Little House New Pic

Michigan GreenStar’s First Certified Remodel in Grand Rapids

Being the Executive Director at an organization that promotes and trains on residential green building, Brett Little decided  to put his money where his mouth was and commit to green remodeling in his first home purchase. Brett and his wife Laura wanted to commit to the up and coming city of Grand Rapids Michigan, which was easy to do with all the past few years of recognition and grow (Most sustainable mid-sized city, beer city USA 12′ and 13′, top ten place to find a job, most LEED building per capital and etc etc. ). The project is a prime of example of how one can use GreenStar on a small remodel / weatherization job without being too invasive to the home. Little House New Pic

The 2 story house circa the 1920s was aesthetically  in great shape, had a newly remodeled kitchen, intact wood windows and trim, good paint, half finished the basement and very well kept landscaped (turf) yard.

What the house was missing was quickly shown in the inspection and energy audit. They revealed a lack of any decent insulation/air sealing,  chuck full of incandescent light bulbs, inefficient water fixtures, noisy bath fan old and oversized heating/cooling systems  along with a dinosaur of a water heater and no garden in the perfectly south facing fenced in backyard.

The target was LEED Silver certification through a Gut Rehab, but we quickly had determined that exposing the exterior or interior walls to air seal plus removing the shower and tub surround to add in a non-paper face drywall would go way over our budget. While LEED may fall more in line with a Deep Green Retrofit, we opted to do a Moderate Green Retrofit.

From there it was clear that the once called MNGreenStar program would make the most sense and they used it to document the existing conditions and come up with our goals to make the home better. As you can see in the initial energy audit in which they used was the HERS Model (think an MPG sticker for your house) and came out at 175. You can see a little more on results we got here.  This number was on track with the old homeowners energy bills which we acquired during the audit.  Their overall order of importance to the home upgrades was Energy Efficiency, Indoor Environmental Quality, Water Conservation, Landscaping and then Material Conservation.

Back deck

They came across a unique financing that allowed them to do a lot of work in the up front while getting a longer return on investment, MI Saves had partnered with their gas company DTE to allow a $2,500 kickback to those who could show a performance plan of gas savings of 30% with an upgrade. Trane/WellsFargo also had a fantastic deal with a 0% 5-year loan that allowed other products outside of their brand to make up 50% of the costs.




Key achievements for GreenStar Certification 

  • Insulation + air sealing
    • R 38 Spray foam in attic – Foam had cane/beat sugar components
    • Closed-cell Spray foam rim band joist and 1/4 of basement wall
    • 4 inches of Rigid Cellulose called Eco-Cell on basement walls  
    • Drill n fill cellulose added in the empty wallsEE
    • Caulking and Air sealing the windows and trim
  • New Storm Windows 
  • New fiberglass energy star door + weather stripping old door 
  • 96% Efficient, modulating and right sized furnace with ECM
  • 90% Efficient Hybrid 20-gallon water heater
  • Sealed all exposed ducts and hot water pipes
  • Programmable Thermostat
  • Mostly LED’s, some CFLs with some Dimmers or Motion sensors
  • Air changes per Hour (ACH): 5.1
  • Final HERS: 65
  • Final Energy Performance Score: 24,000 KWHe
  • Home Energy Score: 10
  • 181 Points in E.EIEQ 
  • Ultimate Air Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV)
  • New Panasonic Exhaust Fan
  • Closed Combustion Furnace & Water Heater
  • Vented Hood Range
  • No VOC Paint In Basement
  • MERV 10 Filter
  • Asbestos Removed from heating ductsWC
  • Radon Test (negative)
  • Whole House Carbon Water Filtration
  • 46 Points in IEQ 
  • Water Leak Test
  • .5 GPM Bathroom Aerator
  • 1.6 GPM Water Sense Shower Head
  • Niagara Stealth Toilet at .8 Gallons Per Flush (half of a normal toilet!)
  • SCPlan to not water lawn during the day
  • Reduced Turf
    28 points in water conservation
  • Installed Food Garden & Raised Beds
  • High Walkscore of 80 out of 100
  • Compost and Recycle almost all waste through the city & organic cycle 
  • 24 points in Site and Community Impact

Because this was a light remodel and weatherization they did not score too many material points. Materials are mainly for extensive work being done and refurbishment in existing homes.

