- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 4, 2009

POWHATAN, Va. | In her job, Allison Dunaway makes sure people follow state environmental laws. That entered into her thoughts when it came time to build her dream house.

“I wanted to put my money where my mouth was,” she said.

Mrs. Dunaway, 30, and husband Greg, 32, are building an unusual, environmentally friendly house on 2 acres in Powhatan County.

If all goes well, green-building experts say, the house will probably be the first in the region approved by the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design residential program, or LEED for Homes.

“To my knowledge, it would be the first in the Richmond area to be certified,” said Sean Shanley, director of residential operations for EarthCraft Virginia, a group that helps projects get green-building status.

The LEED program is run by the U.S. Green Building Council, a D.C.-based nonprofit group. The program began in 2000 for commercial buildings and in January 2008 for homes.

Approval for the Dunaways’ home could come in late summer.

Nine homes in Virginia have received various levels of LEED certification, including ones in Crozet, Afton and Arlington County, according to the building council. The house in Powhatan is going for one of the top certification levels.

Watershed Architects in Richmond designed the Dunaways’ three-story contemporary. It’s relatively small — at about 1,900 square feet. That means builders use fewer materials, fewer trees get cut and there is less space to heat and cool.

Small size, among other features, helps a house gain LEED certification.

“Overall, it’s promoting living more economically and environmentally,” said Wayne Grebe, president and chief executive officer of Handcraft Homes, the builder. “In that respect, LEED has an impact on total lifestyle.”

The walls and roof of the home were built with special panels of foam sandwiched between plywoodlike boards.

Called “structural insulated panels,” the sheets are extremely strong and provide about 40 percent more insulation than you get in a typical home, Mr. Grebe said.

In addition, the house was built off the ground, on concrete columns, to reduce problems such as mold that can arise from leaks in basements and crawl spaces.

The home cost about $280,000, while a standard home that size might cost $210,000, Mr. Grebe said.

Handcraft Homes would have charged even more, but the Goochland County-based company wanted the experience of building its first green house, Mr. Grebe said.

Depending on how many environmentally helpful features go into it, a green-rated house can cost anywhere from a few percentage points more to more than 25 percent over the price of a standard home, Mr. Grebe said.

But the owner of a house like the Dunaways’ can recoup the extra cost in about seven years through energy savings, he said.

For that reason, a green-rated house is for people who are settling down.

Mrs. Dunaway, who works for the state Department of Environmental Quality, and her husband, who have a 2-year-old daughter, Madeleine, plan to be in their home for years.

“This is it, hopefully,” she said.


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