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JAW Builders’ green home expected to become Emerald-certified

Monday, August 16, 2010 / JAW Builders

Among precious gemstones, the emerald is one of the rarest and most valuable. But among green-built residences, an Emerald home is the rarest and most revered of allespecially considering that currently only 12 new detached homes nationwide have achieved Emerald certification by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), which signifies the highest achievement currently possible in residential green construction.

On pace to become lucky 13, as well as Illinois’ first Emerald status residence once it is completed and certified in early September, is a new single-family home in Wheaton crafted by JAW Builders, Inc. This one-of-a-kind, environmentally conscious home features a wealth of energy-efficient components and state-of-the-art green products designed to yield impressive savings on utility bills along with better indoor air quality.

"Our goal was to demonstrate that it is possible to build the highest quality green home within a reasonably sized footprint. From the start, we envisioned this as a green and healthy air home that’s affordable and achievable for most buyers in this area," said Jason Werr, President of Wheaton-based JAW Builders, Inc. The Craftsman-style, 3,600-square-foot home

featuring five bedrooms, four baths and an ample basementwill serve as his family’s primary residence as well as a model for clients to tour.

"Toward that end, we incorporated the newest and greatest green systems and technologies that are intended to pay for themselves within a short time thanks to their efficiencies," he said.

Werr’s new residential creation is so well designed, in fact, that it is targeted to achieve a rare score of 39 out of 100 on the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) index, which provides an easily understandable means to compare the relative energy efficiency of different homes. Each 1-point decrease in the HERS index corresponds to a 1 percent reduction in energy consumption. Thus, Werr’s HERS score of 39 means that it is 61 percent more energy efficient than the HERS Reference Home

which is quite an achievement.

One of the most important green components Werr had installed is an underground geothermal heating and cooling system by WaterFurnace that provides a renewable fuel source to maximize energy efficiency and eliminate carbon monoxide. Werr said this system taps into the earth’s constant temperature

approximately 55°Fto effectively heat and cool the home using water or environmentally friendly antifreeze liquid distributed via a closed-loop pipe buried in the ground. The conditioned air is circulated throughout the house using forced air blowers and conventional ductwork.

"The result is an HVAC system that is 500 percent more energy efficient than any furnace and air conditioner, which equates to a 70 percent annual savings on heating, cooling, and hot water bills," he noted.

Other impressive green highlights in and around the JAW Builders home include:

Lifetime solar reflective roofing shingles that utilize contemporary granule technology to repel the sun's rays and lower the roof’s surface temperature by up to 20 percent during warm months.

Low-maintenance recycled and engineered wood substrate siding with a 50-year paint warrantee.

Bamboo flooring, a renewable resource that is tougher than redwood and only takes up to seven years to mature versus 30 to 40 years for typical hardwoods.

Closed-cell foam insulationa sprayed-on polyurethane foam that provides a higher R-value (21 in walls and 45 in ceilings) than standard fiberglass material (commonly R-13), prevents moisture transmission, blocks mold growth and improves the home’s structural strength.

An eco-paver patio hardscape consisting of permeable paver stones for efficient drainage of runoff water.

Energy-efficient windows with a 3.5 R value (versus <1.0 R for typical wood windows).

Rigid foam exterior sheeting with a 5.5 R value (versus plywood used on typical homes).

Energy Star appliances.

A smart ventilation system to circulate air throughout the home and improve indoor air quality.

Low VOC paints that decrease the amount of toxic emissions in the air.

"To qualify for Emerald certification, a home must be at least 60 percent more energy efficient than a home built according to 2006 International Energy Conservation Code/Energy Star standards," said Kevin Morrow, Senior Program Manager for Green Building with the NAHB, Washington, DC. "Earning this status demonstrates the highest pinnacle of green construction."

Additionally, the home must be inspected and certified by an independent professional and earn a minimum number of points (697) in six different categories: energy efficiency; resource efficiency; water efficiency; indoor environmental quality; lot design, preparation and development; and operation, maintenance and building owner education. Werr’s residence is on target to earn over 800 points. Below Emerald, the next best status attainable is Gold, followed by Silver and Bronze. An Emerald-certified home has to tally more than three times the minimum points needed for a Bronze-certified home, which underscores how difficult it is to attain and how much careful planning is required by the builder.

"Following green building practices means investing in sustainable materials that safeguard the home from high consumption of energy and resources, unnecessary leaks and premature decomposition. A lot of homeowners want to be eco-friendly and green, but worry about the costs involved. Actually, a well-built green home can reap substantial savings over the life of the home and improve your quality of life," added Werr.

Enhanced quality of life is one of the benefits of creating an ideal indoor air environment, said Werr. The problem with building an ultra-efficient green residence is that the home has to be wrapped and sealed super-tight to prevent air intrusion/extrusion, "and that’s why implementing a smart ventilation system is so important. Stale indoor air can quickly be exchanged with purified outdoor air in this home."

Werr did more than infuse the home with green and air-healthy amenities, however. With the help of architect and friend Bill Styczynski of Styczynski Walker and Associates, Werr designed the home to maximize spatial efficiency and achieve a higher future resale value. For example, in the basement he created a large bonus room beneath the two-car tandem garage upstairs and fashioned oversized walk-in closets on the first and second floors that can easily be retrofitted for a future elevator if necessary. Additionally, Werr built a first-floor office with private access to an isolated area of the basement reserved for a future JAW Builders mini-showroom, where customers will be able to make their selections from swatches and samples on display.

Werr, who has built and remodeled hundreds of homes over the years throughout the Chicagoland area and won numerous industry awards

including 2009 Remodeler of the Year from the Northern Illinois Home Builders Associationprides himself on his green construction expertise.

"The Home Energy Efficiency Improvement and Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credits currently in effect are also increasing the popularity and demand for knowledgeable builders, who can help consumers understand what products best suit their needs and take advantage of the tax credit," said Werr.

JAW Builders is an Energy Star-qualified builder/remodeler and NAHB green-certified builder/remodeler, and Werr co-founded the NAHB Green Building Committee which helped develop green homebuilding guidelines and the 2008 National Green Building Standard that builders across the country follow today.

"We each have a responsibility to reduce our dependence on the earth’s natural resources and our carbon footprint," said Werr, whose company name is an acronym derived from his initials.

To learn more about JAW Builders, Inc. and its construction and remodeling services, contact Jason Werr at (630) 546-4599 or visit

Published by : Lynn Walsh
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