TechPractices are outstanding housing projects throughout the U.S. where innovative technologies are implemented. Builders and remodelers can use these examples as models for projects of their own.
|The Craftsman Snapshot
||San Antonio, Texas
||1,190 sf, single-story model home for a production builder
||$90,900, 83% of median home price
||Energy Efficient Mortgage
||Fiber cement siding, Engineered Wood Wall Framing, Recycled-Content Carpet, recycled sheathing, exterior air sealing, Blower
Door, Low VOC Paints, Low Flow Plumbing Fixtures, 12 SEER a/c, duct sealing, Xeriscaping
Most builders offering an affordable product achieve first-cost
savings by skimping on features that would benefit the homeowner
later. Medallion Homes builds a low-energy,
low-maintenance home through an environmentally-conscious design
with a simple charm.
In what began as an effort to provide affordable homes to bring
young, working families nearer their aging parents, and attract
them to a depressed part of the city, this builder scored bonus
points for energy efficiency and environmental performance, and
opened up a new market as well.
In designing the small craftsman-style home for San Antonio's
inner city Parade of Homes, Medallion realized it would be appropriate
for the suburbs as well, but had not done a lot of market research.
Reaction from their successful Parade of Homes entry "became"
their market research, or at least gave it a head start. Designing
the modest home to recall those of a popular vintage community
nearby, Medallion believes they spurred a "renaissance of
traditional development" through site planning and careful
detailing. Efficient use of available space fits three bedrooms
comfortably in these California craftsman-type bungalows.
A variety of features make the Craftsman inexpensive to own. Fiber cement
siding is a durable, non-combustible, low maintenance alternative
to wood. The home's heat- and drought-resistant xeriscaping (landscaping
requiring little or no sprinklering) is appropriate for this hot
part of Texas, and includes herb gardens, viney trellises, and
a hybrid Bermuda grass developed by Texas A&M University that
thrives on 50% less water. Trellises are planted with wysteria
and Carolina jasemin. Rosemary, lavender, Texas sage, lantana,
and salvia gragai grow in the front herb garden, while the back
garden includes oregano, lavender, chives, and parsley. Trees
and shrubs are planted in front of windows to provide shading.
And they grow well in the mulch recycled from trees removed from
other job sites.
A simple rectangular footprint, coupled with efficient stud
placement framing a straightforward window design, save costs
and speed building. With a rapid construction cycle, the builder
need not pad bids for jobsite theft and vandalism. This also saves
interest on construction loans.
Additional time and cost savings are achieved by using only two
truss types in the roof. The San Antonio sun beats down hard
on it, so its construction also reflects an energy strategy.
Radiant barrier roof decking works with continuous soffit and
ridge vents, creating air flow to reduce attic temperature. Medallion
claims they are the only builder in the area that installs this
decking in all its homes. Attic HVAC ducts are R-6 insulated
to reduce heat gain and mastic/tape sealed to reduce air loss.
Ducted ventilation is augmented by safer finish materials, such
as water-based, low-VOC
paints and non-toxic flooring adhesives. Recycled-content
carpet pads are used, making a resource of what would be
Walls are insulated with R- I5 fiberglass batts. To reduce
air infiltration, exterior wall sealing is performed in three
stages: first and second polycel foam sealing and third stage
weatherstripping around windows, doors, and electrical outlets.
Engineered wood headers reduce onsite waste and preserve renewable
resources, as does the engineered
wood wall framing, which uses finger- jointed wood studs that
make use of the whole tree, not just the thin, straight core.
Engineered wood I- joists support the floor virtually squeak-free.
At $62,500, the original Parade home was priced at 57% of the
area's median home price of $109,251. Hard construction costs
were $45 per sf, allowing the builder to realize a nine percent
profit. Patterned after a local hill country town, Medallion's
new "Mainland Square" suburban neighborhood is the basis
for the Mainland Square layout the builder/developer intends to
market. Its appealing yet efficient planning concepts allowed
Medallion to price the home at $90,900, or 83% of median, for
a 14% profit margin. The pricing also reflects increased land
costs, foundation engineering and construction for steeper topography,
substitution of a two-car garage for the one-car garage, and brick
wainscotting instead of siding.
As a Good Cents Environmental Home, the Craftsman is said to
impact the environment 25% less than other homes and reduce energy
use. Medallion, also an Energy Star Homes builder, estimates energy
features add less than 1.5% to the cost of a home this size, and
asserts that the number of sales that green building generates
is more than worth the extra cost and effort. Its energy performance
qualifies the Craftsman for an Energy Efficient Mortgage, which
makes obtaining a loan easier, taking into account that low energy
bills free up cash for mortgage payments, with interest rates
¼ to ½ pt. lower.
Craftsman homes qualify for the Texas Department of Parks and
Wildlife Backyard Habitat program which recognizes
the fostering of native mini-environments, such as the right mix
of water-friendly landscaping and birdbaths, for birds and animals
to keep them from being driven out by suburban sprawl. San Antonio Water Systems, the water utility,
provides a $500 credit, good for a few years without water bills.
Following an obsolete drainage law, the city required Medallion
to remove all trees along a swath of their Mainland Square development
for a drainage easement. The developer considered moving the existing
trees, but the $75,000 to move them was more expensive than installing
new ones. Medallion spoke to the City arborist to effect future
drainage policy change.
Medallion says homebuyers note a relaxing atmosphere contrasting
to the pace of surrounding suburbia. The developer attributes
this to a site planning strategy integrating carefully-scaled
homes with more trees and backyard habitats, which in turn attract
wildlife. Dove, bluebirds, redbirds, and scissortails are common,
not to mention rabbits, deer, squirrels, and opossums sharing
the community. Medallion acquired its environmental vision by
emphasizing staff education, including studying green product
literature, web surfing, and attending Austin's exemplary Green
Increasing production has allowed Medallion to feature energy/environmental
benefits at a low price. Forward-thinking marketing strategies
increase sales volume. The company's website, designed in-house
for $700, can generate several sales a month for $100 monthly
maintenance. The website is coordinated with an interactive CD-ROM
to feature virtual reality home tours, funded by Medallion's loyal
subcontractors. To raise the subs' enthusiasm to this level required
explanation, tips, and encouragement on green and resource-efficient
practices. Paying the subs weekly also helps. Another useful marketing
strategy is first-time homebuyer seminars which allow buyer pre-qualification,
and feature energy diagnostic demonstrations such as the blower door, which indicates how airtight the house is.
Fitted on the Craftsman, the blower door test measured 0.25 air
changes per hour. The tight house with its various energy strategies
decrease energy bills by 30%. Medallion value engineers its house
plans every few months. For example, they are considering installing
low-E windows, recouping added cost by reducing the size of the
a/c unit. Next on line is the possibility of guaranteeing utility
bills to fall below a stated maximum. Medallion is in the process
of switching to cellulose insulation instead of fiberglass batts.
This tends to increase energy efficiency by limiting air movement
in a wall. Since cellulose insulation is not available in their
area, they are starting their own insulation company. Carrie had
to cut this interview short so she could go pick up a new truck
for the new company.
Do you have a specific question? Try the contacts listed below:
6929 Camp Bullis Road
San Antonio, TX 78256
Greater San Antonio Builders Association
San Antonio Water Systems
1001 E. Market St.
San Antonio, TX 78205
Energy Star Homes Program
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
4200 Smith School Road
Austin, Texas 78744