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When it comes to building homes that are environmentally friendly and
easy on the pocketbook, Oklahoma isn’t exactly leading the way, but it’s
also not being left in the dust.
Those building green homes can follow guidelines or seek certification through two organizations. In Oklahoma, Guaranteed Watt Saver serves as a third party for those seeking certification that their homes are built to strict environmental standards.
Andrea Palmer, national program coordinator for GWS in Oklahoma City, says the state and the metro area aren’t doing too badly when it comes to homes that carry the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and the National Green Building Standard designations. GWS reports there are 116 LEED-certified homes in Oklahoma, and 20 certified by the green building standard.
“We have some work to do in the state as far as LEED certification is concerned,” Palmer says. “But we are competitive with other states in our region.”
Nationwide, as of February, she says there were 9,812 LEED-certified units – individual dwellings – and 1,803 that meet the green building standard; and six homes in Oklahoma are candidates for LEED certification.
Palmer looks at projects through green-tinted glasses: The darker green a project, the more energy it saves.
“In the industry, we say there are many shades of green,” she says. “LEED for homes is one of the darkest green shades.”
But when potential buyers look at building a green home, they want to know how much they will save. For example, she says a house constructed in 2006 that meets the current building codes has a score of 100 on the Home Energy Rating Scale.
Many homes built in the 1970s and 1980s, which have had no retrofitting of green components, might score in the 120 to 130 range, on average. A LEED gold home of comparable size would likely rate in the 50 to 60 range, she says.
“If a LEED house scores a 60, and the 1970s house scores 120, that’s going to be about a 60% decrease in energy use for the LEED home,” she says.
Mike and Linda Zeeck have seen those savings firsthand. The Zeecks, who built their home to energy-saving standards, got the idea from their son and daughter-inlaw, Andy and Tracey Zeeck, who built a home in the Mesta Park neighborhood two years ago that attained LEED gold status and a HERS rating of 55.
The Zeecks recruited their son to build them a house that would meet LEED standards just south of Nichols Hills, but they had no interest in the fastidious record keeping required by those seeking the certification. Despite not having a plaque from LEED, they already have seen cost benefits in the first year.
“They just wanted a tight, comfortable home that wasn’t going to tax them on utility bills,” Andy Zeeck says.
Linda Zeeck paid her utility bill in February, which amounted to less than $100 for the 2,400-square-foot home. Despite temperature swings in the single-digits one week to highs nearing 80 degrees the next, the Zeecks never had to readjust their thermostat, which stays between 68 and 70 degrees at all times. She says the bills in her new home are generally half of what they were in her previous home.
Palmer says the two residential companies that achieved the green standard for their homes are Manchester Green Homes and Red Rock Builders. Manchester has 13 certified green homes, and Red Rock has six.
Formed in 2004, Red Rock is owned by husband-and-wife team Bryan and Kate Turner. Both grew up in homebuilding families – Kate’s father is longtime homebuilder Neal McCaleb – and have spent more than three decades constructing homes around the metro area.
“We’ve always had a desire to focus on energy conservation,” Bryan Turner says.
On average, they build 10 to 15 homes per year. They knew they could not build every home to national green standards, but wanted to make a good start. In addition to their six certified homes, they plan to build four more this year. Most of the homes have sold while still under construction, Turner says.
While he cannot give his buyers a solid number on how much their utility bills will decrease in one of his homes, he says when they move in, they immediately begin to see savings.
“I tell them that their bills will generally be cut by more than half,” he says. “Especially if they are moving from an older home that nothing has been done to, in terms of energy conservation.”
Andy and Tracey Zeeck’s LEED-certified home in Mesta Park is equipped with energy-efficient appliances that make for slim utility bills.