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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Newest “Green”: Geothermal and Dual-Flush Toilets

By Ed Kiersh

If you thought a solar cell-covered roof was “green” cool, Westport now has an environmentally sensitive “high performance” house.WestportNow.com Image
The house at 122 Bayberry Lane has the latest “green” systems which could mean up to $8,000 savings in annual utility bills, according to builder Barry Katz. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

The $3.695 million 5,750-square-foot colonial at 122 Bayberry Lane offers a glimpse into the Green Revolution and the future.

Longtime Westport builder Barry Katz recently completed the house that features a geothermal heating and cooling sytem, formaldehyde-free plywood, water-saving dual-flush toilets, and zero volatile organic compounds.

“I feel houses should not only keep you warm and dry, but they should also keep you healthy,” said Katz, who has spent years researching “green” refinements.

These include specially engineered lumber and roofing shingles coated with 3-M granules that deflect the sun’s heat.

But even though Katz estimates there will be up to $8,000 annual savings in utility bills from the geothermal system (which utilizes underground water from a 1,000-foot deep well and basement heat exchangers, or pumps, that move the water) it’s still debatable if buyers are ready to pay a higher upfront price in return for long-term savings.

“It’s great for the buyer to purchase a house that already has these energy saving features, but not everyone is attuned to the benefits of filtered water, zero VOCs and bamboo flooring,” said Prudential real estate agent Darcy Sledge.

“The price tag for a geothermal system (said to be $60,000 for this particular home) is expensive right now. Yet consumers couldn’t fail to be excited by having no fuel bills. This adds to resale value.”

Katz agrees that his electrostatic air cleaners which eliminate airborne pollen and mold, and the meticulously applied foam insulation made from soy beans demand a certain sophistication among prospective buyers.

Despite feeling proud about building Westport’s showcase “green” home (another spec house on Panhandle Lane does have a geothermal unit), he wondered aloud, “I don’t know if customers will be willing to pay for the green (in the this house). It’s a big question.”

Yet energy efficiencies and cost savings are not Katz’s main selling points. A “green” consultant, who also advises clients about updating existing homes, he feels the Bayberry colonial offers incalculable health benefits.

“In the last 25 years asthma and allergy rates skyrocketed mainly because people were building chambers of unhealthy chemicals,” said Katz, who lists all of the home’s “green” features on his www.katzhome.com Web site.

“But I installed two energy recovery ventilators insuring a continuous supply of fresh healthy air. I also used an engineered foundation system that uses much less concrete. That’s very environmentally friendly since a lot less Co2 is produced.”

Sledge is also excited by Katz’s pioneering effort. 

“Geothermal heating and cooling and other ‘green’ enhancements are so new to our area that there is not even a category for them in the (real estate) listings,” she said.

“That makes it vital for Realtors and buyers to educate themselves, to determine what’s important to them, and what their options are. This is an exciting new world.”

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Posted 07/31/07 at 12:22 AM  Permalink



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Congratulations! Thank you, Barry Katz, for constructing a house that is healthier for the occupants, more energy efficient and better for the environment. It is about time builders in this country moved in the “green” direction!  A year ago my friends in Germany used the geothermal system in the 13 unit apartment building they constructed in Munich. It is a great success; they already saved thousands of dollars on their heating bills. Less pollution and less dependency on oil just makes so much sense, I would like to update my existing home. Has anyone figured out a way to make it affordable for a middle class family?

Posted by Carol Mueller on July 31, 2007 at 02:24 PM | #