Gail of Green Living


GREEN Medical Center Home For Sale: The Windows

HurricaneShield® Impact-Resistant Insulating Glass

This high-end energy-efficient, Fortified-rated home in Braes Heights, a neighborhood quite near the Texas Medical Center, Rice University and the Museum District of Houston, TX, is for sale for $1,695,000.   I have written in previous posts about many of the energy-efficient features of this home, that are far beyond any I have ever read about or seen.  The Fortified Rated home designation has a lot to do with the choice of windows and doors.

The windows are from the Pella Architect Series/Hurricane Shield product line.  The Pella website describes these windows as follows: “An advanced polymer layer is sandwiched between two layers of glass, offering strong protection from flying debris — while increasing the safety, security, ultraviolet protection and energy efficiency of your home.”

The frames are reinforced aluminum clad all wood windows, which have a low maintenance exterior, and a paintable or stainable interior.  These windows offer protection from the periodic hurricane as well as any attempted break-in.  They have a great R and U value and unparalleled sound dampening.   This quality cost the owner an additional 50% on windows and doors, but windows of this quality were required for the Fortified Rating.  The increased costs should be paid back by savings on energy and having to have no replacements for many years to come.

This home also includes a Fresh Air System, low-vox paint, American made plumbing and electrical products,  and an Envirogreen Mosquito Control System.  The landscaping includes native plants watered by a drip irrigation system hooked up to the cistern where rain water is collected.

The owner shared with me that he thinks the increased costs to make this home qualify for LEED Platinum and the Fortified Ratings, were probably 20% over traditional building.  See more photos and details of this home.  Contact me and I will be happy to get answers to your questions and give you a tour!



GREEN Medical Center Home For Sale: The Roof

3703 Drummond, Side Street View

This very GREEN home in Braes Heights near the Texas Medical Center, is for sale for $1,695,000.  It has many certifications, among them, a Fortified Rated Home.  For this designation, it must be able to withstand winds 20 mph higher than the wind speed FEMA gives for this location (110 mph).  The owner wanted a roof engineered to 130+ mph.  Replacing a roof is very expensive and removing an old roof puts a large truckload of composition shingles in the landfill, and it will take centuries to decompose.  This roof is warranted for 50 years.  The cost “makes sense”, because over the life of the roof, someone would have to replace a traditional roof at least 3 times

For an additional nominal cost (pennies/sq. ft.), the shingles became the primary water barrier, rather than roofing felt normally used.  To condense my information to the simplest terms, I will give you the layers from outside to inside the roof/attic assembly:

DECRA Shingle Plus roofing panels which are screwed into the battens, 8 screws/panel.  These are stone-coated horizontal metal roofing panels.  Note how attractive these are on this home.

2×2 treated battens that are screwed into the roof deck and rafters

TCM-4RW radiant barrier/vapor barrier

Grace Ice and Water Shield applied to the entire roof deck.

5/8″ roof decking that is independently screwed into the rafters

Rafters that are hurricane strapped to each other and then anchored to the ICF (insulated concrete form) wall system.

Icynene open-cell foam sprayed under the roof deck and covering all the wood elements of the roof assembly.

Entering this attic on a 104 degree day in August, you will experience a temperature that is within 3 degrees of the conditioned living space and only a fraction more humid.  This allows for very usable storage space, and most certainly, a longer life for the mechanical systems that have to live in the attic.

This next weekend hurricane season begins along the Gulf Coast, and in case of a storm coming, I think I would feel very safe and comfortable in the attic, as well as any room in this home.

Next posting will cover the windows, which also have strict guidelines for that Fortified Rating.

Be sure to view more photos and details of this beautiful home!



GREEN Medical Center Home For Sale: The Building Envelope

3703 Drummond

This is the third in a series of posts regarding the above property for sale in the Medical Center neighborhood called Braes Heights, in Houston.  This owner/builder has researched and studied so many products and methods of green building, that I’m sure we can all benefit from his research.  This week I’m summarizing his research on The Building Envelope, the backbone of  The Building System.  This is where the outside environment conflicts with the inside.

Traditional builders still use the wood framing method, which falls short in regard to durability (termites, wood rot, mold), and it requires added insulation.  Steel framing is quite expensive, and it’s difficult to find people who know how to do it.  It also requires insulation.  Thermal bridging is an issue with wood, and more so with steel.

SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels) are easy to manufacture and provide good insulation and strength.  They can be made to various sizes with window openings all pre-cut.  They are easy and quick to assemble.  The roof system can also be SIPs, with modest trusses, allowing for open and attractive interior spaces.  They do not suffer from thermal bridging, which is another plus.  The downside of SIPs is the fact that they limit the design of the home to a simple gable design with relatively few corners.

ICF (Insulated concrete forms) have been around for fifty years.  There are lots of manufacturers and this construction method is widely used in Canada and some northern states.  It is extremely strong, with 5″ foam insulation sandwiching 6-1/2″ of reinforced concrete.  Convection is not an issue and no termite wants to eat it.  The R-value of the system itself is about 25.  But when you take into account the thermal mass, the lack of convection or conduction and add in the radiant barrier/moisture barrier and air spaces, plus the exterior finish (stucco, stone or brick) and the sheet rock on the inside wall, the number is probably more like R-50!  There are no seams like in the SIPs system.  And a 14″ thick wall makes for a quiet home.  OK, this ICF has massive strength, the thermal mass, resistance to heat movement, sound dampening, resistance to convection moisture, bugs, wind, fire…so this is what makes sense!  The additional cost was $3/sq.ft over the cost of wood framing…amazing difference it makes!  They found a company in Texas that makes the product, BuildBlock ICF, and their service and reputation are first-class.

The roof information in my next post will amaze you!  Meanwhile, if you would like to see more photos and details of this beautiful home, click here or contact me for a personal tour.



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.




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.