To see the entirely completed checklist, go here and download it or view it online 

Our blog details 1 years worth of utility date & costs associated with the project.  It also features lessons learned. They will be keeping it up to date by monitoring the performance, durability, comfortably and maintenance.

They plan to achieve Silver Certification within 2 years by converting more of the backyard to a food garden and the entire front yard over to a mix of drought tolerant and native plant species along with raised bed food gardens. Adding rain barrels and fixing the gutters. We hope to achieve more points by painting the exterior of the house with carcinogen free no VOC paint.

Other current issues – No return ducts in the 2nd floor and some older ducts still panned in the joist may be causing temp swings in the second floor and higher summer humidity. We have an idea of opening up the kitchen to connect to the living and dining and during that time we could potentially add return ducts and seal the current ducts.


Garden Image Full

Stove Reeves

Michigan’s First GreenStar Gold Certified New Home

Plaque 2 - Version 2

Marsha Traxler Reeves and John Reeves, Homeowners

During the time when Marsha & John Reeves were in the market for a new home after deciding to move from the Ann Arbor region, they happened upon a green home educational session put on by the SE region’s sustainability design expert, Michael Klement. There were sold from there.

According to my teachers, the two primary guidelines for being a good person in the Anishinaabe world are: 1. Don’t take more than you need, and 2. Don’t waste. Since I am always working to be a good person, it was essential to follow these guidelines in building a house. Green building helps people to avoid taking more than they need and to avoid waste as much as possible. We are blessed in this part of the world to have people with a great deal of knowledge and experience in green building, so the choice to build ‘green’ was easy.” – Marsha Traxler Reeves, Homeowner

Reeves House PicIt was no surprise that when choosing to move to Newaygo, the Reeves contacted Vos Energy Concepts, a small residential construction company in Rockford that only commits to building green homes. The home the Reeves wanted to build was no ordinary new home. It was to be located in the Manistee National Forest on acreage connected to the beautiful Muskegon River – and the goal was preservation. The project removed neither heritage nor important trees from the site. Dan Vos, a builder from Vos Energy Concepts says: “Small tree logs from the land were split in half, left with bark, and were placed inside between the window frames. Support posts for the patios and entrance roof on the home are logs also from the property.” In addition, rainwater will be captured on site with rain barrels. The water will be used to water the medicinal plants that grow around the house along with the gardens. The gardens are not conventional, rather, they follow the practice of huglekultur. Huglekultur is an alternative type of raised bed garden system that stays fertilized and moist from a decaying log planted underneath it. Any unused rainwater, because it comes off a food-grade metal roof, will not harm the local aquifer as it immediately goes back into the ground.

Stove ReevesInside the house you will get a sense of biophilliac design elements including use of tree branches, natural shapes, and ample interior natural lighting which provides views of the natural world outside. Many of the materials, finishes, trims, and cabinets were locally made using regionally sourced or reused materials. As the Vos Energy Concepts website states, “Old School chalkboards were up-cycled, cut to size, polished, and placed as the window sills. Small tree branches standing up, stripped, and finished placed throughout the home are used for hanging scarves, wet gloves, coats, baskets, towels, and whatever else needs a place. A local artist, Kendra McKimmy, put together a design of a tree from the shore of Lake Superior. Stones collected by the homeowner and artist were used in the making of this beautiful tree that is located on the bathroom curved wall facing the soaking tub.”

