embodied ideals

Our two award winners built to the highest Build Green New Mexico standards show just how far sustainable design has reached into the mainstream without sacrificing efficiency, resource conservation, or indoor environmental quality.

This article first appeared in Spring 2008 Su Casa.

In sharing the title of 2008 Green Home of the Year—the first such honor by Su Casa and Build Green New Mexico—a compact barrio bungalow and a sprawling Old World–flavored luxury estate likewise share a laudably visionary commitment to sustainable design. Taken together, this overachieving duo obliterates all doubt that any house, large or small, humble or extravagant, can embody the ideals of green building.

At first blush, builder Hale and Sun Construction’s project in Albuquerque would seem antithetical to the palatial home built by Durano Construction in Bernalillo’s elite Bosque Encantado subdivision. Steve Hale, the current chair of Build Green New Mexico and one of its early champions, wedged the Duranes neighborhood house onto a 28-foot-wide strip lot. With its multiple pitched metal roofs, subdued stucco, and linear arrangement of house-courtyard-garage, the home blends modestly into the barrio milieu. Little of the exterior design proclaims its green credentials—which hide mostly inside the walls, as it were—though the long, south-facing site and contemporary styling enabled Hale to unobtrusively incorporate passive solar windows below carefully fixed roof overhangs that prevent summer overheating.

A couple dozen miles up the Rio Grande, builder D. C. Durano’s grand personal residence takes green building into the rarified upper reaches of luxury living. (Durano is the immediate past chair of Build Green New Mexico—how’s that for practicing what you preach?) Yet despite its 4,500 square feet of heated space, it sips gas and electric like a house less than half its size, thanks to a 2-kilowatt solar electric system; passive solar features; high-efficiency appliances, heater, and air conditioning; and extensive use of other energy-saving and resource-conserving features. Besides this Green Home of the Year award, Durano’s home, which was designed by Jim Beverly Company, has won a national green-building award from the National Association of Home Builders, Gold certification from Build Green New Mexico, Energy Star certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy, and certification by Building America from the Department of Energy. From start to finish, foundation to rooftop, the home models efficiency, smart use of materials, and indoor environmental quality. As our juror Vishu Magee noted, “This house has it all going on!”

Jury members Magee, green builder Norm Schreifels (Sun Mountain Construction of Corrales), and I were unanimously impressed by how both houses met the Build Green New Mexico Gold standard yet came from such widely different approaches—and budgets.

“It’s the maximum and the minimum of what you can do with a house,” Schreifels says, “balancing what can be done from a very large footprint to a very small footprint, from very expensive to affordable.” Magee noted how the Hale and Sun project—“an everyman’s green home”—demonstrates that a unique, high-performing green home can be built within a budget that many people can afford, while the Durano Construction home exemplifies environmentally responsible but no-holds-barred luxury living. When the pair appeared in the Home Builders Association of Central New Mexico’s 2007 Custom Builders Council Home Tour, the Hale house listed at $315,000 and the Durano house at $1.5 million.

Both homes incorporate green materials not just for their sustainable qualities but for their aesthetic value as well, from the butter-smooth American Clay plaster walls at Durano’s home to the tile floors and no-VOC paints at Hale’s. In fact, to the average consumer, neither place looks like a green demonstration project—that’s how well executed and integrated these features are.

Durano Construction
D. C. Durano took a “whole-house system approach” in designing and constructing his award-winning home, with the goal of using “the latest building-science techniques and sustainable materials to achieve the highest levels of energy efficiency, occupant health, safety and comfort, durability, water efficiency, waste reduction, resource conservation, environmental responsibility, and sustainability,” according to the project statement in his Green Home of the Year Awards submission. As far as our jury was concerned, he hit the mark on all counts.

The Durano house looks much like other homes in the Bosque Encantado subdivision: grand and architecturally extroverted, showing more than a touch of Old World influence. With turrets, cupolas, pergolas, and ironwork, it’s dressed to the nines. Inside, opulent materials and finishes, sprawling rooms, and a profusion of architectural detailing all reinforce the country-estate image. Like the Hale house, though—and maybe the only similarity—its green features are so thoroughly embedded, you’d have to rip it down to see them all.

Rest assured, it’s green to the core and so thoroughly tested and certified as to be unassailably green, the residential equivalent of a Hummer that gets 50 miles per gallon.

