Check out this Houzz article with interior design trends for 2018. Some great ideas for designing your custom luxury home at Serosun Farms!
Great Daily Herald article by Sherry Giewald about energy saving building practices. Swainson’s House at Serosun Farms is used as an example of a high performance luxury home. Click here to read more…
The Design Team
In building a sustainable home, the work starts with the architect and builder designing the home. The architect/builder design team plays a critical role in successfully implementing a sustainable home. There are three key areas that they need to address:
- Efficient design – An efficient design makes the best possible use of space and building materials, and reduces the ongoing need for energy and water in the operation of the home.
- Effective design – Effective design of the living space accommodates the lifestyle of the owners and creates a comfortable space in which to live. An effective design also optimizes the use of the home site and integrates sustainable components into the building’s design.
- Flexible design – Design in the home that is flexible to give it the ability to accommodate changes in the owner’s lifestyle and to adopt new technologies and approaches to sustainable building in the future.
It is important to have the home design reviewed by green building experts and technology vendors to help ensure that the sustainable elements can be easily and successfully integrated into the home and that effective cost/benefit decisions have been made. Because our team has these experts, and because they have an established working relationship, we can do this quickly and efficiently.
The Construction Team
Beyond the initial design, the Builder plays a key role in successfully creating a sustainable home through its construction. Many of the most cost effective elements of a sustainable program revolve around good building practices, which we must rely on the builder to implement. The builder is also responsible for selecting and managing the core subcontractor trades that implement the many sustainable elements of the home. The builder and these trades must be educated and experienced with sustainable approaches, and must be able to work well with each other and with the vendors of the green products and technologies that are being integrated into the home. These subcontractors include the trades involved in site preparation, framing and carpentry, roofing, plumbing systems, electrical systems, and ducting. Our green team ensures builder and subcontractor awareness of our sustainability requirements and facilitates effective cooperation of all of the contributors.
Our sustainable building partners, or Green Building Team, include a number of consultants, contractors and vendors that provide the expertise, technology, products, and services to implement the various sustainable elements of the home. It is important that these team members work closely with the architect, builder, and trades since these elements often require changes to traditional building practices, have to interact with multiple other elements of the home, and have special requirements which, if not appropriately addressed, may lower the performance of the home.
Quality Control is important in ensuring that the systems are properly installed and functioning optimally. Testing, inspection and validation of construction work is important to ensure that the home systems are performing effectively. While this is generally a good building practice, it is critical in this instance to ensure that a high-performance home is working as it should. We require that a third party vendor reviews all design plans to evaluate the effectiveness of the design and its expected performance. We also require that a third party vendor inspects the implementation of the building elements, with onsite inspections during construction, and inspection and testing of the building at the completion of construction, to ensure that the building performs to expectations.
A key factor in the success of a high performance home is its operation. Owners play an important role in the sustainable home by the choices they make in the design phase as well through the practices that they adopt in living in and maintaining their homes. At Serosun Farms we help ensure success of the homeowner through education and awareness, but also by making it easy to maintain each high-performance home. To get the most out of your high performance home you need to understand how to effectively set up and control its many features. We require that the builders educate the homeowner on how to operate, maintain, and maximize the benefits of each sustainable and high-performance element of their home. The home automation systems we require in our homes allow its green systems to be more easily controlled. Because many of the key elements and products are common among the homes on the Estate at Serosun Farms, our homeowners association can use master maintenance contracts to efficiently and cost effectively manage the ongoing inspection, operation, and maintenance of many of the home elements such as septic systems, water systems, geothermal systems, solar systems, and landscaping maintenance.
Management of the Sustainable Building Program at Serosun Farms
The Serosun Farms community is a farm estate with many residents living amongst a sustainable farm, equestrian center, and natural open space. The community is managed by the Estate, which controls the development and ultimate operation of the community and farm. Estate operations are managed by the Serosun Farms Estate Board and Estate Manager. The estate has a number of tools it uses to implement its sustainable programs. These include the Serosun Farms Sustainable Community Plan and its Green and Sustainable Building Plan. The estate controls the Estate and Residential CC&R’s as well as the Serosun Farms Design Guidelines, and it selects the Serosun Farms Design Review Committee that manages these guidelines. These CC&R’s and Design Guidelines control all building on the estate. The Design Review Committee reviews and approves the plans for all homes built on the estate and evaluates them for their adherence to the Design Guidelines. Through these guidelines the sustainable elements of the green building program are specified and goals are set for home performance. The Guidelines are flexible to allow for the ongoing advances in sustainable and high-performance home building technology.
