Tag Archive for: Economics

Webinar: Journey to Almost Passive House & LEED Platinum Near-Zero Home

Finally it is here – after 2 years of filming and a big thanks to four Grand Valley State University Interns, 2 hours of video detailed in over 10 sections on the how and why of LEED for Homes and Passive House construction specifically to Sam Pobst’s home.

Sumac Grove Pobst Residence LEED Platinum Home

Sam and some of the other high performance building professionals take us through many aspects: site selection/design, insulation, heating and cooling, passive building, water efficiency and renewable energy. 

What makes it Green? 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 thousands 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 with 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: “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 than 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).

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 through actual testing that the home is green.

This must have cost millions right? 

“We spent $167.00/Square Foot, but if you add in O+P, design fees, and my sweat equity, I estimate about a $200/Square Foot cost to construct.” – Sam Pobst

•         Gross Square Feet                         2010

•         Basement Square Feet                851

•         Conditioned Square Feet           2547

•         Garage / Workshop                      621

•         $167/Square Foot  Hard Cost

•         $200/ Square Foot Buildable Cost

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


  1. Gain a basic understanding of the Passive House (PH) design standards for homes and products or technologies are needed to achieve it.
  2. Discriminate between LEED, Net Zero, universal design and Passive House objectives and how they interact.
  3. Learn about behind the wall thermal envelope strategies for a super tight and insulated home.
  4. Identify costs, ROI and payback on high performance home LEED projects

Continuing Education

  • 2 GBCI – LEED Specific
  • 2 AIA – LU|HSW
  • 2 MI Contractor (Code & Green)
  • 2 MI Architect
  • If you need continuing education units for a license in another state, this course may apply. Please consult your state’s requirements.

Project utility data update and ROI data

These webinars are free to review. If you are interested in continuing education credits, you must follow the following steps:

1. Read the info above, watch the webinars for FREE and check out the Project Profile.

2. Take the 13 question quiz and score at least 80% to be approved. Please also post a comment below and help add to the conversation.

3. Pay the fee below if this is not taken as part of our GreenHome Associates series to get your certificate and CEUs. You must be a member to pay the reduced member fee.

Webinar Pricing

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. http://sumacgrove.blogspot.com/2013/01/certified.html

  • Sumac Grove certificateRecorded 1 Hour Webinar on the entire project – 1 AIA/GBCI 
  •  2 Hour GBCI approved Film Series documenting the project from start to post occupancy informed can be seen here for free

expands and fills ED position due to growth in Green Building Market

A local nonprofit organization that educates and trains homeowners, builders, architects, and others in green building practices is growing.Jlenz Rapid Growth Habitat

The Green Home Institute () began in 2000 as a resource for sharing best practices in sustainable building. In 2005, they became one of only 12 organizations designated by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to support a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Homes pilot program. There are now 38 LEED for Homes providers around the country and primarily serves the Midwest. In addition to their location on Wealthy Street, they also have staff in Chicago, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis.

Recently, named Brett Little as its new executive director and Jamison Lenz as its LEED for Homes Program Manager. Both men are graduates of the Aquinas College Sustainable Business program.

Little served as the administrative director at before getting promoted. He started as a volunteer, then became an intern, and later, an AmeriCorps VISTA employee. He and his wife Laura recently spent around $30,000 “greening” their 87-year-old home. Afterward, Little and his wife noticed a 50 percent reduction in their heat bills and their electric usage decreased by 30-60 percent as well.  (You can read more about the Littles’ greening experience in a previous Rapid Growth article here.)

Lenz’s position was created with a grant from the Home Inspector General, a residential energy inspection company operated by President and Founder Michael Holcomb. Before joining the team, Lenz was a volunteer and later, an AmeriCorps VISTA employee at the Habitat for Humanity, where he helped with LEED construction administrative work.

Lenz will assist with client documentation and residential LEED consulting services, while Little will mostly focus on launching new initiatives.

With these recent staff changes, is implementing more programs in addition to the time currently spent educating people and organizations interested in the LEED for Homes program.

The way LEED for Homes works is that each registered project must have a third party Green Rater to handle the onsite verification. Green Raters ensure specific conditions have been met on the LEED for Homes checklist. Based on how many points the project has achieved, the home can earn the basic certification level on up to the highest level of Platinum LEED certification.

Additionally, energy performance testing must be done by a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Rater, which many Green Raters do as well. The greater a home’s heating and cooling efficiency is, the lower the HERS number and the more LEED points earned.