With a much larger budget than Hale’s, Durano sited the home to optimize solar access while still facing the craggy north peak of the Sandia Mountains to the southeast. Durano built during the dry season, which minimized erosion and soil disturbance; permeable driveways keep precipitation on the property. He also strove to preserve native vegetation wherever possible.
Like Hale, Durano used advanced framing techniques and engineered or recycled building materials, which minimize the use of dimensional lumber—think of all those large-diameter trees that go into your common two-by-four—while enabling the highest insulating values within wall cavities. A 2-foot center in framing versus 16 inches allows more insulation to be placed in the wall. Because wood is a poor insulator, reducing the number of framing studs increases the R-value of the wall.

Durano worked with recycled finish materials as well. Carpets carry the Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label Plus designation. They are manufactured to high green standards, including the use of low- or no-VOC materials and recycled plastic bottles and containers in the fabric. Elsewhere, Durano built with particle board free of urea formaldehyde, a known carcinogen when it off-gasses, or gradually releases dangerous gas into the atmosphere, a particular problem in tightly sealed green homes. The Duranos’ home gym is floored with a rubber product made from recycled tires.

Durano took great care to completely seal the conditioned—that is, heated and cooled—living space. All ducts are enclosed within the conditioned space and sealed with mastic. He installed high-efficiency furnaces and air conditioners with setback thermostats, along with humidifiers. Tankless water heaters, blown-in insulation in walls, fluorescent lighting, and Energy Star appliances all conserve energy. The 2-kilowatt solar electric system contributes not quite 10 percent of the home’s electrical needs during the peak summer sunshine months. Taken altogether, Durano estimates that these energy-efficiency features reduce his monthly utility bills from $600 to $200 compared to a nongreen home. One method of verifying this is the Home Energy Rating System, or HERS. Tested by an independent rater, the Durano house received a score of 92.2 (under the previous Energy Star rating scale)—think Toyota Prius versus Hummer.

To address water efficiency, Durano installed Energy Star clothes and dish washing appliances, while the two tankless hot water heaters work instantaneously, without the wasteful runoff of cold that precedes the hot in most systems. Dual-flush toilets and low-flow plumbing fixtures further conserve water in the house. Outside, rain barrels capture roof-water runoff for irrigation, then bubblers and drip emitters water the xeric plantings. The synthetic turf, of course, takes no water.

For indoor air quality, Durano introduces fresh air through whole-house air exchangers. Fans remove moisture and unwanted gases. Pressure-differential testing has ensured a balanced air pressure between the interior and exterior. And of course, low-VOC materials and treatments are used throughout.

Durano created a homeowner’s manual that includes all the certificates and testing results, along with a section explaining green building.

Hale and Sun Construction
At both award-winning homes, green building started with the dirt. On a city infill lot with cramped dimensions, Hale took advantage of the south-side easement that leads to a second property in back, using that unobstructed space to protect the solar access. Keeping much of the ground surface porous—for water conservation—and inserting a courtyard between the house and the garage were two of Hale’s creative solutions to the tight lot. Separating the garage from the two-bedroom-plus-office home also protects indoor air quality from the noxious fumes emanating from parked cars.

That private courtyard opening to the sunny south side brings a psychological benefit, too: “I think outdoor spaces are critical to human sanity,” Hale notes wryly.

Deep overhangs shade the east and west sides of the home and high windows in the great room draw fresh air through the living space while reducing the homeowner’s reliance on mechanical systems for ventilation. Hale addressed resource efficiency by using advanced framing techniques (for instance, framing walls on 2-foot centers rather than 16-inch) and “engineered” lumber products (usually boards of fitted-together smaller pieces) that use less wood than whole-piece lumber and often come from quick-growing trees. Other innovative materials include wall insulation made of recycled newspaper and polyester carpet—what little there is—made of material spun from recycled plastic bottles.

The passive solar design, 93 percent efficient furnace, heavily insulated walls, and foam-sealed and foam-insulated ceilings add up to a highly energy-efficient home. (Hale prewired the home for a solar electric system but felt the cost to install the system was prohibitive in this price range). That attic insulation protects all duct work and water lines. The passive solar design also pours in lots of natural daylighting. To address water efficiency, Hale designed the roof to direct 90 percent of its rainwater runoff into areas landscaped with xeric or drought-tolerant plants. A zoned drip system separately waters trees and shrubs, while the tiny fescue lawn gets water from nonmisting “stream” sprinklers. Inside, dual-flush toilets conserve water and a thermosiphon system brings hot water to the master bath in four seconds, which prevents cold-water waste before the hot starts flowing.

