NAHB Certified Green Home Draws Crowds in Alabama

Spec home featured on "Today's Homeowner" with Danny Lipford

By By Susan Bady, Senior Editor, Design | July 31, 2009

Watch Video Tours

Local Sensation

Sheathing, Subflooring Earn Extra Green Points

Fairhope: Poised for Change


The spacious front porch, cypress board-and-batten siding and cedar-shake details are reminiscent of cottage-style homes in Fairhope, Ala., says designer Bob Chatham.
Photo: Sylvia Martin

Two years ago, home builder Jeremy Friedman decided he wanted to learn more about green building. After attending the NAHB Green Building Conference in St. Louis, Friedman, owner of Kaloosa Builders in Fairhope, Ala., started building Energy Star homes, then completed two NAHB green certified homes. One of those homes, dubbed the Fairhope Green Home Project, has attracted so much publicity that other local builders are jumping aboard the green bandwagon.


Wood reclaimed from a pecan tree removed from the lot was used for the fireplace mantel and interior trim. “It helps give the house a real sense of place,” says builder Jeremy Friedman.

Friedman, who earned his Certified Green Professional designation in 2008, says "it just made sense" to build green: "To me, it's a better constructed, more durable and more efficient home."

What's remarkable about this particular home, aside from the fact that it scored 439 points and earned a gold rating under the NAHB National Green Building program, is that it was completed in six months from permitting to final finishes. That's a little quicker than Friedman expected for a 3,610-square-foot spec home with so many features tied to energy efficiency, sustainability and indoor air quality. These include a geothermal heating and cooling system; reclaimed wood doors, flooring and interior trim; a central vacuum system; a direct-vent fireplace; Energy Star appliances; low-flow plumbing fixtures; and native drought-tolerant landscaping.


The builder specified ZIP System structural roof and wall panels because they’re quicker and easier to install; won’t tear or blow off in high winds; and have a built-in air barrier — no housewrap or felt paper required. Also specified: AdvanTech subflooring, which is water-resistant and eliminates squeaky floors.

Interior and construction photos: Chatham Home Planning

"The site was very easy to work with, except when we were boring the loops for the geothermal system," says Friedman. "Each loop is 250 feet deep. [The HVAC contractor] hit a gravel layer about 200 feet down and kept losing pressure on the drill." The problem was corrected, but it took about a week longer than anticipated to finish the job.

Friedman's crew used spray foam insulation in the walls as well as inside the attic and roof deck. All ductwork is in conditioned space. The fiberglass windows are wood-clad on the inside and fitted with Low-E2 glass.

"The geothermal system allowed us to get extremely efficient both heating and cooling-wise," he says. "We've estimated that the energy costs for this house average $73 a month. For a house this size, that's a really good number." Because the system uses waste heat (heat recovered from the pump's compressor discharge gas) to preheat water for the house, the water bill averages only about $20 per month.

All the doors are made of either FSC-certified wood or wood with recycled content. The flooring is heart pine reclaimed from old warehouses. Recycled glass tile was used for the kitchen backsplash.

"The whole subdivision is a former pecan orchard," Friedman says. "We removed a large pecan tree from the site. That gave us a lot of timber, which was used for the fireplace mantel and a couple of arched openings."

HVAC outlets were masked during construction to keep dust out of the ductwork and maintain future air quality. Paints, sealants and adhesives are either low- or no-VOC, including a finish on the wood flooring made with citrus and cashew oils.

Geothermal equipment was installed in the air-conditioned, insulated attic.

Casual cottage

One of the goals of the project was to prove that a high-performance home can also be beautiful. Bob Chatham, principal of Chatham Design Group in Fairhope, took his cues from the Fairhope cottage style with its expansive porches, hip roofs, exposed rafter tails, operable shutters and board-and-batten siding. But he also tried something different.

"We built a 3-foot knee wall in the attic, so on the outside of the house there's about four feet of exposure above the front-porch beam," says Chatham. "Then we put a skirting around the perimeter of the beam and cedar shakes above the skirting. It's hard to make that treatment attractive if you don't do it correctly. I think Jeremy did a good job."

