Gail of Green Living


GREEN Medical Center Home for Sale: Principles for the U.S. Gulf Coast Home

3703 Drummond

The United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Homes (LEED-H) program looks at home building from a broad view.  This program looks at where the home is built, (Braes Heights near the Texas Medical Center in Houston, TX), and how, and with what materials it is built.  The LEED certification process requires site management, recycling and waste management during construction.  Credits are given for energy efficiency, water conservation, air quality, product choice, etc.  The top rating is Platinum.  The guiding principles for a U.S. Gulf Coast home involve “what makes sense” in regard to the following features:

Strength and Durability:  This basically means “hurricane resistant”.  The storms bring wind water and utility failure.  Walls, windows and the roof are the core of the strength of the system.  Utility failure, which lasted up to three weeks after Hurricane Ike in 2008, dictated they include backup electric power and water.  Durability also applies to a longer term without maintenance issues.  The builder pursued the “Fortified” rating from the Institute for Building and Home Safety.  This is awarded to homes of exceptional strength and threat resistance.  This home was engineered to withstand winds 20 miles/hour over the FEMA wind speed zone designation for this location.

Efficiency:  This is in regard to energy in vs. energy out.  “Energy in” means solar electric and solar thermal.  “Energy out” is the sealed building envelope, immense insulation, and radiant barriers.

Security:  Keep out the boogie man and keep your stuff in!

Livability/Health/Comfort:  This category addresses air quality, humidity level, choice of appliances, lighting and finishes, and even the bathroom exhaust fan.

Affordability:  Understand there is a cost to buy and a cost to operate.  This is where “what makes sense” makes sense!  The owner shared with me that this home’s costs were about 20% higher than a traditional home, and I think much of that extra cost is recovered in energy savings, longer lived appliances, especially those with water that is pure as this system provides.

Green:  LEED-H Platinum was the target goal.

Next week’s blog will reveal the details of the building envelope, the backbone of the Building System.

If you would like to know more about this home, more pictures and details can be found here.


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GREEN Medical Center Home for Sale

3703 Drummond

This home for sale is in the Texas Medical Center area in Braes Heights.  This home proves you don’t have to be “hippy” to be green!

I am going to tell you all about it over several postings, because the design and building processes were thought through so well, with every detail considered, and every system working with the total package.  I am confident you will learn something about green building in Houston, TX, and the materials necessary to make the total package efficient.  The owner calls it a Building System that is specific to the U.S. Gulf coast.  So this system addresses the environmental stressors on a home, as well as sustainability, efficiency and long-term cost issues.  Instead of “traditional” home building, which is done for the day of sale, this one was built for the long haul!

The owner consulted with the inventor of an amazing radiant barrier, and he referred the owner to Texas A&M’s Energy Systems Lab.  The Aggies committed to a project where they would design, build, study and complete the Building System.  Together with the owner, they researched all the sub-systems typical in a house—the walls, attic, roof, HVAC, electrical, rain-water collection, etc., over 300 products and technologies.  They narrowed the list to include products and technologies that actually do work together.

The benchmark for the decision-making was always, “What makes sense?”.  They did not throw in materials and systems just for the sake of “going green”.  The return of investment was critical in their decisions.  Todd Rice, of Rice Residential Designs, took the components of the home that were chosen, and designed a beautiful home that fits in with other new homes in Braes Heights.  Interfield Group was the engineering firm chosen to carry out the ICF (Insulated Concrete Form) construction, and this group knew how to take the project through the “Fortified” rating process.  This was the first home in Houston to achieve this rating.

Choosing a builder became a challenge, because the green builders wanted to charge way too much, so the owner decided to form his own company, Durable Residential Builders, LLC.  Rice Residential Design introduced him to Jim Kuchenbrod, who had experience with this construction method, and he seemed to have the same level of passion as the owner, so they became partners.

In my next posting,  I will define the elements of this green home.  Meanwhile, if you are interested in seeing this home for sale or learning more about it, please contact me through my website, www.medcenterhomes.com.



Brewing Beer the Green Way

My son is a big fan of craft beers.  Because he knows I am interested in supporting green businesses, he recently told me about the Southern Star Brewery  in Conroe, Texas.  For those of you outside of the Houston area, Conroe is about an hour north of Houston, close enough to call “local“.

They began their brewing in 2008 with a corporate model to work with local companies and manufacture in a sustainable manner.   Lee shared with me that this business produces so little trash (that would be what is left after recycling and re-using), that they only fill one dumpster a year.  How amazing!  They source their water from Conroe well water, they buy their cans “down the street” from a local can maker, and their spent grain (That’s the leftover fermented solid grains.), is used to feed local cattle.

Recently they made a new business contact in Conroe.  Let’s Recycle, LLC will allow them to recycle almost 100% of the waste generated at the brewery.  They are excited about working with a local, EPA certified company, and look forward to a long partnership that benefits both the environment and both companies.  This sounds like the perfect partnership!

CHEERS to Southern Star Brewery!



The Dirty Dozen: Pesticides on the Menu

The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen refers to fruits and vegetables we buy fresh at the supermarket, and how loaded they are with pesticides.

Here’s the list:

1.  Apples

2.  Celery

3.  Strawberries

4.  Peaches

5.  Spinach

6.  Nectarines, especially imported

7.  Imported grapes (Hold the wine!)

8.  Sweet bell peppers

9.  Potatoes

10.  Blueberries

11.  Lettuce

12.  Kale & Collards (Tie)

I have been doing all right except for peaches and potatoes.  I think last summer I was equating “local” with organic”, which is stupid of me, but I get so hungry for fresh peaches in the summer, I guess I wasn’t careful enough.  Potatoes???  I thought since they were below ground, they would not be so susceptible to pesticides, but if the farmer uses systemic pesticides, it makes sense that they are full of them.  I don’t recall seeing organic potatoes, but I’m going to look closely tonight when I do my weekend shopping.

Everyone, be aware and more careful when you feed your family and friends…and yourself!