Cost vs. Savings in Green Buildings

Sandra Leibowitz, EarthCraft Board Member and Managing Principal of Sustainable Design LLC, talks about cost and savings in green buildings.

Click here for this short video.





Housing 2020 – "Green Housing"

In this video, EarthCraft Board Member Sandra Leibowitz of Sustainable Design Consulting discusses how recent green/sustainability initiatives are impacting the housing market.

Homebuilder Confidence in U.S. Climbs on Improving Outlook

By Lorraine Woellert on May 15, 2013

Confidence (USHMIDX) among U.S. homebuilders improved in May for the first time in five months as buyers rush to take advantage of near record-low mortgage rates.


The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index of builder confidence rose to 44 from a revised 41 in April, the Washington-based group reported today. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for an increase to 43. Readings below 50 mean more respondents said conditions were poor.


“Builders are noting an increased sense of urgency among potential buyers as a result of thinning inventories of homes for sale, continuing affordable mortgage rates and strengthening local economies,” said Rick Judson, chairman of the trade group and a builder from Charlotte, North Carolina. “This is definitely an encouraging sign.”


Low mortgage rates, a strengthening job market and limited inventories are benefiting builders including PulteGroup Inc. and Lennar Corp. as the housing market contributes to growth this year after emerging as a bright spot in 2012. Gains in housing will help the world’s largest economy move through a global slowdown that is hurting manufacturing.


Another report today showed industrial production declined in April by the most in eight months, reflecting broad-based cutbacks manufacturing that show factories will provide little support for the economy.


Stocks trimmed earlier losses after the builder confidence report. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell less than 0.1 percent to 1,649.52 at 10:02 a.m. in New York. It closed at a record 1,650.34 yesterday.


Industrial Production

Output at factories, mines and utilities fell a more-than-forecast 0.5 percent after a revised 0.3 percent gain in the prior month that was weaker than previously reported, a report from the Federal Reserve showed today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a 0.2 percent decline. Manufacturing, which makes up 75 percent of total production, unexpectedly fell 0.4 percent, the third drop in four months.


All three components of the homebuilder survey showed improvement. The group’s gauge of the sales outlook for the next six months rose a point to 53, the highest reading since February 2007, from a revised 52.


Prospective buyer traffic also improved, to 33 in May from 30 in April. An index of current single-family home sales posted a four-point gain to 48 in May.


Survey Results

Estimates of the 51 economists in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 40 to 45. The index, first published in January 1985, averaged 54 in the five years leading to the recession that began in December 2007. It reached a record low of 8 in January 2009.


The confidence survey asks builders to characterize sales as good, fair or poor and to gauge prospective buyers’ traffic. It also asks participants to assess the six-month outlook.

Builder confidence improved in three of the four U.S. regions. Companies in the Northeast had a 10-point jump, from 31 to 41 in May. Confidence improved in the Midwest from 40 to 45 and in the South, rising from 40 to 44. Sentiment fell in the West, from 52 to 41.


Builders started work on 780,000 homes last year, a 28 percent increase from 2011 and the most in four years. Nonetheless, construction of new homes remains below the 2.07 million reached in 2005, the peak of the housing boom.


Inexpensive borrowing costs are helping to attract would-be homebuyers. The average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate purchase loan was 3.42 percent for the week ending May 9, down from 3.83 percent a year ago, according to McLean, Virginia-based Freddie Mac. The 30-year rate reached a record low of 3.31 percent in November.


To contact the reporter on this story: Lorraine Woellert in Washington


To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at

Thousands enjoy Earth Day festivals



Richmond Times-Dispatch | Posted: Sunday, April 21, 2013 12:00 am


Julian and Alex Moya eagerly grabbed handfuls of dirt and began filling their hand-painted plant boxes.


When asked what sorts of plants they’d like to grow in them, Julian, 5, asked for a tomato plant, while his brother, 6, chose a pepper plant.


The dirt and plants were courtesy of Backyard Farmers, a Richmond-based eco-friendly services company.


The boys’ mother, Wendy Moya, said her family lives in an apartment at the moment but soon will be moving to a home in Richmond’s North Side — where her sons can plant all the vegetables they can eat.


The Moyas were among thousands of folks who spent a beautiful Saturday afternoon at Earth Day festivals in the city.