Hale addressed indoor environmental quality in a number of ways. During the heating and cooling seasons, fresh outside air is filtered and mixed with the conditioned air inside the home, while automatic humidity-sensing fans control indoor moisture. Hard surface flooring keeps down dust and allergens. A central vacuum system and paint with no VOCs further ensure a healthy indoors.

As a final green-building effort, Hale gave the homeowners all the product owner’s manuals, a written tour of the green features and their use, and two face-to-face instructional tours of the home.

A builder since 1980 and a long-time solar advocate before the term green became fashionable, Hale designed the house for himself and his wife, though they ultimately concluded they were not ready to make the move from their current home. He wanted to create “a home of today” as opposed to the future: “I wanted to put in everything that technology would allow me to do that was mainstream, things that weren’t a far reach.” Inspired by Sarah Susanka’s The Not So Big House, he strove to create an “appealing and cozy” place in an affordable price range. Hale tends to build for buyers who “appreciate quality in a smaller package,” though he points out that “smaller isn’t the key. It’s making the space work that’s the key.”

Sharing the award with Durano’s luxury home reinforces the idea that “green is really available to everyone,” Hale says. “It was truly an honor that this size and scale of house was considered. I hope it reflects the fact that the public will consider that bigger isn’t always better.”

Homeowners Lisa and Frank McCulloch III share that view. Lisa is director of development and alumni affairs at Central New Mexico Community College. Frank teaches humanities at Amy Biehl High School. Before buying the Hale house, the couple had searched neighborhoods around Downtown and the University of New Mexico so they could each be a short commute from their jobs. Nothing in their price range was green—or even new construction—and everything was more expensive than this house. “We thought green was way out of our price range,” Lisa says. “We had considered green construction when we were looking for a new home but never thought we could afford it.”

When they saw the Hale and Sun house in Albuquerque’s Duranes neighborhood—still convenient to their workplaces—they loved that it was “an infill project, energy efficient, and built with high indoor air quality as a priority,” Lisa recalls. Now that they’ve lived in it through three seasons, they’ve felt the benefits: “Our gas and electric bills are really low, but the most admirable feature is its affordability. Steve Hale is committed to building green homes that are accessible to a greater percentage of the population and views it as his responsibility to the Albuquerque community and the environment, and we respect that.”

Both builders meet the Gold level in the Global Impact category of the Build Green New Mexico guidelines by using low- or no-VOC paints and finishes, non-off-gassing carpets, and locally produced materials—the idea here being that a reduced carbon footprint and limited air emissions benefit the planet, not just the homeowners.

When the Green Home of the Year jury sat down to review the entry submission packages, we didn’t expect to grant a co-award. Presented with these two homes that nail the Build Green New Mexico Gold standard with such force from opposite ends of the market spectrum, we couldn’t resist the obvious message that they embodied: green works at all levels.