The LEED for Homes certification also takes a holistic approach to building so features such as being located within the city and near bus routes add points. If a person can walk to where they need to go and not use a car, that helps improve the environment.

Lenz says that living in a LEED-certified home is “more than just lower energy bills, it’s also about having a healthy environment where you can raise your family and be connected to the community in which you live.”

Builders, contractors, or homeowners typically work with the Green Rater on measures they can take to raise the number of points and level of certification. also consults with them and acts as a liaison between the Green Raters and the USGBC.

Some common tips to get more LEED points include adding a level of insulation to increase the HERS score or using only non-invasive plants in landscaping. Another simple way to raise points is to keep all plants at least two feet away from the house to prevent pest infestations.

When the home construction is completely finished and the Green Rater has turned in all required documentation, reviews it and then submits it to USGBC to obtain the final certification.

If that sounds like it’s a lot of work for builders and contractors, it often can be at first and it usually also costs two to three percent more to build a LEED-certified home. However, Little and Lenz assure their customers it gets easier with time and it’s definitely worth it.

“Building to LEED certification is not easy, nor should it be,” says Lenz. “But the more you build to this standard, it will soon become ingrained into your mindset and all that you do.”

Little adds that only about three percent of homes get LEED certified. “Most builders are not interested because they think it’s too hard,” he says.

typically works with contractors, builders, and architects and not many homeowners. In order for an existing house to become LEED for Homes certified, Little says “a homeowner pretty much has to gut their whole house, so it’s a big deal.”

Some of the advantages of having a LEED-certified home are lower utility bills, increased air quality, less illnesses and allergies, reduced impact on the environment, and a higher resale value.

“On average, we will spend 90 percent of our lives indoors, therefore it’s paramount that our buildings are healthy, efficient, and connected to the community,” says Lenz.

In 2012, hosted free monthly webinars, which were quite successful and attracted attendees from around the world. They’re planning on doing more in 2013 with topics ranging from the LEED process, green building leaders and products, indoor air quality, energy efficiency, and more.

, in partnership with Integrated Architecture, Habitat for Humanity, and the City of Grand Rapids, was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from Bank of America to transform the Wealthy Heights neighborhood into a LEED Neighborhood Development area. This will ensure healthy, affordable, efficient, and durable construction and remodeling practices. Chris Hall, formerly with Habitat, and Matthew VanSweden of Integrated Architecture worked with Little to acquire the grant.

is also now putting together a Living Building Challenge team. This “next generation of LEED for Homes” was developed by the International Living Future Institute.

Little says “if you thought LEED was hard,” the Living Building Challenge is even more complex. The certification is comprised of seven performance areas: site, water, energy, health, materials, equity, and beauty.  Homes that qualify must have zero energy and water waste, be built with nontoxic materials, maximize health, blend with surroundings, and be socially just and beautiful.

The process is not simple and Little adds, “That’s why they call it a Challenge.”

Another initiative that is starting is green remodeling education and certification for homeowners who want to reduce energy costs. will teach the homeowners ways to become certified, though Little says this isn’t about minor repairs — “you really have to be committed.”

has also recently partnered with Advanced Energy in North Carolina to train HVAC professionals how to become Energy Star Version 3 credentialed installers and designers.

In addition to all of these new initiatives, the staff at has been very busy lately educating people on the LEED for Homes program and other green building tips.

“The market is up for new construction and we follow its success,” Little says.

They’ve been getting some help from students at GVSU, Aquinas, and MSU with video documentation, research, and surveys.

On top of the webinars, training, and consulting they offer, Lenz wants people to know they contact anytime with questions about anything having to do with greening a home.

“Our mission is to get the word out about healthier, more efficient homes,” he says. “It’s more than just about LEED, it’s about green communities.”

Full Article Here 

As the editor of our Do Good section, Heidi writes about nonprofits, educational initiatives, and people and organizations making West Michigan a better place. She’s also a freelance writer, graphic designer, and marketing consultant who works out of her home while being pestered constantly by her two spoiled dogs. You can find her on Twitter at @HeidiSocial, but be aware that she likes her opinions strong and her humor warped

Photographs by Adam Bird

Determining Value of Solar Just Got Easier

The additional property value of solar has always been an issue in the industry. Homeowners and professionals both recognize the inherent asset value of solar just as you realize asset value for other home improvements such as a kitchen remodel or bathroom addition.  But quantifying that for real estate appraisers, brokers, and lenders has been an issue – until now.

