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Could this house tour turn you green?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 24, 2008 - If you want to know what it’s like to live in a “green house,” or just how much it costs to “go green,” you’re in luck.

You can find out at the Third Annual Green House Tour, part of the Green Homes and Renewable Energy Festival this weekend. The tour is 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday starting at the EarthWays Center, 3617 Grandel Square in midtown St. Louis. The festival with more than 70 exhibitors will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in the 3600 block of Grandel Square. 

For a $10 ticket you can visit any of 10 new and rehabbed homes in St. Louis, Richmond Heights, Creve Coeur, Spanish Lake, Wildwood, Kirkwood and Kimmswick. For $15, you can visit five home via a soy diesel-fueled bus. (Boxed lunch included; limited seating, first-come, first-served.) It’s an opportunity to learn firsthand about innovative materials, new and time-tested sustainable building methods and the costs and benefits of owning a green home.

The houses meet criteria for certification from nationally recognized green building standards systems, including LEED, Green Building Initiative and ENERGY STAR Homes. Homebuilders, owners and trained volunteers will explain the features and answer questions.

If you think green homes are for the well-heeled who can afford to care, the tour may change your mind.

You can see one of 27 houses Habitat for Humanity built in a “blitz build” in the JeffVanderLou neighborhood over the summer. All of the houses will earn LEED-Gold certification and ENERGY STAR 5-Star Plus ratings.

Also on the tour is one of 10 houses the Meyer Co. is building for St. Louis County’s Office of Community Development to track the benefits of sustainable building practices in affordable homes. The energy costs in the home are expected to be 35 to 40 percent less than conventional homes. One of the 10 homes was built to conventional standard as a “control” while the others are designed to receive efficiency ratings from the basic to the highest . Homeowners will not know how their house ranks. The Office of Community Development will evaluate the performance of each home at the different certifications level.

“At the end of the year after the final house sells, we’ll see what direction we should go,” Darlene Green of the Office of Community Development said. “We want to build energy efficient and clean houses for the homeowners but we also don’t want to break the bank.”

The house on the tour is on track to receive GBI-Silver and ENERGY STAR ratings. “Having two developments of affordable certified green homes in the mix is really thrilling to me,” Ponzi said. “Green should be and needs to be affordable and available at every price point. It is not an elite product package. It’s the way building ought to be for durability, energy efficiency and homeowner health and comfort and value.”

Among the other houses on the tour:

• Two single-family attached residences, each 2,700 square feet, in Richmond Heights. The villa-type structure, sometimes referred to as the “Styrofoam Cooler House,” was constructed with insulated concrete forms (ICFs), which have an R-42 insulating value from foundation to roof sills and stack like Lego blocks. Owners Julie and Bill Newberry milled trees removed from the site into interior doors and trim for the building at their business, Newberry Woodworking. A century-old cypress barn provided the wood for front porch beams.

• A LEED-Platinum display house built by EcoUrban in the Benton Park West neighborhood. The builder achieved an 80 percent reduction in construction waste that traditional construction produces because the house was fabricated off-site in modules. Each floor of the house was delivered fully assembled. Modules were placed on the foundation in less than a day. The house features Energy Star appliances, 9-foot ceilings, bamboo flooring, water-saving plumbing fixtures and VOC-free paint. Utility bills for 2007 were $755.

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