Resources

Unless otherwise noted, businesses below are in Albuquerque, the area code is 505, and the prefix for websites is www.
Hale and Sun Construction (pages 102–103)
Builder & designer: Steve Hale, Hale and Sun Construction, 890-5335, halesun.com. Appliances: GE, geappliances.com, from Builders Source, 889-3001, builderssource.com. Brick: exterior brick paving, Kinney Brick Co., 877-4550, kinneybrick. com. Cabinetry: Prestige Cabinets from Samons, 884-6861. Concrete: Sal Villa. Countertops: Architectural Surfaces, 889-0124, asitileandstone. com. Doors: Pacific Mutual Door & Window, 823-2505, pamudo.com. Drip irrigation supplier: Just Sprinklers, 797-3384. Electrical: Elcon Electric, 822-0003. Energy rater & consultant: Building Energy Solutions, Placitas, NM, 269-2969, building energysolutions.com. Fireplace: Mountain West Sales, 888-4464, mountainwestsales.net. Flooring: tile, Architectural Surfaces, 889-0124, asitileand stone.com; PET carpet recycled from plastic bottles, The Carpet Company, 884-0035, carpetnewmexico. com. Framing: Rodney Carver, 804-9732. Hardware: Lowe’s, lowes.com. Heating & cooling: Thompson Heating & Air Conditioning, 884-2675, thompsonheatingcooling.net. Insulation: walls, Miller’s Insulation & Fireproofing, 924-2214, millersinsulation.com; foam under roof deck, J. Doug- las, 341-9609, jdcinsulation.com. Landscaping: Hale and Sun Construction, 890-5335, halesun.com. Lighting supplier: Albuquerque Lighting, 345-2727, albuquerquelighting.com. Lumber: Stock Building Supply, 823-2200, stockbuildingsupply.com. Paint: Sherwin-Williams, sherwin-williams.com.
Photovoltaic consultant: Positive Energy, Santa Fe, 424-1112, positiveenergysolar.com. Plaster, stucco & drywall: Hernandez Construction, 247-2899. Plumbing: OG Plumbing, 410-3163. Plumbing fixtures & hardware: Doc Savage Supply, 884-2656, docsavagesupply.com. Roofing: Alvarado Roofing & Construction Co., 842-7663, alvaradoroof ing.com; supplied by Metal Mart, 243-1161. Windows: Sierra Pacific Windows, 797-7880, sierrapacificwindows.com.
Durano Construction (pages 104–105)
Builder: D. C. Durano, Durano Construction, 264-1341, duranoconstruction.com. Designer: Jim Beverly, Jim Beverly Company, Placitas, NM, 771-9000. Interior designer: Laura Myers Interiors, 350-6773. Appliances: Wolf dual fuel range/oven, warming drawer, barbecue/rotisserie grill, and microwave, wolfappliance.com; Sub-Zero refrigerators, subzero.com; Asko dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, askousa.com; KitchenAid trash compactor, kitchenaid.com; from Page’s Appliances, 888-3355, pagesappliances.com. Cabinetry: Craig Sowers Custom Cabinets & Furniture, 343-1309, craigsowerscabinets.com. Concrete: Hopkins Concrete, 489-3255. Countertops: Arizona Tile, 883-6076, arizonatile.com. Electrical: Cobb Electric. Fireplace: Builders Materials, 247-4294; Western Building Supply, 823-2500,
westernbuildingsupply.com. Flooring: travertine tile, Arizona Tile, 883-6076, arizonatile.com; wood flooring, Benchmark Wood Floors, 292-3238, benchmarkwoodfloors.com; carpets and gym flooring, Premier Flooring, 291-1935. Framing: Sheppard Construction, 280-4973. Hardware: TJ Hardware, 881-4325. Heating & cooling: Thompson Heating & Air Conditioning, 884-2675, thompsonheating cooling.net. HERS rater: Building Energy Solutions, Placitas, NM, 269-2969, buildingenergysolutions. com. Insulation: Duke Contractor Services, 344-3441. Ironwork: Accent Stair & Specialty, 275-3103, accentstair.com. Landscaping: The Hilltop Landscape Architects & Contractors, 898-9690, hilltoplandscaping.com. Lighting supplier: Creative Lighting, 823-6300, creativelighting.net. Lumber: Lumber Inc., 823-2700, lumberinc.com. Paint: Sparks Painting, 797-4602. Plaster: Variance Acrylic Finishes, 823-6404, variancefinishes.com. Plumbing: Sun State Mechanical, 345-3409, sun-state.com. Plumbing fixtures & hardware: Dahl Plumbing, 345-8587. Purified water: Kinetico, 342-1656, kineticonm.com. Rain barrels: Arid Solutions, 281-7664, aridsolutionsinc.com. Roofing: Alvarado Roofing & Construction Co., 842-7663, alvaradoroofing.com. Solar photovoltaic panels: Positive Energy, Santa Fe, 424-1112, positive energysolar.com. Stone: Kinney Brick Co., 877-4550, kinneybrick.com. Stucco: FBA Construction, 610-0295; El Rey Stucco, 873-1180, elrey.com; Sto stucco, Chaparral Materials, 843-6677,
chaparralmaterials.com. Tile: Vitale Tile, 264-7432. Vigas: New Mexico Timber & Viga, 765-1777, nmtimber.com. Wall system: Century Drywall & Construction, 821-7070. Windows: Hurd Windows and Doors, hurd.com.