Chatham designed the home to fit a 90-by-142-foot lot. A detached, rear-loaded, two-car garage is connected to the house by a breezeway. "In Fairhope, if you detach the garage and put it 10 feet away from the main house, it can be as close as 5 feet from the property line, whereas the building setbacks for the structure itself are 35 feet front and rear," he says. "By detaching the garage, we were able to recapture some courtyard space."

The house has a large covered porch in the rear that adjoins a patio and outdoor kitchen; four bedrooms; four bathrooms; and a bonus room. "We tried to make all the room sizes comfortable. None of the secondary bedrooms are 12 by 12." Chatham allocated as little square footage as possible to hallways while being careful not to compromise privacy. A pocket door in the foyer closes off the second bedroom for the benefit of overnight guests.

The kitchen, which occupies the center of the home, has a breakfast bar and is adjacent to a dining room with French doors to the back porch. "When you walk in the front door you're not staring at the kitchen, yet the kitchen is open to all the other rooms," Friedman comments.

The sunroom was included as an optional breakfast room. Chatham says this is in keeping with Fairhope's casual lifestyle, where the breakfast room is often eliminated and the dining room is informally furnished with a farmhouse-style table.

It's also common in Fairhope to have a master bedroom and secondary bedroom on the first floor. "We try to get two bedrooms on the main floor in most of the homes we design. Since this is a spec home, we were trying to broaden the demographic appeal as much as possible. I envision [the buyers] as being a blended family with a couple of kids." The secondary bedroom on the main floor can serve as a home office, while the bonus room upstairs can either be a game room or a fifth bedroom.

The Fairhope Green Home Project was such a promotional success that the showcase home for the Baldwin County HBA's 2009 Parade of Homes will also be certified green.



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Watch Video Tours of This Home

Home improvement expert Danny Lipford walked viewers through this home in a segment for "Today's Homeowner." Watch it here and another video tour here.

Project Profile

Project: Fairhope Green Home Project

Location: The Meadows, Point Clear, Ala.

Buyer profile: Move-ups

Square footage: 3,610

Sales price: $659,000

Hard costs: $125 per square foot

Builder: Kaloosa Builders, Fairhope, Ala.

Residential designer: Chatham Design Group, Fairhope, Ala.

Interior designer: Malouf Furniture & Design,Foley, Ala.

Products Used

Appliances: Thermador

Bath fixtures: Caroma, Kohler, Moen

Cabinetry: Custom

Ceiling fans: Quorum

Central vacuum system: Vacuflo

Countertops: Custom granite

Doors: McPhillips Manufacturing

Flooring: Custom-milled antique heart pine

HVAC: WaterFurnace

Kitchen fixtures: Barclay (sink), Grohe (faucet)

Lighting fixtures: The CopperSmith, Hubbardton Forge, Norwell, Troy Lighting, Uttermost

Roof/wall sheathing and subflooring: Huber Engineered Woods

Windows: Integrity from Marvin Windows and Doors


Local Sensation

A well-orchestrated marketing campaign for the Fairhope Green Home Project got the attention of local residents, potential buyers and builders alike.

The home was first introduced at the 2008 Baldwin County HBA Parade of Homes. The HBA lent some promotional support to the project, and several vendors sponsored it. Local magazines and papers also covered it. "After that it kind of snowballed," builder Jeremy Friedman says. "Now everyone in town knows what you're talking about when you say 'the green house.'"

Friedman hired a local artist to do a four-color rendering of the home (shown at left) that appeared on posters displayed around downtown Fairhope as well as on T-shirts, direct-mail pieces and other advertising. Malouf Furniture & Design, one of the project's primary sponsors, not only furnished the house but also picked everything from tile to paint colors and granite.

Well over 3,000 people toured the home during open houses and fundraisers. Friedman led a series of free workshops at the site to educate people about the benefits of green building. An NAHB Green Building for Building Professionals class held there was full. "That's actually the first educational event that we've ever sold out," Friedman says. To top it all off, home-improvement expert Danny Lipford taped a video segment about the project for "Today's Homeowner."

