The Green House Effect

Judy Stark March 22, 2007

Parade of Homes

This is the first green home for Hannah Bartoletta Homes, which intends to build all-green homes in the future. It's the second straight green showcase home for the builders association, and they've decided that all future showcases will be green.

On a clear day, from the third-floor crow's nest, you can see the Sunshine Skyway bridge, Tropicana Field, and the skyline of downtown Tampa.

In Apollo Beach, that's the long-distance view from the Bay Breeze, the showcase model by Hannah Bartoletta Homes built for the Tampa Bay Builders Association Parade of Homes. The parade continues through April 1.

But the builders are encouraging prospective buyers to take a closer-up view. The 4,596-square-foot home is certified "green" by the Florida Green Building Coalition. The house is loaded with features that save energy and water, promote indoor air quality and reduce maintenance.

Among the features:

- Tankless water heaters, which provide instant and unlimited hot water. They eliminate the need to keep a big water heater at a constant high temperature. "A lot of builders are starting to move toward tankless heaters as a standard," said Drew Smith, who certified that the house meets standards set by the Florida Green Building Coalition.

- A metal roof, which reflects heat away from the house, keeping the attic cooler.

- A secondary roofing system under the metal roof. The rubberized, asphalt-based product would keep the house dry even if the metal roof blew off. It self-seals, so all the screw holes are covered.

- Tile, cork and "green" carpets, paints that give off no volatile organic compounds, Energy Star appliances, low-flow plumbing fixtures.

- Whole-house high-efficiency air filters and a central dehumidification system.

- Compact fluorescent bulbs throughout the house. "They're the first builders I've been able to get to put all compact fluorescents throughout the house," said Smith, co-chair of the Florida Home Builders Association green builder council.

Compact fluorescents last longer and cost less to operate than incandescent bulbs. But some interior designers object to the color of the light they produce.

This is a big home, with four bedrooms and a third-floor entertainment room (that crow's nest), priced at $1.6-million including the green features and homesite but without the furnishings.

"A lot of green building is just good building practices," Hannah said. "Building green is not that much more difficult." Smith agreed, saying, "They were pretty close to being green already. It didn't take a whole lot to cross that threshold." Hannah Bartoletta exceeded the minimum of 200 points on the building coalition's scale for green certification.

The big steps here were finding subcontractors who could provide the green products Hannah Bartoletta wanted, such as Icynene, a spray-on foam insulation.

Hannah remarked that even in the short building time for this house, he noted the increased availability of materials and products. Smith concurred, saying, "It's gotten to the point where you can grab a green product without going across the country to get it."

Part of the challenge, Hannah said, was to show prospective buyers that green doesn't equal gloomy, that an energy-efficient home can be as comfortable and luxurious as they wish.

There's another view that visitors to this house shouldn't miss. Look out at the undeveloped parts of the MiraBay property and the adjacent Wolf Branch Creek preserve that edge Tampa Bay. This is what this piece of Florida used to look like, before the developers and builders came

Next to the memory of what used to be, a luxury house is trying to leave a light footprint on the land.