Loft view 10:14

View from the Loft

“I believe that there are finite resources for all of mankind. So to be a steward of resources becomes a requirement for all of us. I have 11 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren that are counting on those of us in the decision process today to make responsible choices in the use of our finite resources. Building green is one of those responsible choices. ” – John Reeves, Homeowner

From an energy standpoint, this home rated at a HERS index of 16 which makes it 84% more energy efficient than the standard built-to-code home. The HERS index score comes from local Energy Rater, John Kuyper, who reviewed all of the components and mechanicals of the home to accurately project it’s efficiency. The super tight and efficient concrete foam shell of the home sits on insulated concrete floors which retain the heat of the sun in the winter. Above the home, the attic is insulated and air-sealed with a reflective metal roof to keep down the heat from the sun in the winter. All energy star appliances and LED lightbulbs are installed throughout and a Heat Recovery Ventilator keeps fresh air circulating in the house while avoiding a lot of heat loss during the winter. The home also utilizes a very high efficiency and sealed wood stove for cold winters and radiant floors in junction with a mini split air source heat pump powered by solar PV and hot water to keep the energy costs down and the homeowners comfortable.In addition to the fresh air, the air quality in the home is not diminished because the home only uses low- or no-VOC paints, primers, and sealants, as well as tiled bath surrounds that prevent interior mold growth behind the walls.

Certificate Image ReevesThe Reeves joined Consumer’s EARP program and started generating electricity in November, 2013, but didn’t get a statement from them that included generating information until June, 2014.  Therefore, they only have information from 5/14/14 to 9/12/14, a third of the year and months with long days:

kWh generated 5/14/14 – 9/12/14:  3923

kWh used         5/14/14 – 9/12/14:   1737

2186  generated above used

They expect to achieve see Net Zero Energy but stay tuned!

The GreenStar process, while being fairly easy to utilize, was made easier by Dan Vos’s experience with building many LEED certified homes. The Reeves’ goals on this project did not align with LEED for Homes, but GreenStar certification made a lot of sense for them. While we approached this home using GreenStar in the middle of the construction period, the reviewers were still able to retain what they needed to verify the home’s completion. “Brett and the GreenHome Institute staff were wonderful to work with! They went far beyond my expectations in assisting us through the application and certification process. Their personal attention to the details of our needs was truly impressive,” said Marsha Traxler Reeves.

You can review all the greenstar details that went into this home here. 

Don’t miss the June 6th 2015 Tour – Continuing Education

Plaque & label

This home was designed and built by Dan Vos, Vos Energy Concepts.

ICF walls & slab work was done by Eldon Howe of Howe Construction

Energy Efficiency and Green Built features include:

-Hers score rating of 16.

-ICF walls-Concrete stained floors.

-Energy Star North star Triple pane windows.

-Solar hot water and Photovoltaic (PV) panels.

-High efficiency wood stove when needed.

-Radiant heat throughout the house.

-HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator)

-Mini Split Heat Pump that heats and cools the air.

-Insulated blinds for all windows, keeping the winter warmth in and coolness in the summer.

-Insulation under concrete floors.

-Energy star appliances.

-Metal roof.

-Stucco walls on outside of home, giving the homeowners little upkeep on outside.

-Energy star lightning LED throughout the entire house.

-Locally milled rough sawn wood planed by builder and used for floors in loft area, ceilings in bedroom area and also for countertops in bathrooms (Oak and Walnut).

-Tiled in bathrooms-backsplash areas, tub surround & walk-in shower.

-Hanging pendants lights, ceiling lights, and ceiling fans with LED bulbs purchased at the Habitat for Humanity Resore.

-Old school house chalkboards up-cycled for window sills.

-Barrier free design.



126 Apartments LEED Gold Certified in East Lansing

The 126 apartments that were renovated for this project were made possible by the Hometown Housing Partnership (HHP) of East Lansing.  HHP is a nonprofit that has been providing access to affordable housing for over 20 years, and was formerly known as East Lansing Housing and Neighborhood services.  In 2012 HHP became the managing general partner of 126 units of affordable housing at Deerpath Apartments and partnered with Hollander Development to complete renovate the townhomes.

A large amount of materials were reused in rehabbing the home including: exterior framing and siding, foundation, cabinets, counters, roof framing, and the roof, floor, and 2/3 the wall sheathing.  A 800 watt solar photovoltaic collector system is installed on top of the carports, which provides electricity for the lighting of the carports.   All interior and exterior paints used are water based, low VOC, latex paints.    Each apartment is outfitted with Energy Star certified appliances and energy efficient lighting.


