Builders’ Circle Blog: 30.78 Acres of Trees

Jim Baker, B & G Drafting

It is not too often that I get to brag about the building industry that I work in, but bragging proof came in the mail yesterday.   ENERGY STAR notified me that I had rated 38 houses that were certified as ENERGY STAR Qualified in 2011.  I knew this, but they added some information I did not know.

38 ENERGY STAR Qualified Homes is equivalent to:

  • Eliminating the emissions from 18.62 vehicles
  • Saving 112,632 lbs of coal
  • Planting 30.78 acres of trees
  • Saving home owners $16,986 on their utility bills

These 30.78 acres of trees is what caught my eye.  I like trees.  I think they are important.  The Ozark Mountains are all about trees.  Trees help do a lot of good things.  The point here is about their part in making our air quality better.  Building energy efficient homes results in a lot less coal being burned, and that does improve our air. That is also reflected in the money saved on utilities. This saving suggested here is based on a conservative HERS Rating of 85, representing a 15% energy saving.  Most of the 38 houses had HERS Ratings closer to 70, representing $34,000 in savings.

The majority of these houses were built by HBA contractors.  But, what ENERGY STAR did not know was that HBA Contractors also built 40 or so NHAB Green certified houses that also meet similar energy savings.  Add to this the fact that most of the houses built by the many CGPs ( Certified Green Professionals) would qualify for Green Certification and those 38 houses quickly become 200 plus houses.  That equals 180 acres of trees and over $200,000 of utilities saved.

While the concept of “equal to planting trees” is uplifting, Green construction practices actually save trees.  Alternate technologies like ICF or SIPs, pre-cut materials, recycling, and more efficiency by design reduce the number of trees needed per house.

The ideology of saving the planet is noble, but the real savings in money and added comfort is helping drive our market to recovery.  To date, I have not had a client ask me to help plan a house to save the globe.  The request is always the same, “I want a house that I can sustain and afford in the scary energy future.”  I totally agree, but I still like trees, and knowing that many can be saved so easily puts a smile on my face.  It’s something to brag about!

Jim D. Baker, B & G Drafting—HERS Rater, and NAHB Verifier, LEED AP for Homes