The city of Topeka has had building codes for a long time. While more recently adopted, Shawnee County also has certain standards that must be met by home builders. Across the country, building codes must meet a minimum standard in constructing houses.
However, according to Topeka Home Builders Association CEO Ivan Weichert, some local builders are taking quality and efficiency to a whole new level in order to meet the National Green Building Standard.
Going green from the get-go may be a little pricier, but it saves money over years of ownership, said Weichert, who recently sat down to explain the NGBS and why it’s important to homebuyers and the environment.
Q: What makes the National Green Building Standard so much more stringent than most local building codes country-wide?
Weichert: There are many differences. One of the major things is energy efficiency and materials — looking at the efficiency of building materials before committing to using them. In a bigger sense, looking at the whole product, including site design, before beginning the project.
Q: How does the building site lend to energy efficiency?
Weichert: Choosing a site that doesn’t have a lot of changes in elevation and the way the home would be positioned to the sun can affect heating and cooling costs. It’s more than that, though.
It’s also about making minimal changes to the environment. The goal is to protect water runoff and trees (and) take care of the natural habitat.
Q: Then what, once the site is selected?
Weichert: Then looking at the design of the home and resource effectiveness in all products used to build — lumber, shingles, concrete. For example, some engineered woods today are stronger materials, whereby less natural resources are required.
Reduction of waste is a consideration — pre-planning to make the best use of the materials. Drive by most construction sites and you’ll see a huge pile of waste.
These builders plan it out so they aren’t using a small piece of plywood for the last piece then throwing the majority of the sheet away.
They pay attention to the kind of equipment used for the HVAC system. Using the proper size ductwork makes a difference.
They pay attention to the kinds of and installation of doors and windows to ensure energy efficiency.
Water efficiency is another priority. NGBS requires builders to have controls on water systems to regulate the temperature and flow of water and prevent water loss.
The system can recognize when there is an emergency water situation and shut the water off.
Q: An emergency water situation, such as?
Weichert: If a laundry hose bursts, the system recognizes the abnormal use and shuts the water off so it doesn’t flood your home. It can also recognize a slow leak situation and shut the system down. And one step further, the recognition of gray water (bathtub and shower) as opposed to black water (toilet and kitchen sink). Gray water doesn’t need to go back to the treatment plant. It can be reused, for example, to water plants.
Q: What’s the key to helping people understand the value of such effort and equipment?
Weichert: That’s a part of the process — educating the community.
It’s vital to help lenders understand why these products are worth so much more so these homes appraise for their actual “green” value.
Q: How many Topeka builders are implementing these standards?
Weichert: Right now, four: Mark Boling, Keith Kerns, Ryan Passow and Mike Pressgrove. We’re hoping this movement continues to catch on in Topeka, since these standards produce better homes that will last longer and help protect the environment.
Liz Montano is a freelance writer from Topeka. She can be reached at (785) 230-3907 or firstname.lastname@example.org.