By Casey Hans
The Livingston Community News
Putnam Township native Brad Lavey has his green on.
He’s all about the green building movement, a buzz that is picking up steam and giving builders like Lavey a new focus.
Lavey, who recently received his certification in HERS – the Home Energy Rating System that rates a new or remodeled house for efficiency – has teamed up with architect-builder Brian Halprin to form Green Building of Michigan (greenbuildingofmichigan.com), a company that specializes in sustainable building practices and energy efficiency in both new and renovated houses. They look at everything from heating and cooling alternatives to using renewable materials and keeping homes healthy.
“We’re motivated to build unique structures,” said Halprin, 37. “We’re both environmentally conscious. It seemed like a natural fit.”
Lavey and Halprin contend that despite a sluggish housing market, people still are interested in building or remodeling with this approach.
Business partners Brian Halprin, left, and Brad Lavey of Green Building Services of Michigan, stand in front of the green house that Lavey is building on Pingree Road in Putnam Township. “I’ve been on site every day, either building it, or training others to do it,” he said.
“We were green by default,” said Lavey, 38. “Of course there are trade-offs. We base everything on paybacks – seven years is a good payback” for deciding to do something environmentally friendly.
To that end, Lavey is building his own family home on five acres along Pingree Road just north of M-36. Lavey, his wife and their two children hope to move in this spring. “A lot went into the energy-efficiency side,” Lavey said. “It’s a very compact design, about 2,000 square feet. Framing uses certified well-managed forest. It’s a really forward-thinking project.”
The three-story house has a 24-by-28-foot footprint and is costing the Laveys $210,000 to build. It uses everything from a central boiler for heating, cooling and hot water to a pellet stove for alternative heating on the second floor. The home has a roof shingle with a lifetime warranty, saving on landfill space and roofing costs. The Forest Stewardship Council-approved lumber used was harvested from a well-managed forest, Lavey said. It is sited to take advantage of the sun.
Open cell foam insulation being installed at Brad Lavey’s green home in Putnam Township, it expands to fill all of the voids and then is cut back flush to the face of the studs.
Eventually, he said, he hopes to install a wood burner outside to power the boiler and heat the house and grow on the site renewable crops that can be burned for fuel.
Michael Klement of Architectural Resource of Ann Arbor consults with Lavey on green building. He said Lavey’s approach is at the fore of the green movement, from the way his home is sited to the selections he has made in his housing materials.
“This is what needs to happen for us to survive,” Klement said. “We are at the very front edge of a revolution of how we’re doing things. When we, as consumers, start demanding this stuff, builders will come along with us.”
Today’s green building can mean everything from installing high-efficiency appliances to finding ways to use rainwater on a home site, said Elyse Kopietz, executive director of Green Built Michigan, the certified program of the Michigan Association of Home Builders. Livingston County has one of five chapters in the state, allowing builders to become certified in a seven-step green building process that includes everything from evaluating sites to considering renewable energy alternatives.
“One of the problems is there is no legal definition of what it means to have a green house,” Kopietz said. She noted that the group’s Web page (www.greenbuiltmichigan.org.) has links and resources.
But her organization’s approach is growing quickly. It has 160 members, with 21 new members signing on just last month.
In Livingston, there are five certified green builders in the Green Built program and two associate members who handling heating and cooling (links are on the Web site.)