LEED Checklist
    Project Details:
Type                               Multifamily
Conditioned Space   (126) 988 sq. ft. apartments
Bedrooms                     2
Bathrooms                   1
Lot Type                       Previously Developed
Construction Type   Affordable
   Key Features:
Air Filtration             MERV 10
Roof Insulation        R50
Wall Insulation         R15
HVAC Efficiency       94% AFUE
800 Watt Solar Panels installed on the carport
Efficient Outdoor LED and Indoor Lighting

Warren rd. PIC1(2)

South east MI home scores LEED silver and is a top energy performer

This newly constructed LEED Silver Home is located on the north side of Ann Arbor, on a 5 acre lot.  The home is 4,500 square feet with 6 bedrooms, 2 ½ baths, and has a walk-out basement.

Warren rd. PIC1(2) The project team wanted to build a very energy efficient, comfortable home for the family to raise their children in.  Throughout the project, the team emphasized purchasing sustainable materials including adhesives and sealants with zero Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) to attain a higher air quality. They worked with a HERS rater to hone in on their energy efficiency strategies. Northern Michigan Oak hardwood flooring was used throughout the first floor of the home because of its close proximity to the project.  All carpeting and underlayment were Green Label Plus certified by the GreenGuard Certification Institute. Blown-in cellulose insulation, which is made up of 100% recycled newspaper fiber, was used instead of fiberglass.  The fitness room boasts a 100% recycled rubber flooring and the TREX deck had a high percentage of recycled materials as well. A drought resistant turf grass mix limited irrigation requirements, as well as a wildflower mix on the perimeter of the turfed-in area.  Additionally, only native species of bushes and trees were installed.  The system is controlled by a RainBird Sensor that automatically adjusts the irrigation schedules if it senses rainfall.

LEED Nutrition LabelA Home Energy Rating Standard (HERS) Score of 44 was achieved for this house, which makes it in the top 10% of MI homes.  The score means that the home is 56% more efficient than a conventionally built new home, and 42% more efficient than Energy Star’s standard for homes.  To give you an understanding of what this equates to, the energy bill for this 4,500 sq. ft home during the month of July, was $110 for both electric and gas. The project team chose to focus on the Energy & Atmosphere and Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) credit areas to compensate for the sacrifice of Location & Linkages credits due to the projects distance from an urban setting. The high rating of LEED Silver was achieved by taking a whole systems design approach to building, and eliminating any weak points in the house.

  Download and share the project profile – PDF

Glenn Retreat

Glenn Retreat LEED Home has Innovative Blackwater Design Feature

The “Glenn Retreat” project exemplifies water use reduction both outdoor and indoor, with a 72% reduction in irrigation due in part by
photothe AdvanTex(R) Wastewater Treatment Systems manufactured by Orenco (R) that is a environmentally sustainable wastewater treatment technology that treats blackwater and greywater so well that the treated effluent can be re-used for subsurface irrigation (We achieved a additional LEED innovation point with this system). Along with Infiltrating Rain Gardens, Edible Forest Gardens, Extensive use of Native Drought Tolerant Plants and Eco Turf Grass on the outside and with low flow WaterSense certified toilet and fixture on the inside this project achieved almost every point under Water Efficiency in the LEED for Homes checklist. Our approach to handling waste water and storm water turned a negative attribute into a positive one; and created a drought tolerant and low maintenance landscape.

