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Living Green: $500,000 home; $0 energy bill

By  Section Editor-St. Louis Business Journal

When St. Louis native David Smith set out in 2011 to build a new home for his wife Thuy and daughter Cameron, he approached the decision with the typical mindset of a new homebuyer: get the most square feet per dollar. Instead, they ended up with a home with the potential to eliminate all energy costs.

“After looking at the cost savings, it was a pretty practical choice,” Smith said.

Smith got that option through Active House, a Holland-based nonprofit organization of sustainable builders around the world. Active House had connected with Kim Hibbs, owner of Hibbs Homes, and architect Jeff Day of Jeff Day & Associates to construct the first Active House in North America in mid-2011. Hibbs said the Midwest location of St. Louis proved to be the most crucial factor to the decision and planning began later that fall.

“In St. Louis, we are what’s called a Climate Zone 4,” Hibbs said of the International Energy Conservation Code. “What Active House liked about this climate is that the prototype was going to have to perform in all conditions — harsh winters through hot summers.”

Hibbs, along with Matt Belcher, principal of Verdatek Solutions in Wildwood, started construction on Active House USA in June 2012. The construction process lasted nearly 10 months, longer than most homes because of numerous open houses and progress updates to show off the green technology.

What resulted was the Smiths’ April move-in to the first Active House in North America, located in Webster Groves and costing an estimated $500,000. What makes an Active House unique when compared with other sustainable homes is its dedication to conservation after the homeowners take the keys. Through the home’s solar panels, natural light and energy-efficient appliances, Hibbs said Active House USA has the ability to eliminate all monthly utility costs. Active House USA is certified by four North American sustainable building standards: Energy Star, EPA Indoor, Building America Builder’s Challenge and ANSI ICC-700 (also known as the National Green Building Standard).

According to Hibbs, the home cost about 5 percent more to build than a typical home of the same size (2,600 square feet), but could save an estimated $200 per month in utility costs.

In addition, the University of Missouri Energy Efficiency Research Consortium will gather data on the sustainable performance of Active House USA while the Smiths are living there. The research will help develop and improve future green building practices in Missouri.

David Smith, a CPA with Smith Patrick LLC in Brentwood, and Thuy Smith worked with Jeff Day & Associates to design the house. Interior design firm Lusso at Home personalized its feel for the Smith family. David Smith said his favorite feature of the house is its use of natural light through skylights and large, energy-efficient windows.

“We rarely turn on the lights during the day,” he said. A skylight above the stairway brings light to the main floor and beyond to the basement.

For Hibbs, the Active House USA prototype has piqued the interest of other homebuyers and owners in the area. He said the company is in the beginning stages with another family to construct an Active Home. Hibbs is also having preliminary talks with another family to completely rehab their 1920s home in Sunset Hills using the same sustainable practices. For 2012, Hibbs Homes, which did not disclose revenue, had eight projects in the works.

 

Source: St. Louis Business Journal