People are becoming increasingly aware of the impact they are having on the planet and this has transferred to the housing market. Efficiency is now a quality that many potential home buyers look for and green homes are becoming more common nationwide. Many builders are adapting to this new demand and developing creative ways to give buyers the efficiency they desire without compromising the comforts of a traditional home.
Brandon Bryant, of Red Tree Builders, is this year’s Best in Green Custom Home Award winner for Katie’s Ridge in Asheville, North Carolina. He was also named a finalist for the Best in Green Young Professional of the Year Award. Here, he provides insight into his inspiration for the Katie’s Ridge home, his company’s vision, and his hopes for the future of green construction.
NAHB: What is your company’s vision in terms of green building construction? How are your homes unique and how are they true to this vision?
Brandon Bryant (BB): Basically, there are many different ways you can build a green home. At Red Tree Builders, we don’t focus on solely one aspect such as energy efficiency or air quality but instead incorporate a whole-house approach that looks at all aspects of building a green and healthy home. We strive to be sustainable in each step of the building process.
NAHB: What sustainable practice or feature do your clients most commonly choose to incorporate in their homes?
BB: All of our homes are Green Built certified, so right from the start we always have a standard of green certification to meet. The client, however, can decide the specifics they want to include in their home to reach this level or exceed this level. I see most of our clients asking for geothermal heating and cooling, healthy air quality, as well as LED lighting.
NAHB: What do you find to be the biggest obstacle for the creation of sustainable homes? Is it in the construction itself, the design, the marketing, or another aspect?
BB: To me, it’s mainly about education. North Carolina is one of the leading states for the most green homes in the country, so most people have heard about green homes—but they may not have a full understanding. I like to tell them, “you may have heard about this but here’s what it really means.” I can educate people up front about the potential savings they’re making down the road, sometimes even within the first year. We work together to further the understanding that they’re getting a healthier home, a more energy efficient home. So while there may be some extra cost up front in specific areas, it pays off and not only for their wallet.
NAHB: Your website explains that you like to help customers stay within their pre-determined budget. What are the strategies you use to accomplish this while still using innovative technologies?
BB: The budget is set at the beginning during our design build process. We start with the Green Built standard, which we know we have to maintain and then start outlining things and putting out options for the customer. For example, do they want geothermal or solar? We also look at the customer’s long-term budget and what might be most cost-effective down the road. Throughout the entire building process the client is kept very involved with how things are progressing. Today, we are lucky to also have a number of innovative web tools that support the selection process and give the owner real-time visibility of their budget, selections, and upcoming decisions. These project management tools have allowed the owner to be part of the building process like never before.
NAHB: Congratulations on winning NAHB’s Best in Green Award for your Katie’s Ridge home. Could you describe to me your vision for this home in terms of what the client was looking for and how you developed your ideas?
BB: The location for this home has amazing views and I really wanted to take advantage of that. People in Asheville live for the outdoors, so I knew I really wanted to create a seamless indoor-outdoor feel. This home, like many of the homes we build, was a blend of craftsmen and modern style, or what I like to call “mountain modern style.” The home design has floor-to-ceiling windows to capture the beautiful views. Using high quality windows, advanced insulation techniques, and house placement helped us ensure the home remained energy efficient despite the large amount of glass.
NAHB: What feature of the Katie’s Ridge home are you most proud of?
BB: This is hard to narrow down. Getting the HERS (Home Energy Rating System) rating of 48—I was very excited about that. But I am also very happy with the overall feel of the home. It’s modern, but it really brings the outdoors inside and the indoors out. It’s cozy, and has lots of warm natural light. On the inside, we used barn siding that belonged to the owners’ grandparents. Overall, the home blended well and everything came together. I think it’s a great representation of the fact that you can have a green home without compromising design.
NAHB: What role will green building construction play in the future of your company?
BB: Green building is my company. In the next five years I would love for all of our homes to be net-zero. This is a big goal and one we cannot do without environmentally conscious cliental who also supports this vision. However, a lot of times I don’t think we’re doing enough. With each home I feel like I keep asking myself “how can we push the bar?”