glenn label

The site’s soil composition has high clay content, and coupled with a high water table makes for a less desirable building site. Fill dirt and sand were added to the center of the site to elevate the house a few feet above grade. Drain tiles and French drains were installed around the house to channel water into swales and rain gardens which we developed along the north, east and west property lines. This watering system has proven sufficient to support the wide variety of plant life added to the property. Our system eliminated the painstaking task of cleaning rain gutters too because we didn’t need to install any. The high water table also presented a challenge for the septic system. We selected an advanced system  that uses a smaller drain field, and generates effluent certified by NSF International for subsurface irrigation. A native wildflower and prairie grass landscape is being developed on the septic drain field. Key Features Fabral Metal Roof (Energy Star) Exterior Construction is Advanced Framing @ 24″ o.c. 8″ of Agri based Open Cell Foam Insulation in attic. (R40) 4″ Ridged Foam Insulation under the Slab. (R-20) 3″ of Agri based Open Cell Foam Insulation on interior crawl space foundation walls. Exterior walls are Air Sealed with 5″ Cellulose Insulation (R-22) with 1″ Dow Styrofoam SIS Sheathing (R-5.5). (stops Thermal Bridging) James Hardie cement board siding. (with recycled content) MiraTec trim. (formaldehyde free, SCS Certified) 93% of Construction waste was diverted fro the landfills.

Watch a two part video series where we go into the homes and interview the homeowner and architect. 

See more pictures & details on Houzz

PDF project profile 

Sketch up drawings 



Bur becc

Michigan's First Registered New Living Building & LEED Home – Burh Becc @ Beacon Springs

sketch of house on land

Beacon Springs: The Vision

Beacon Springs (Near Ann Arbor) offers hope for life springing from a sustainable dwelling, polyculture gardens amid oak savannah, and a lively gathering place. It is a beacon of hope for a happy, healthy and sustainable future for all.

Sustainable dwelling

Our house at Beacon Springs is named Burh Becc, meaning, in Old English, a dwelling by a creek. This is the origin of our family name Burbeck. Several natural springs on the north edge of the land feed a small creek which runs past the house. Wildlife is drawn to this source of water and vegetation, as were we when we first came to the site. Burh Becc has been designed as a “living building” using the Living Building Challenge standards of the International Living Future Institute (visit A living building becomes an alive component in a sustainable ecosystem, integrated with the natural environment in a way that nurtures and sustains that environment. It is because of this living nature of our house that we have given it a name, and we have designed and built it to serve many future generations.

Water. Our living building uses the rain and snow falling on the roof as its only source of water.

Energy. Burh Becc depends on the rays of the sun for most of its energy needs. Heat is provided mainly through passive solar design. Natural ventilation is provided by the wind drawn through the house by the tower design. Heating and cooling are augmented as needed by a photovoltaic-powered geothermal system.

Waste. Our house is designed to reduce waste products that need to be removed from the site and eliminate materials toxic to human or environmental health. 95% of the by-products normally considered waste are integrated back into the site ecosystem, or are recycled, repurposed or reused by the broader community. A 95% materials efficiency standard was also followed during the construction phase of Burh Becc, leaving only 5% for the local landfill.

Farm amid oak savannah

The farm at Beacon Springs produces food for the local community, particularly those with limited access to fresh produce, as well as for our own table. As with the house, the farm has become an integral part of the ecosystem. Following the principles of permaculture, plants, trees and animals work together for abundant and sustainable production of food. These permaculture methods also restore the fields depleted through decades of “factory farming,” they allow the garden farm to fit together with the rejuvenating oak savannah, and they encourage wise management of water for the benefit of the immediate site and neighboring ecosystems.

Gathering place

Our home has become a wonder-filled gathering place for people (and pets, too). The embrace of Beacon Springs – the living building, with its flourishing courtyard and barnyard animals, combined with the surrounding acres of permaculture gardens and oak savannah – is a balm to the lone poet and a catalyst for lively exchange in larger groups. Beacon Springs is a center of education for the community: architecture students learning about sustainable design; residential building crafts(wo)men and trades professionals learning sustainable construction methods; children learning about barnyard animals and bee-keeping; and permaculture enthusiasts participating in onsite workshops. Beacon Springs also provides a gathering spot for community farming. And we regularly welcome family, friends, co-workers and others to our table for good food and dynamic exchange of life.

A special note for our team of designers, engineers, builders and growers, and the extended team members through the International Living Future Institute: We hope that each of you, in joining the community responsible for the creation of Beacon Springs, has also received an extra measure of life springing from your contribution to the project. You are always welcome to come for a visit, enjoying with us the fruits of your labors.