Although the home hasn't been sold yet, it has generated a lot of leads for the company, Friedman says: "I'm continuing to build off that marketing success."

Sheathing, Subflooring Earn Extra Green Points


Jeremy Friedman used ZIP System roof and wall sheathing and AdvanTech subflooring for the first time when he built the Fairhope Green Home. He’s been specifying both products ever since.

“With the wall and roof sheathing, I was very impressed with the ease of installation and being able to eliminate the problem of applying housewrap correctly,’ Friedman says. “I also chose it to help with our air-sealing efforts. I was able to get points toward [green] certification because it’s made from environmentally friendly resins and wood certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and it’s tested for formaldehyde emissions.”

AdvanTech, he says, was selected “because of its true square nature, the 300-day no-sand guarantee, and the way it’s manufactured. Each strand is coated with a resin that makes it water-resistant. It’s also SFI-certified and uses environmentally friendly resins.”

Other builders corroborate Friedman’s testimony. “We’ve been using AdvanTech flooring for about 10 years,” says Wendell Miller of Paradise Upstate, Pickens, S.C. “It’s really nice because when the house gets wet, you don’t have so much trouble with buckling. It’s a good, solid floor and it comes with a 50-year warranty.”

Miller switched to the ZIP System two years ago when he was building a house to LEED Platinum standards: “We knew were going to have a blower-door test that would test the HERS rating and air movement throughout the house, so we wanted an airtight envelope. We felt this system would help us achieve that goal, and it did.”

He adds, “Once you get the panels on and the joints taped, you’re in the dry and can start insulation and mechanical work. You don’t have black paper buckling up and you don’t have to worry about it blowing off.”

Solluna Builders in Austin, Texas, earns a five-star rating for its homes — the highest level of certification under the Austin Energy Green Building program. “I use spray foam insulation in the walls as well as against the roof decking, and because of the stability of [the ZIP panels] I’m assured that I can get a good, even contact with the foam,” says Wayne Jeansonne, owner. He prefers AdvanTech to OSB subflooring because it eliminates callbacks and squeaky floors. 

Jeansonne doesn't think he's making a bigger upfront investment by using the ZIP System, even though it's a premium-priced product. "Compared to regular OSB and the additional cost of the labor plus the housewrap, the additional couple of dollars per sheet certainly justifies that cost, because it's a wash."

Fairhope: Poised for Change

Fairhope, Ala., a small city on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, appeals to a wide variety of people including families, retirees, second-home buyers, artists and writers. “We’re always ranked in the top 10 of everybody’s list of the best places to retire,” says home builder Jeremy Friedman. “And we’re one of the highest ranking micropolitan areas in the country in terms of job growth.” (The U.S. Census Bureau defines “micropolitan” as a core urban area with a population of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000.)

Fairhope’s coastal location, mild weather and walkable downtown are big draws, along with an annual art festival that attracts as many as 100,000 people. A recent upswing in commercial development bodes well for employment, though it has some locals worried that the area will lose its small-town charm.

Household income and the cost of living are slightly higher than the U.S. average, according to Sperling’s BestPlaces.

Fairhope was founded in 1894 as a model for the single-tax principle espoused by Henry George, who intended the land to remain in private ownership while its full rental value would be taxed each year. Ultimately, the land was acquired by a single-tax corporation, and those who wanted to make use of a site had to lease it from the corporation for 99 years. Today, the Fairhope Single Tax Corporation owns about 4,600 acres. Residents lease the land and pay rent to the corporation annually, based on local and state real-estate taxes plus an administrative fee donated to a fund for community improvements.

Market Stats

Population in 2009: 16,619
Population growth since 2000: 29.5%
Projected job growth 2009-2019: 21.5%
Median home sales price April 2009 to June 2009: $195,834 (up 4.4% from prior quarter; down 23.5% from prior year)
Average listing price week ending July 8, 2009: $452,263 (down 1.4% from prior week)

Sources:; Sperling’s BestPlaces; 


"Builder to display green home" (Press-Register article)

Project profile on Chatham Design Group Web site

Blog post by Nick Bajzek, Professional Builder products editor