Consistent appraisals of homes and businesses outfitted with photovoltaic (PV) installations are a real challenge for the nation’s real estate industry, but a new tool developed by Sandia National Laboratories and Solar Power Electric™ and licensed by Sandia addresses that issue. Sandia scientists, in partnership with Jamie Johnson of Solar Power Electric™, have developed PV ValueTM, an electronic form to standardize appraisals. Funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the tool will provide appraisers, real estate agents and mortgage underwriters with more accurate values for PV systems.

“Previous methods for appraising PV installations on new or existing construction have been challenging because they were not using standard appraisal practices,” said Geoff Klise, the Sandia researcher who co-developed the tool. “Typically, appraisers develop the value of a property improvement based on comparable properties with similar improvements as well as prevailing market conditions. If there aren’t PV systems nearby, there is no way to make an improvement comparison. When a PV system is undervalued or not valued at all, it essentially ignores the value of the electricity being produced and the potential savings over the lifetime of the system. By developing a standard methodology for appraisers when comparables are not available, homeowners will have more incentive to install PV systems, even if they consider moving a few years after system installation.”

The tool uses an Excel spreadsheet, tied to real-time lending information and market fluctuations, to determine the worth of a PV system. An appraiser enters such variables as the ZIP code where the system is located, the system size in watts, the derate factor – which takes into account shading and other factors that affect a system’s output – tracking, tilt and azimuth, along with a few other factors, and the spreadsheet returns the value of the system as a function of a pre-determined risk spread. The solar resource calculation in the spreadsheet is based on the PVWattsTM simulator developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which allows the spreadsheet to value a PV system anywhere in the U.S.

“With PV Value™, appraisers can quickly calculate the present value of energy that a PV system can be estimated to produce during its remaining useful lifetime, similar to the appraisal industry’s income approach,” said Johnson. “Additionally, a property owner thinking about installing PV can now estimate the remaining present value of energy for their future PV system and what it could be worth to a purchaser of their property at any point in time in the event a sale of the property takes place before the estimated payback date is reached.”

The tool is being embraced by the Appraisal Institute, which is the nation’s largest professional association of real estate appraisers. “From my perspective as an appraiser, I see that this is a great tool to assist the appraiser in valuations, and it connects to the Appraisal Institute’s recent Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum. It’s an easy, user-friendly spreadsheet that will not bog the appraiser down with a lot of extra time in calculations, and if they fill out the addenda properly, they’ll be able to make the inputs and come up with some numbers fairly quickly,” said Sandy Adomatis, SRA, a real estate appraiser and member of the Appraisal Institute.

Although the tool is licensed for solar PV installations, it could be used for other large green features in a home that generate income, such as wind turbines. The spreadsheet, user manual and webinar explaining the tool are available for download at http://pv.sandia.gov/pvvalue.

Solar Power Electric™ located in Port Charlotte, Fla., is an electrical contracting and solar integration company specializing in the installation of commercial and residential photovoltaic systems.

New Appraisal Form details Green and Solar Features

The Appraisal Institute, the nation’s largest professional association of real estate appraisers, has made it easier to identify attributes of green homes. Last week, they released a form intended to help analyze values of energy-efficient home features. It is the first of its kind intended for appraisers’ use.

The new form is intended to be used as an optional addendum to Fannie Mae Form 1004, the appraisal industry’s most widely used form for mortgage lending purposes. Used by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration, Form 1004 is completed by appraisers to uphold safe and sound lending. Currently, the contributory value of a home’s green features is rarely part of the equation.

“This addendum is another example of how the Appraisal Institute is at the forefront of real estate valuation,” said Appraisal Institute President Joseph C. Magdziarz, MAI, SRA. “It will help the industry standardize the way residential energy-efficient features are analyzed and reported.”

The Appraisal Institute’s addendum allows appraisers to identify and describe a home’s green features, from solar panels to energy-saving appliances. Form 1004 devotes limited attention to energy efficient features, so green data usually doesn’t appear in the appraisal report, or it is included in a lengthy narrative that often is ignored.

Magdziarz pointed out that the Appraisal Institute’s form also will make it easier for appraisers to determine whether recent home sales should be used as comparable sales. Sales that are truly comparable are key components in determining a property’s value.

While the addendum won’t guarantee that an appraiser will raise a property’s value by tens of thousands of dollars for energy-efficient upgrades, it should guarantee at a minimum that energy improvements will be taken into account based on value adjustments consistent with local market conditions. More importantly, appraisers using the new addendum should be better equipped to identify accurate, area-specific comparable sales.