—Tom and Marti Burbeck, Ann Arbor, Michigan, March 2023

Photos and Info taken from

Habitat Energy Star Home

West Michigan's first Energy Star Version 3 Certified Home

* correction – This is a new home and not a rehab.

The approach was a  LEED certified home that goes beyond most Habitat standards of just LEED silver and Energy Star Version 2.  The goal was to get a house to achieve the coveted Energy Star V. 3 certification and Indoor AirPlus certification by achieving higher standards for the HVAC.  The biggest hurdle for this house was installing a 95% efficient furnace coupled with an ERV mechanical ventilation system and flexible ducts in order to reduce energy costs and improve air quality throughout the 2-story house. The kitchen is outfitted with low VOC cabinets and a 100 CFM range hood which vents directly outside as opposed to in the attic or re-circulation.

The Indoor airPlus certification contributed largely to the Energy Star V3 Certifcation, as the higher quality HVAC system also covered many of the prerequisites. The biggest hurdle for this home was to find a credentialed HVAC installer who would work with the higher standards required for Indoor airPlus.   The water heater and furnace directly vent fumes outside and improve indoor air quality and efficiency of the equipment.  The HVAC also has LEED_TM_gold_13a MERV 10 rated filters and efficiently at 86 CFM, which fully circulates the air in the home approximately every 4 hours.  The furnace itself runs on a single speed PSC motor which runs at set intervals and uses the ERV to moderate the temperature.  The house also features a Superior Wall Foundation which contributes an R-Value of 5 to NuWool insulation installed on the walls for a total R-Value of 26.  To further increase the insulation of the house the rim joists were also insulated and earn an efficient .3 U-factor windows were installed to reduce air leakage.

The home appliances available in this house are Energy Star certified to accompany the Energy Star V3 certification on the house.  Outfitted with low formaldehyde pressed wood materials in flooring and cabinets, as well as low VOC paints and finishes on the cabinets and walls. .  Plumbing is outfitted using PEX piping as more flexible and reliable alternative to PVC or copper piping.

Habitat for Humanity Kent County is committed to 100% LEED Silver Construction and has saved homeowner’s $1,000 a year in utility costs as well as improved their indoor air quality compared to living situations they were previously in.

1831 Willard Profile Complete

Indoor airPLUS checklist

Updated HVAC contractor checklist


Metro Detroit's 1st LEED Platinum Gut Rehab Home

The Ferndale home is 45.6% more efficient in its energy use in comparison to an average 2,000 sq. ft. existing Michigan home.  The average is 3,948 kWh a month, while the Ferndale house used only 2,195 kWh. The overall cost for the electric use in the Ferndale residence is $74.56 a month, using 603 kWh, which is 34% less than the average, which costs $121 a month and uses 908 kWh. Heating for the Ferndale home uses 5.3 MCF and costs $23.85 a month, while the average uses 10.1 MCF and costs $127.46 a month. Altogether, the operation costs are 32% less than the average household to heat. 

*The project team attempted to get actual past utility bills to determine the success of the upgrades. However, they did not know who the previous homeowners were, and since, DTE and Consumers Energy have outdated privacy laws, they do not allow for the retrieval of data without homeowner permission.See full Ferndale Home Energy Report

The purpose of this project was to revitalize an abandoned home in disrepair, and through environmentally-friendly construction practices, to transform it into an energy-efficient home.  The house is 95 years old, had gone into foreclosure and had been vandalized while sitting empty, so it required a complete overhaul. Lee Purches, HP3 Group and project Green Rater helped ensure the quality and sustainability success of this home.   Lee connected the owner with Herzog Homes, which was willing to pursue LEED certification with some budgetary constraints. The goal of this project was to restore this old house, but also make it better through green building design and LEED certification.  The design team followed LEED protocol for local labor and materials, using renewable or sustainable products in aiming for Gold LEED certification.IMG_6158a

The result is an efficient, practical, and affordable home that is no longer an eyesore in an established neighborhood. This home is the first of its kind in metro Detroit, setting an example for others to invest in Green Homes and to restore existing homes rather than build new.    The home has been enlarged and now has a freestanding garage that also serves to capture water.  The house also has its own high-efficiency controlled irrigation system that evenly distributes water in the front and back yards.The backyard contains a 200 square foot vegetable garden, which includes fruit trees.  The garden benefits from the irrigation system and passive water collection to yield produce four to six months out of the year.  The indoor air quality 10 times better due to the ERV and high efficiency furnace.  The furnace is a two stage furnace that only runs at high capacity when necessary, and is 97% efficient.

