Sean Sullivan of Living Stone Construction About the Appeal and Durability of Green Homes

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Original interview posted by PDH Academy . Sean Sullivan is the 2017 Vice Chair of the NAHB Design Committee.

Sean Sullivan, the president of Living Stone Construction, is an award-winning builder who specializes in designing and building high-performance green homes in Asheville, North Carolina. We recently spoke with Sean to learn more about today’s green homes and why they are becoming more popular among home buyers.

Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you decide to concentrate on building green homes?

My father was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. After he ascended the leadership ladder and finished taking command of different air bases, he began teaching TQM (Total Quality Management) and later formed his own consulting company. I learned not only from his teachings, but also those of others like W. Edwards Deming who said, “It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.”

So when we first heard that there was a rating system coming to western North Carolina for ENERGY STAR and Greenbuilt-certified homes, we immediately signed up. We simply believe that if you are going to do something, do it right.

What are some of the latest advances in green home construction?

Green construction is too often “greenwashed,” and therefore the true benefits are lost in translation. There are many direct benefits to the consumer of green homes, but we feel that IAQ (indoor air quality) is the most important. One technology that we recently embraced as a standard specification in our homes is AirRenew Drywall. This drywall absorbs dangerous VOCs for up to 75 years and 25 coats of paint.

Finish this sentence: “The biggest myth about green homes that I encounter is…”

The biggest myth I see with green building is that there isn’t enough return on investment. Statistically, certified green homes sell faster and for more money, and the owners are happier and more productive than those in non-green homes.

Compared to a similar traditional home, how long does it take for owners of a green home to make up the difference in the purchase price with the energy savings they enjoy?

Payback of ENERGY STAR homes depends on the level of certification obtained but can vary from 3-30 years depending on the use of solar, geothermal, and tax credit availability. The payback for green homes is more difficult to measure in the sense that people are healthier and live longer.

When you list the ways that a green home is low-maintenance, what is the one thing that tends to surprise most people?

Most people don’t realize that using natural materials is sometimes the “greenest” way to build. And when it is done right, it will require less maintenance over the years.

What is Universal Design, and how does it impact the homes that you build for clients?

Universal Design, or Aging-In-Place, is a must in today’s home design and construction. Building for Universal Design means that the occupants of the home can live there longer (thus independently), and that it is a much more comfortable home for all who enter.

What can we expect from green homes and the green building industry in the next 10 to 20 years?

Green building is not some new building technique; it is the original building method. Green building is not only the way of the past; it is the way of the future. Everything will be “green” in the next 10-20 years. All homes will have a HERS score and will be pushing towards “net zero” energy use!

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