The RVA Earth Day Festival, now in its fourth year, took place in the Manchester area of the city, from Plant Zero to Fourth Street.


More than 6,000 people visited last year, and organizers estimated at least that many Saturday.


Food vendors sold locally sourced fresh food on compostable dinnerware. A variety of others offered advice on everything from compost and rain barrels to making homes more energy-efficient.


Ethan Seltzer, founder and executive director of locally based Energy Cycle, ran a booth Saturday featuring pedal-powered phone-charging stations.


Anyone needing to recharge a cellphone was able to do it — if they were willing to hop on a bicycle.


His company, he said, educates the public about energy conservation.


“We want people to get on bikes and understand how much energy it takes to produce electricity,” he said. For example, adults pedal about 100 watts per hour and that intensity produces about 21/2 minutes of electricity for your standard electric oven.  In other words, “that wouldn’t even heat it up.”


Across the river at the 17th Street Farmers’ Market, the Richmond Earth Day Festival featured more vendors, food and entertainment.


EarthCraft Virgnia Executive Director KC McGurren spent the day talking with folks about the nonprofit’s services.


EarthCraft, a third-party certifiication organization, often works with builders and contractors during a home’s construction to make sure the home is as eco-friendly as possible.


In all, it has certified more than 2,000 single-family homes across Virginia as well as 10,000 multifamily units.


“A lot of people think ‘green’ building and they think solar panels and bamboo flooring,” McGurren said. But the process for building an eco-friendly home should start midconstruction, she said, and include such areas as heating and air systems.


Near the EarthCraft table, a big draw was a small pen containing a mother goat and her 3-day-old babies. But they weren’t there just for the cuteness factor.


The goats belong to Jace Goodling and are part of his company, Goat Busters.


Let a few — or 40 — of them loose on a yard filled with unwanted brush or weeds and they’ll take care of it in no time.


“Nature’s weed eaters,” Goodling called his goats. He said he has been called to clean up small yards and those as large as 12 acres.


“We’re cheaper than any landscape company — and we fertilizer for free,” he joked.
(804) 649-6945

EarthCraft COMMERCIAL for Earth Day


This Saturday, April 20th 2013, EarthCraft Virginia will be at Earth Day in Richmond, Virginia.  Check out our featured commercial for more information.  Come by our booth to find out about everything we have going on and to enter in our raffle.  It’s a great prize; you won’t want to pass it up!

Coffee with KC McGurren


Listen to this two-part interview with EarthCraft Virginia’s Executive Director, KC McGurren, from VHDA’s blog.


Crozet Is Site of First Triple-Certified House in Virginia

Click here for link to article.

Sylvia Hallock and Rosa Jimenez-Vazquez will soon move into their new home on Orchard Drive in Crozet, the first in Virginia to be certified by three programs that promote environmentally sustainable, universally accessible, and super-durable construction. They showed off their 2,200-square-foot home, built by Craig Builders, to the public March 16 with an open house.


The house is based on a popular one-level Craig design, but the pair added windows and made sure it conformed to all the building specifications that the certifications require.


Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Hallock, the first Virginia state director for Habitat for Humanity, sits on the boards of the EarthCraft Virginia and Easy Living Home and  expects soon to be on the board of Fortified Home (all non-profit organizations). Hallock and Jimenez–Vazquez put their money where their values are in executing the project. Their goal is to improve “green” homes as much as possible.


“The design is for seniors and for people of any age who might be in a wheelchair. There are no steps anywhere; there’s a roll-in shower, for example,” explained Jimenez–Vazquez, a retired professor of social work. She immigrated to the U.S from Cuba in 1961 as a young lawyer.


EarthCraft House certification emphasizes health considerations, energy and water conservation, air quality, quietness, durability and comfort. Hallock said that she expects to pay an electric bill on the order of $60 per month. There are 140 builders in Virginia that build to EarthCraft standards, Hallock said, and so far about 2,200 homes in the state have been certified. First organized by “green” home builders in Atlanta, EarthCraft is now established across the southeast U.S.

Rosa Jimenez –Vazquez and Sylvia Hallock

Rosa Jimenez –Vazquez and Sylvia Hallock


Easy Living Home stresses factors such as no-step entries, wide doors and maneuvering spaces, and other features that improve convenience.


