AIKEN, SC — In his opening days in office, President Barak Obama has called for a national commitment to saving energy. Additionally, he is calling for the production of alternative forms of energy and reducing the nation’s dependence upon foreign oil. Essentially, he intends to write veritable “Green New Deal” to help restore the American economy. On January 21, just about every developer in the country was planning how to claim to be ‘Green’. One developer in Aiken was already way out in front of the Green wave. Green Living in Aiken, SC is officially on the rise.
Ron Monahan, developer of ‘The Ridge at Chukker Creek’ on the Southside of the City of Aiken, got his first building permit in Aiken 18 years ago. Along with his work in Aiken he has also been building homes in Boulder, CO, where the houses he constructs exceed some of the strictest building codes in the country.
The Project Unfolds
“It’s going very, very well,” says Monahan of the project at The Ridge at Chukker Creek, which includes a 61-acre conservation easement named the Freeman Preserve. George Watt, Monahan’s architect is one of the world’s authorities on energy efficient construction and teams up with Monahan in bringing leading expertise to the project.
“Once the EnergyStar techniques and other building systems are applied to construction, these ‘green’ built homes will require only about 30 percent of the energy other houses in this market use for heating and cooling,” said Watt. “And we can do better than that,” says Monahan. “If a homeowner wants to incorporate the technology it takes, we can take them to zero energy to heat and air condition your house.”
Monahan has held several workshops for his four preferred home builders on the latest energy efficient construction techniques and technologies. Needless to say, each builder is eager to adapt to these ideas.
Homeowners at the Ridge at Chukker Creek will soon watch their power meters flow backwards. The photovoltaic cells on their roofs are feeding electricity back to the utility – earning the homeowner credit on their energy bill – which means homeowners will actually earn money sitting at home.
Needless to say, green living in Aiken, SC and green communities across the country will likely catch fire fast.
“Our concepts use new technologies and some slight changes in construction techniques that dramatically reduce the cost of energy in homes,” Monahan said. Translation? Save money up front only to save more long term.
His four preferred builders are Riverchase Construction, M.A. Scoggins Custom Homes, Witter Construction and Wolf Construction. During a recent workshop the four company owners and some of their key employees watched Energy Star Rater Don Willis of Smart Energy demonstrate the steps needed in construction to qualify houses as EnergyStar certified homes. There are several levels of EnergyStar certification and Mr. Willis gave the builders instruction on how to reach the highest, 5-star, rating, which Monahan requires.
Following the EnergyStar presentation, representatives of AirTight SprayFoam demonstrated the techniques for installing their product. AirTight SprayFoam is sprayed under the roof space and inside the walls sealing every centimeter of space, a far superior protection to standard fiberglass insulation. This one innovation alone will reduce a home’s heating and cooling bill by half. Incorporating all of these technologies allow the builder to install a smaller heating and air conditioning unit. In fact, a smaller, less expensive unit is required for EnergyStar certification.
The Three Rs
The builders are implementing techniques using recycled as well as recyclable content. They also use locally manufactured components, and either no or low VOC content. “Combining all of these techniques, including LED lighting and other innovations, such as the proper siting of the house on the property to take advantage of sunlight and other natural elements, you end up with a high-performance house,” says Monahan. “Building this way, you really feel good about what you’re doing.
“Not only is it nice to feel ‘green’, but green living saves money in the long run. These green living adaptations will pay for themselves in a couple of years. They could potentially save you thousands of dollars for the life of your home. And, they will dramatically add to the value of the house when you sell it,” Monahan said.