been doing for years.” Roger Horner (John Willis Custom Homes) finds that green certification means added quality for a home. “It’s one thing to make new spaces that meet the needs of today’s way of living,” he says. “What really sets builders apart, though, is bringing technology up to today’s standards, and that lies in green construction.”

Following the renovations, Adam Ferrer, an Associate of EarthCraft, performed energy and cost analysis for the three houses and found considerable improvements in home energy performance. “On average, we saw a 45 percent reduction in estimated energy use per year. With reduced energy comes reduced utility costs.” Across the projects in the study, in fact, Ferrer and his team estimated nearly $1,000 in annual utility bill savings. “Keep in mind that these calculations are projections and depend largely on occupant behavior,” says Ferrer. “Still, it’s an example of how impactful green certifications can be for owners of older homes.”

Saving money on monthly bills means families and individuals have more financial independence.

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