Fortified Homes certifies a house’s ability to withstand very high winds—up to 130 miles-per-hour—hail and severe storms through special roof-securing measures. The windows can resist the same force.


The house has 2-by-6 stud walls with blown cellulose insulation and a high efficiency heating and cooling system run at variable speeds by a programmable thermostat. It operates with only three percent leakage. Normal systems leak about 25 percent of the air they heat or cool. The house and lot cost a total of $375,000.

Net-zero energy apartments to open in Church Hill

Beckstoffer’s Mill in Church Hill might be the first net-zero apartment building in the city.


BY CAROL HAZARD Richmond Times-Dispatch | Posted: Saturday, March 30, 2013 12:00 am


The Better Housing Coalition is giving green building a new meaning.


The housing group will open seven net-zero energy apartments Monday for low-income people 55 and older at Beckstoffer’s Mill on the 1200 block of North 28th Street in Church Hill.


The nonprofit, whose mission is to change lives and transform communities through high-quality, affordable housing, has built to energy efficiency standards since 2006.


This marks its first net-zero energy, multifamily development — possibly the first in Richmond.


The gray brick and corrugated metal building with high-performance insulation harvests energy through photovoltaic panels to produce electricity and solar thermal panels to produce hot water.


As a net-zero building, the building will not use electricity from Dominion Virginia Power unless the sun does not shine for several days and it has used up its surplus energy.


“Net-zero energy is the goal, but the determination as to whether the net-zero balance is achieved usually takes 12 months,” said Bob Newman, vice president and chief operating officer of the Better Housing Coalition.


“Much of the ultimate performance will be subject to the behavior of the residents,” he said.


“By Earth Day 2014 (in April), we should have almost a full year of experience to report.”


The electrical meter — a net metering system — runs forward on rare occasions when electricity is used.


But it also runs backward, providing a credit for energy that isn’t used. On sunny days when it is cranking out more electricity than needed, it returns electricity to the grid that other Dominion Virginia Power customers can use.


About 800 of Dominion Virginia Power’s 2.3 million customers have been connected to net metering systems, said Jim Norvelle, spokesman for the energy company.


The system, which was authorized in 2000, is relatively new. “Interest grew as the cost of solar panels began falling in recent years,” Norvelle said.


Each unit at Beckstoffer’s has an energy recovery ventilation system that brings fresh air in and takes stale air out. Heating and air conditioning is provided through ductless mini-split systems, eliminating cold or hot spots and providing a uniform temperature.


The building was designed to benefit from as much natural light as possible from southern exposure.


Windows are high-performance, double-glazed glass. Low-flow toilets preserve water and all the units come with Energy Star appliances.


“As with most new technologies, the cost for early adopters is higher than the cost for the mass market that swells later,” Newman said.


The total construction cost was $854,000. Federal renewable energy tax credits and tax credits for affordable housing helped make the project a feasible investment, Newman said.


“By being among the first net-zero, multifamily developers in Virginia, we hope these apartments will serve as a working model for other housing developers and help galvanize the net-zero market to lower future costs.”


The one-bedroom units average 700 square feet and rent for an average $645 a month, which includes water, sewer, trash and electricity but not Internet or cable TV.


The Better Housing Coalition didn’t stop with the building in its efforts to benefit from sustainable and renewable energy sources.


Landscaping is made up of native and drought-resistant plants Knock Out roses, firepower nandina, sweetbay magnolia and carissa holly.


Rain water for landscaping irrigation is collected in a cistern beneath the sidewalk.


“It’s one thing for an individual to build a $750,000 house focused on conservation and renewable energy, but it’s another for the Better Housing Coalition to provide it for affordable housing,” said Philip Agee, technical manager at EarthCraft Virginia, a green building program for builders.


The net-zero building is next to the original H. Beckstoffer’s Sons Lumber & Millwork, an adaptive reuse project by the Better Housing Coalition that transformed a lumber mill into 22 mixed-income apartments. It opened in November 2011.


Across the street from the net-zero apartments is a 32-unit EarthCraft-certified building that the agency is building, also for people 55 and older. It is set to open in June.


The block includes an undeveloped parcel and the coalition is exploring what type of housing to build there.

