Building the EVERGREEN, Part 4

Originally Published in the Winter Park Home Magazine: Issue 4, 2008

Building a GREEN home in Winter Park is possible today and doesn’t mean you have to spend much more than using ‘normal’ construction techniques.  To do so, your architect and contractor need to change the way they do business and think about the structure and building process differently.  This article builds upon the third issue about the building process of The EVERGREEN, by exploring work on the drywall, trim carpentry, painting, flooring, and cabinets.

Our drywall contractor typically receives their material from two or three different manufacturers.  Most of the drywall product is produced from raw material, gypsum, that is mined in Nova Scotia.  For the Evergreen, we specified drywall from a specific production facility – National Gypsum’s Apollo Beach facility near Tampa.  Located approximately one mile from a Tampa Electric power plant, this manufacturing facility utilizes the byproduct of coal-generated electricity, also gypsum, as its primary ingredient.  Instead of going to a landfill, the power plant waste is transferred to the National Gypsum’s facility to create drywall.  This product equals the performance of other ‘typical’ drywall, but is made out of 100% recycled material and is manufactured locally.  Furthermore, there was no additional cost.

The modern design of the Evergreen lends itself to the use of fewer trim materials such as crown molding, casing, and window sills.  We took advantage of this fact and used a standard finger-joint 1×4 for the baseboards and simple drywall returns to each window and door.  As a result, our trim material and labor costs were much lower than on houses with different styles.  Some advanced planning was required however, as all of the interior doors had to be ordered with narrower jambs and installed prior to drywall.  This approach enabled us to use a drywall stop at each door jamb instead of casing each opening with wood.  The end result is a modern and warm looking home with lower trim costs and use of fewer wood products.

There are many green lines of paint available today, but we decided to use the Benjamin Moore Eco Spec line of latex paints.  The Eco Spec paint is low in VOC content and as a result, helps to improve air quality in the home.   We were pleased with the performance of the paint, but discovered that the local distributer did not carry Eco-spec as part of their regular inventory.  This resulted in an additional two or three day lag between ordering and delivery.  Our painting company also used low VOC semi-gloss paint on trim work and water borne varnish on all of the interior doors.  The air quality is noticeable better, as we do not have the typical ‘fresh paint’ smell of many newly painted houses.

Selecting the flooring material turned out to be one of the more exciting aspects of the project, as we found several green options that were readily available and affordable.  We utilized a combination of stained concrete, bamboo flooring, carpet, and ceramic/porcelain tiles.  The stained concrete was applied directly to our slab and provides a durable and low-maintenance surface for the main living spaces.  It offers numerous green benefits and costs less than other flooring options.  The bamboo flooring we selected cost more than other types of wood flooring, but offers a very unique color and look and is supposed to be more durable than regular bamboo products.  The bamboo is a rapidly renewable resource, so it is a greener alternative to hardwood flooring.  Walk on Wood of Central Florida installed the bamboo flooring.  As far as carpet, we selected SHAW materials because of their green initiatives in manufacturing and recycling.  In all of the bathrooms, we used ceramic and porcelain from Dal-Tile product lines made with recycled content.  Our selections of glass mosaics were made up of about 40% recycled content, while our flooring selection was over 50% recycled.  These products were priced comparably with other designer material on the market today and look great.

We interviewed several cabinet makers in an effort to find one that would be able to tackle our green requirements and remain cost-competitive.  Frank Bennett, out of Longwood, was amenable to our specifications and searched out appropriate products.  Frank located American made plywood with lower formaldehyde content than much of the commonly used plywood (which surprisingly comes from China).  For the face of the cabinets, we used thin veneers of bamboo and oak.  We also used water-borne stains and varnishes with low VOC counts to help improve air quality within the home.  Since Frank’s cabinet shop is located in Longwood, we also minimized energy used for shipping the products to us.  Sourcing from a local manufacturer also afforded us more flexibility and creativity in the design and function of the cabinets, as we were able to make tweaks during the install to improve the overall product.

We are making small changes at each phase of construction to create The EVERGREEN Home.  In each subsequent article I will write more about The EVERGREEN and the GREEN building techniques and products used during construction.  When remodeling or building in Winter Park, always ask your architect and contractor to incorporate green building techniques in your home.

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