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Features of a Green Home: An Interview with Cameron Habel of Cameron C. Habel Construction, Inc.

By Cameron Habel

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

I gave the company its name in 1993 after having worked 10 years in residential construction with businesses ranging from real estate development to termite mitigation. I have a B.A. in art from C.C.A., a Certificate in Construction Management from CSU East Bay, a certificate as a Green Builder from Build It Green (www.builditgreen.org), and certificates in remodeling from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (sfbanari.org). We are also participants in the Energy Upgrade California program (www.energyupgradeca.org/en), and members of Build it Green and Passive House California. Many of the projects featured in our portfolio were designed and built by my company. My passion is to change the way people live by making their homes easier to live in while increasing their home's value.

What are some of the services your company provides?

We are a remodeling company that works directly with homeowners as designers and builders. We also work with architects, engineers, decorators, and interior designers. We consult on design possibilities and provide budgeting throughout the design process.

Please list features in Green Homes that make them more energy efficient and please explain each feature a little:

Green values are always driven by the homeowners. We support their process to be as green as they want to be, both in the way their home is built and in the products that go into it. Generally, all green building strategies aim to reduce our carbon footprint and promote health. When compared to other products, green products use less energy to manufacture and transport, have less or no negative impacts on health, and require no toxic products to maintain.

What makes a home "green"?

  • Small is a green virtue because a small home uses less resources and energy to build, maintain, and operate than a bigger home. Small can also apply to larger homes, for example, when properly designed, a large home might need a smaller furnace or air conditioner.
  • Recycle and Reuse are green virtues because they divert materials from landfill, reduce consumption, and aesthetically maintain a home's connection to its past.
  • LED lighting is greener than fluorescent lighting because it use less energy to produce light, lasts longer, and doesn't have the toxic mercury used for fluorescence.
  • Proper insulation and air sealing make a home quieter, more comfortable, and reduce its energy demands.
  • "Daylighting" is green: windows that are properly sized and oriented promote feelings of well-being, and create opportunities for natural ventilation and cooling.

For someone who wishes to improve the environmental impact of their current home, what do you suggest they do?

I recommend that they talk with specialists and begin the process of learning. Your home, as an environment, is a living system ? a little planet earth. All of the elements of a home work together as a "whole house system". (energy.gov/energysaver/articles/whole-house-systems-approach)

I recommend contacting a building professional who understands the "house as a system" concept and who continues to incorporate the best practices for energy improvements, such as insulation, heating and cooling, and windows. Architects and designers for social responsibility (www.adpsr.org), Passive House designers and builders (www.passivehousecal.org), consultants at Build It Green, and home performance contractors that do deep energy retrofits thecbpca.org and homeenergy.org/show/article/id/1835/viewFull are a good place to start looking . There are many published resources (greenhomeguide.com) available to get the learning process started.

What is the process of getting a home "LEED Certified?"

LEED www.usgbc.org/LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Certification is a process that documents construction using design strategies and products, that have point values. The more points a construction project has the higher the certification level, from "Certified" to "Platinum". "Green Point-Rated" www.builditgreen.org/greenpoint-rated uses a similar approach on a local level.

The typical certification process has several steps.

  • The project is designed and the house is "modeled" using specialized software to predict the effectiveness of the design and the home's elements.
  • The "efficiency" of the home is measured before construction
  • Several inspections are done during the construction process
  • When the building is completed the home is measured again to "prove" the effectiveness of the design and construction practices.
  • The documents are submitted to the certifying agency for approval.
  • Certification is approved.

What is the average price different between building a home and building one that is more environmentally friendly oriented?

LEED and Green Point-Rated projects, deep energy retrofits, and Passive House projects are always more expensive than other projects because they aim for the highest efficiencies which call for meticulous construction practices, require additional documentation and inspections, and use high quality/high cost products. These projects renovate or upgrade every aspect of a home. All of the systems, from foundation to roof and from water heating to landscaping are dealt with.

But a remodel project doesn't have to be rated or certified. Smaller projects, targeted for smaller budgets, can be done to improve a home's efficiency. These projects still measure the home but, based on the measurements, specify the type of energy renovation that yields the highest gain for the dollar spent.

What is the easiest way for people to contact you or your business?

The best way to contact my company is by phone (510) 531-4090 or through the website www.habelconstruction.com

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