(804) 775-8023

EarthCraft Virginia Recognizes Virginia’s Premier Home Builders

For Immediate ReleaseEarthCraft_Virginia-logo 5

March 26, 2013
Contact: Stuart Raper, Director of External Affairs
EarthCraft Virginia


EarthCraft Virginia Recognizes Virginia’s Premier Home Builders 
4th Annual Sustainable Leadership Award Nominations Announced

Richmond, VA – March 26, 2013 – EarthCraft Virginia is proud to announce the nominees for the 4th Annual EarthCraft Virginia Sustainable Leadership Awards, the organization’s yearly awards presentation to recognize Virginia leaders in the adoption of green, sustainable housing. Nominees will be recognized and winners will be announced at the awards ceremony, being held on March 28th at 4:00 p.m. at The SunTrust Building in downtown Richmond. The event promises to draw roughly 150 individuals representing non-profit and for-profit housing providers and developers, EarthCraft sponsors, affordable housing advocates and those interested in creating green housing opportunities in Virginia.


Since EarthCraft Virginia’s adoption in 2006, residential green building efforts in Virginia have far surpassed national averages. EarthCraft Virginia has certified over 1,800 homes and almost 10,000 multifamily dwelling units to date, and the presentation of the Sustainable Leadership Awards is a celebration of all those who have helped make these numbers possible.


Mike Hawkins, AICP, PhD, Managing Director of Community Outreach at Virginia Housing Development Authority, will deliver the keynote address. Hawkins will share his perspectives on current trends and opportunities within Virginia’s housing market, speaking specifically to the importance of partnerships and the critical role that EarthCraft plays in the advancement of high quality, affordable housing.


Awards and nominations were selected based on projects completed in 2012. This year’s award categories and nominees include:


Single Family Builder of the Year

-Better Housing Coalition – Richmond, VA

-J. Hall Homes, Inc. – Fredericksburg, VA

-Southern Development Homes – Charlottesville, VA


Single Family Project of the Year

-3441 Little Hunting Creek Drive, Alexandria VA – Daffan Homes

-310 6th Street, Charlottesville, VA – Latitude 38, LLC

-1628 Matthews Street, Richmond, VA – MDA Homes, LLC


Multifamily New Construction Project of the Year

-The Jefferson Union, Wytheville, VA – Wytheville Redevelopment & Housing Authority

-The Crossings at Fourth & Preston, Charlottesville, VA – Virginia Supportive Housing

-Piedmont Lane, Fauquier County, VA – Windy Hill Foundation and TM Associates Management, Inc.


Multifamily Renovation Project of the Year

-Lynchburg High Apartments, Lynchburg, VA – Lynchburg Covenant Fellowship

-Riverside Place Apartments, Abingdon, VA – People, Inc.

-Colonial Village, Arlington, VA – Wesley Housing Development Corporation and Wiencek & Associates


Multifamily Developer of the Year

-GEM Management – Charlotte, NC


Multifamily Contractor of the Year

-Community Housing Partners – Christiansburg, VA


Habitat for Humanity Affiliate of the Year

-Habitat for Humanity in the Roanoke Valley – Roanoke, VA

-Hanover Habitat for Humanity – Mechanicsville, VA

-Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity – Franklin, WV


Most Energy Efficient Home of the Year

-310 6th Street, Charlottesville, VA – Latitude 38, LLC


Visionary Award

-To be announced on March 28th


Event website

About EarthCraft Virginia 
EarthCraft Virginia, a 501c3 non-profit, was established in 2006 in partnership with the Home Builders Association of Virginia and Southface Energy Institute with assistance from the Virginia Community Development Corporation. The EarthCraft House program, originally founded in 1999 by non-profit Southface and the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association, serves as a blueprint for energy and resource efficient homes built in the Southeast. Throughout the Southeast the program has certified over 8,000 homes and 17,000 multifamily dwelling units. For more information on EarthCraft or EarthCraft Virginia, please visit and

EarthCraft Virginia’s partners include Southface Energy Institute, the Home Builders Association of Virginia, Habitat for Humanity of Virginia, and Virginia Housing Development Authority.

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4th Annual Sustainable Leadership Awards


The 4th Annual Sustainable Leadership Awards will be held this Thursday, March 28th, from 4-6:30PM on the 24th floor of the SunTrust Building in Richmond, VA.

Come celebrate with us as we recognize the greatness in green-building from around the state.

Click here for more information and to purchase your ticket.

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