The house is fully enclosed with open cell spray icynene insulation, from the basement wall all the way up through both floors to and the roof deck. The interior finishes, walls and trim contains almost no VOC other than the drywall glue and paint, which have low VOC ratings below 100.  New Jeld-Wen windows were also installed with a U-factor and solar heat gain of 31 for additional energy performance and reduced air leakage.

Take a tour! August 3rd! Sign up Here!

Lewiston Checklist

 Project Details
Project Type               Single Family
Conditioned Space   2,027 sq ft.
Bedrooms                     3
Bathrooms                   2
Lot Type                       Infill
Construction Type   Gut Rehab

 Key Features
Air Filtration              MERV 13
Insulation                    R20
Window U-Value       31
HVAC Efficiency        97%
3.5 Air Leakage Rate in ACH50
Backyard Garden


Ferndale Project Profile

Herzog Homes
Check out the gallery for some before and after pictures of this LEED Platinum home.


Matchbox House LEED Platinum Certified – Ann Arbor

The project started out with an intent to design LEED certified which is reflected in its unconventional design.  The project was modeled after a matchbox and was designed to have four inner quadrants that slip past on another withing the out sleeve of the house, all on top of

2216 Hickman Ann Arbor, Michigan

a raised foundation.   The Matchbox’s compact design contributed to it’s LEED Platinum certification as there was less conditioned area to work on. The architect gathered information from other contractors experienced in green building practices in order to produce a home outside the norm. The result was distinctive, efficient, and compact home surrounded by natural, permeable turf minimizing the impact of the house on the surrounding environment.

The house has four bedrooms, 1,738 sf of conditioned space and a one car garage. It has received LEED Platinum Certification. It has a HERS rating of 47 and many notable features, including FSC wood, reclaimed trim from demolished Michigan barns in the region, no conventional turf (no irrigation) and low flow plumbing fixtures. The house has no attic or basement so upstairs rooms have dramatic ceilings that begin at 3’-0” and end at 16’-0” with an angle ceiling matching that angle of the roof.

No conventional turf or irrigation system was installed around the home, and all fixtures and fittings (toilet, faucets, and showers) are very high efficiency, reducing the site’s water demand by 78%. The wood used in the cabinets, stairs, closets, doors, and upstairs floors are all FSC certified. The house itself is much more compact than a standard house, so much that the LEED threshold dropped by 10 points. The kitchen counter tops and decking are constructed are composite from recycled materials.

The home’s unconventional design earned it 1st Place in Detroit Home Magazine Design Awards 2013 for Contemporary House under 4,000 sq ft.

Project Details:
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Clients: Azar and Hormoz Alizadeh (the house currently is rented out to tenants, it is not currently occupied by the owners)
Project Type:                 Single Family
Conditioned Space:      1,738 sq ft.
Bedrooms:                      4
Bathroom:                     3
Lot Type:                        Infill
Construction Type:     Custom

HERS Rating of 46, expected savings of 54% with a 5 Star+ Energy Rating
44% of Construction Waste Diverted from Landfill

Key Features:

  • 2 kw Solar Panel on roof, reducing energy costs by 18%
  • Wall Insulation R-Value of 29
  • Air Filtration rate, MERV 15
  • Reduced water demand by 76%Hickman checklist
  • Compact home for minimal site impact
  • No irrigation system or conventional turf
  • FSC certified cabinetry, stairs, closets, doors, and upstairs flooring.
  • Energy Star certified appliances and light fixtures
  • 2 ton heat pump/ERV
  • Appropriately sized 40,000 Btu furnace
  • Low flow toilets, faucets and showerheads