One of the interesting aspects of the form is the emphasis given to describing renewable energy systems such as solar photovoltaic. The form has an area where data collected by the appraiser could easily be used to calculate the net present value (NPV) of the energy savings from a solar energy system.  Other aspects include identification for third-party certifications such as LEED for homes.

Green Homes Cost of Ownership Research

Research – LEED Homes Cost of Ownership

It’s worth noting that this is an optional addendum to a traditional 1004 appraisal form. Hopefully the lending community will embrace this and builders, architects, lenders, appraisers, and other real estate professionals all find value in encouraging the use of this form for green homes.

Download the Appraisal Institute’s two-page green addendum,  which is also listed as part of the Green Real Estate Toolkit.

Learn more about the Green Addendum and how it will be used at a free event on Oct 24, 2012 in Oak Brook, IL.

And don’t forget to review the Green Home Institute research report showing the total cost of ownership savings found from building healthy, efficient green homes.

2011 Energy Star Tax credits

Anyone building a Green Home or looking to build to the LEED for Homes standard could certainly benefit from the renewed 2011 energy star tax credits for energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades.

Take a look!



Also, see other LEED incentives in your area.

Finding Green Values

How to find a Green Appraiser

Finding Green ValuesOne of the key players in the real estate transaction process is the appraiser. Much like a certified green home has a third-party verification, an appraiser provides an independent third-party financial analysis of a home.

However, it’s often difficult for buyers and builders of high-performance green homes to find appraisers that are knowledgeable about the characteristics of the home, can find appropriate sales comps on the Green MLS, and more importantly, who are able to attribute market value based on the home’s performance.

Fortunately this is starting to change. On Earth Day, the Appraisal Institute, a membership and professional development organization for appraisers, announced a call for collaboration to the real estate community. The goal is to facilitate data sharing for others in the financial transaction process (brokers, lenders, mortgage brokers, underwriters, etc). The thinking is that if appraisers can more easily have access to information about a LEED-certified home, that could serve as useful information as a comparable property for another high-performance home that is the subject of a valuation assignment.

An April 28 FoxBusiness.com story discussed how the need for green lending products and proper appraisals is driving a new market niche. The story reached a potential audience of nearly 1.75 million unique online visitors.

To find the best financing for green projects, the article recommended working with brokers, lenders and appraisers who are familiar with energy-efficient products, advising readers to turn to organizations like the Appraisal Institute to find qualified appraisers.

What you can do

So, what can you do to help the process along? First, make sure the appraiser assigned to your case is trained in green building. And second, help the valuation expert find homes that are comparable to yours. If you know of other homes that have been built in your area to any kind of green building standard or energy rated with third-party verification, let the appraiser know about this. It may not be a great comparable property, but then again, maybe it is.

Encourage your lender to share green education events or open houses so their loan officers and appraisers can learn more about local market activity.

Green builders can also help the real estate community by populating their local databases when available. Even a custom home built-to-suit can be listed on an MLS with a listing time of 1 day if the homeowner is comfortable sharing their price data. This can provide one more data point that will help support local market values.

All this and more will help lead to more data on high-performance green homes, such as LEED-certified, which will allow appraisers to identify appropriate adjustments to market value for green homes.

Report Shows Increased Value of LEED Homes

In a newly-released report, the Green Home Institute () analyzed data from LEED-certified homes in the Midwest found that the homes averaged 40% less energy use and utility costs annually when compared to conventional homes.

LEED for Homes - Utility Savings and Value Report

LEED for Homes Case Study Report

From January through June 2010, the Green Home Institute () collected Read more

Financial Incentives for Green Remodeling

It’s no surprise that there are a lot of incentives out there for folks that are doing any remodeling that help encourage green strategies – everything from tax credits, tax deductions, rebates, grants,  municipal incentives, and more!  The USGBC Illinois chapter has been working on pulling much of this information together into an educational seminar that will be held Tuesday, Oct 19 in Chicago’s north suburbs. If you are a builder, designer or remodeler looking to capitalize on green building and better serve your clients, this is the event for you.

Read more

Legal & Business Perspectives on Green Building

Here is an event many LEED for Homes professionals may be interested in. Note: Early bird registration ends on Friday, May 21.

Green/LEED Real Estate Conference – Grand Rapids

Thinking about building green?  Hear from the experts who can help you do it right.  Discuss practical considerations from a business and legal perspective. Read more

LEED for Homes Myth #3: The costs are expensive

Recently, many people have told me they thought a LEED for Homes certification was going to cost many thousands of dollars – even over $10,000.  This simply isn’t true, at least not when using the Green Home Institute () as the LEED for Homes Provider.  So let’s bust this myth. Read more