Sustainable home building is most successful when you have an integrated team designing and building the home. Serosun Farms has created a Green Building Team that is managed through a central program designed to provide the latest in tried and tested products and technology. This team includes Master Builders, architects, tradesman, and vendors who work together to design and build high-performance homes consistently and economically. They have been selected because they are the leading providers of these products and services in the Midwest and their products are both well designed and cost effective. Ask your sales person for a listing of the Serosun Farms Green Team members and the services, technologies, and products they provide.
The Estate also has established the Serosun Farms Builders Council. The Builders Council drives the Green Building Program and the selection and management of the Green Building partners. The Builders Council also reviews and approves all builders that work on the estate. If a lot owner selects a builder that is not already part of the Preferred Builder Program at Serosun Farms, they must first be reviewed and approved by the Builder Council and understand and agree to the green building program at Serosun Farms. This ensures that all homes on the estate are completed by builders who can not only deliver homes with the level of quality expected, but who are also capable of adhering to the sustainable building program design elements and practices.
Serosun Farms also utilizes several outside organizations for guidance, education, and support in its Green Building Program. These include the US Green Building Council and its LEED program, NAHB and its Green Build program, US EPA and its Energy Star Program, Conservation Foundation’s Conservation @ Home Program, and others. While we don’t require homes to be certified under these programs, their guidelines are very helpful and homes meeting the Serosun Farms Green Building Program requirements should meet their certification requirements at the highest levels.
We will be building several homes over the course of the development that will be used not only as models, but also as homes that will demonstrate the ease of use and effectiveness of our sustainable building elements. These efforts will also help us to continue to develop and train our team, as well to provide an opportunity to try out new technology, techniques, and products to ensure that they meet our standards for performance and cost effectiveness. These models also will serve as educational centers for sustainable building practices.
A quality, high-performance home is one that exceeds local building codes. Simply passing local building inspections does not guarantee a quality home — a typical misconception regarding home quality. Passing building codes generally means that a home meets the minimum requirements for life safety and energy efficiency, but municipal inspectors do not indicate a degree of quality in their evaluations. The only stamp of quality that exists for homes are third party verified, quality certifications. These certifications are offered by groups such as the US Green Building Council through the LEED for Homes program, or the National Association of Home Builders through their Green Building Program.
These certifications use the whole home system approach to building. This is based on an understanding of the interrelationships between different components of the home, and how one part of a home will affect all the others in your particular climate. A home is seen not just as a loose collection of individual components, but rather systems and parts that work together to achieve a symbiotic goal. This approach also looks at how you and your lifestyle affect all of the systems in the home. Elements that are considered for certification include: energy efficiency, water efficiency, materials selection, durability, indoor air quality, and others.
These certifications look at a whole range of elements in the home design and construction, and use a point system to provide a score indicative of the level of quality and sustainability of the home. They identify a series of levels that a home can achieve such as: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Homes at Serosun that meet the design guidelines will typically qualify under these ratings systems.
There are other more specific ratings systems that also may also be considered, including the EPA Energy Star Program, which is focused on energy efficiency, and the American Lung Association Healthy Homes Program, which is focused on indoor air quality.
These certifications will cost the home owner some money for the inspections and paper work, but can be well worth their while as they provide third party documentation on the quality and sustainability of the home – verifications that may be valuable at the time of resale. They may also be valuable for the homeowner’s own peace of mind by providing the assurance that their home meets these quality criteria.
You can find more information at the following websites:
NAHB Green Homes: www.nahbgreen.org/
USGBD LEED for Homes: www.usgbc.org/homes/
EPA Energy Star: www.energystar.gov/
American Lung Association Healthy Homes: www.fsge.net/media/Health_House_Builder_Guidelines.pdf
As we try to refine our design process and builder program, and build out our model at Serosun, the question of what defines a quality home comes up. It’s an important question to understand as it impacts how we design and build a home, and who we have to help us. It’s also not an easy one to answer. A quality home includes several factors: it looks great, feels good, lives well, and performs effectively at an economic price. The second critical question might be, what are the factors that contribute to successfully building a quality home? Four key factors affect quality in a home: design, construction, materials, and craftsmanship of finish. [Read more…]