Project Team:
Brian Halprin (Green Building Services, Pllc)
Naseem Alizadeh (Bureau for Architecture and Urbanism)
Tad Krear (Landscape architect)
Cory Johnston (Structural engineer)
Matt Snider (Mechanical Engineer)

Photo gallery containing before, after, and during construction pictures:
The Matchbox House: Bureau for Architecture and Urbanism

Feature in Architect Lab’s Online Magazine

2216 Hickman (Matchbox House) Project Profile


Matchbox House Certificate

Sumac Grove

Greenest Home in West Michigan Certifies LEED Platinum

LEED Snapshot Main Photo

1 Hour Recorded Webinar Available Now – 1 AIA/GBCI

” In the 5 years I have been involved with and Regional Green Building Certified Homes, I think I can finally throw my 2 cents in the ring and call this the Greenest Home in West Michigan” – Brett Little, Executive Director

What make’s it the Greenest? For starters, Michael Holcomb – President/CEO and owner of Home Inspector General has called this “the tightest home I have ever tested.” It comes in at 0.44 ACH @50PA (for all you energy geeks). Michael has test 1,000’s of homes and buildings in the Midwest in his 20 years of experience so that is saying something.

Next, this project almost achieved passive house standards! Sam worked an experienced PHIUS rater “John Semmelhack” to use the advanced modeling software to design his house. The house tested below the air change requirements of Passive House but only made 7.20 KBTu’s as opposed to the required 4.75 ( Energy Geek Talk)  Sam’s reasoning’s  “The primary driver of that cost was the building geometry.  Since a primary objective was to build a barrier free home, we designed it all to be on one level.  This meant that the ratio of exterior wall and roof area to the floor area was not optimal for thermal design (of Passive House).  It was more important to us to have the barrier free design that to meet the PH requirements, though we came very close.  The only changes we made from the original PH design was to reduce the thickness of the perimeter walls from 22” to 19”, and specify a window that was not quite as high performing as the one that would attain the PH rating.” Sam told me that there was 99 year back on the window required to meet the standard (at that time).

3rd, First Zero Energy Home in West Michigan (if anyone wants to dispute that let us know!). Obviously we can’t officially call it Zero Energy without a year’s worth of data but we will keep you all up to date to see it makes it. The HERS score is not 0 but it is 18 which  is the lowest in West Michigan with A home in Stanwood and hour north getting a 12. There is a lot of mis-information out there stating that  a HERS of zero is required to be “Zero Energy” but in practice we see homes scoring HERS of 35 and  achieving Zero Energy.

LEED Label for Sumac Grove Sam Pobst LEED certified PlatinumLast, LEED for Homes Platinum Certification has been achieved. This
requires 3rd party onsite verification that proves you the home is green through actual testing.

But, but… This project is in Lowell outside of an Urban Area and lacks community resources and connectivity. It’s true, the one place that this house poorly scores is in location efficiency. You can find data to support that reliance on automobiles is more costly and has more CO2 emissions than very well insulated home. Currently Sam is using the home as his office as well  as his living space and so he does not have to drive to an office in a far away location. He can grow alot of food on the site as well and eventually add more solar and purchase an electric car to power it with all Solar.

This must have cost millions right? 

“We spent $167.00/Square Feet, but if you add in O+P, Design fees, and my sweat equity, I estimate about a $200/ SF cost to construct.”

•         Gross SF                                            2010

•         Basement SF                                    851

•         Conditioned SF                               2547

•         Garage / Workshop                      621

•         $167/SF  Hard cost

•         $200/ SF Buildable cost

  1. + Overhead and Profit
  2. + Design fees
  3. + Sweat Equity

 PDF Project Profile Details 

Further Resources 

Read back on Sam’s progress documented on his Blog and stay informed as he monitors the home’s energy use, durability, comfort, indoor air quality and water use.

  • Contact with Questions Sam Pobst, BO+M, BD+C, Homes and ID+C, a USGBC LEED Faculty™
    ecometrics llc
    P. 616.897.4967 C. 616.648.7493