Building Green in Saratoga
Ten Questions with Al DiAlberto from HV North, a green home builder in the Saratoga region. Discover what it really takes to 'go green' in Saratoga Springs!
1. How long have you been building green homes?
We've been building green homes since 2007. We had previously done only remodel and rehab projects.
2. Are you a native to the area?
I was born in southern New York in Port Chester, and my family moved to Florida when I was an infant. When I was ready for college, I decided to return to New York to attend college at RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) in Troy. I fell in love with the area while I was going to school and wanted to stay here after graduation. I can't see living anywhere else now.
3. What is HV North's company mission?
To build high quality, sustainable green homes that the average family can afford. We believe a healthy green home should be in reach of all families.
4. What makes a home 'green'?
Green = Sustainable. Green means building with the environment as a priority.
"Building Green is not a fad.
We believe that the way we build now will become the standard in the future."
You don't have to give something up when you choose a green home. A lot of people don't realize that you can still have a beautiful home that is completely functional, yet environmentally friendly. Green doesn't mean sacrifice; it means savings - usually in your energy bills.
When we build Green, we are designing homes to use the least amount of energy and waste possible while still providing all the comforts of a beautiful, modern home. We concentrate on many different things, including:
- using the sun to help reduce heating and cooling demands
- recycling waste material
- choosing building components that have a minimal impact on the environment
- using recycled material
- choosing plumbing fixtures that reduce water demand
- managing storm water to help protect the environment
- avoiding the use of volatile organic compounds
Green homes are not only environmentally friendly, but family friendly as well. We want families to have a home that is healthy and free of air pollutants, such as vinyls that give off gas or other volatile organic compounds. Families that we've worked with appreciate knowing that their home is safe.
The USGBC has set up the LEED for Homes standard to help take the guesswork out of choosing a Green home. It is the industry standard for sustainable Green construction.
5. What got you interested in going green?
We had been working on rehabilitation projects and saw the amount of waste that was created. The amount of material that goes to our landfills everyday is staggering.
We began looking for ways to reduce the amount of waste we were creating. So we started with a few simple steps, which set off a chain reaction:
- We started recycling efforts on our job sites.
- We found more efficient ways of using our building materials.
- We got involved with some local designers who were into building Green and learned a lot about how to make a home sustainable.
- We realized we could build these homes for the same amount that other builders were building regular homes.
Once we had the opportunity to start building new homes, we made the decision to build sustainable Green homes. We became a member of the United States Green Building Council and are committed to building home to meet the LEED for Homes standards.
6. I've heard people talking about Greenwashing. What does that mean?
Greenwashing is taking a product and pretending it's Green. Some companies take an ordinary home, add a few upgrades and try to pass it off as Green.
We see builders calling log homes with a fireplace 'Green'. While it is possible that the home is Green, the log construction and fireplace don't make it Green. Adding one or two basic options and labeling a home Green is a disservice to the new owner.
Why do companies practice Greenwashing? "Green" has become a popular marketing catch phrase, and plenty of companies are jumping on the band wagon. They know everyone wants a home that uses less energy and is healthy. They also know that taking a basic home and labeling it 'Green' increases its value and marketability. So they see Greenwashing as an easy way to increase their profits, even though it's dishonest and deceptive.
So my advice to new homebuyers is to be careful. Unless you are an expert on new home construction, it is very hard to determine what is Green and what is Greenwashing. People looking for new Green homes should look for a builder that is at the least building to the Energy Star Standards. This is the minimum standard. It means the home should use about 15% less energy than a standard home. The Energy Star Tier 1 Standard should be the absolute minimum, and it doesn't even address sustainability.
Homes that are truly Green conform to a national standard established by independent third parties, like the USGBC LEED for Homes standard. By looking for a new home that meets the LEED for Homes standard, home buyers can take the guess work out of whether a home is really Green.
7. Are your floor plans different than those in traditional homes? If so, how?
They really don't differ much from traditional floor plans... just a little bit smarter. Our plans always involve passive solar heating for the colder months and proper screening to reduce heat gain in the winter. Natural light is a key element to all of our homes.
I think some people think you have to have trees growing through the living room ceiling when they hear the term 'building green'. That's definitely not in any of our floor plans!
Currently we have 9 sample floor plans ranging from classic, traditional designs to very modern. But these sample plans are only a starting point. We build custom homes for each buyer. All of our plans are based on real family living with open floor plans and no wasted space.
8. What is the most popular home plan that you build?
We are seeing a trend toward simple classic designs and homes with a more modern touch.
9. What are your long term goals for green building in the Saratoga area?
We are committed to continue building affordable, sustainable green homes in Saratoga County. Currently we are partnered with the Wilton Woods subdivision in Wilton offering 21 building lots with homes starting at $325,000.
At the same time, we are working with other developers in the area to establish new Green communities in the Capital District. Building Green is not a fad. We believe that the way we build now will become the standard in the future.
10. What are some ways people can "go green"?
There are so many easy ways for people to "go green".
- One of the simplest ways is also one that pays for itself: change all the light bulbs in your home to compact fluorescent bulbs. They only use 20% of the energy and last for 10,000 hours.
- A large portion of your heating and cooling bill is wasted by air leakage in your home. Add foam insulation and caulk around old windows or consider replacing your windows with Energy Star rated windows.
- If you are thinking about remodeling your bathroom plan, consider using low flow toilets, faucets and showerheads. Not only do they reduce water usage, but they also reduce your hot water demand. The new Water Sense fixtures and faucets perform better than the old fixtures that use more water.
- Be conscious about the products you buy every day. All those products that you bring into your home affect the quality of your indoor air. Choose cleaners that are not chlorine or ammonia based. Look for products that use natural cleansing agents. Smell things before you buy them. If they smell like chemicals, look for an alternative. Most of our clothes, furniture and furnishings are washed in formaldehyde, a leading cause of indoor air pollution. That formaldehyde can take months -- or years to completely outgas, polluting your home the entire time.