A few years ago, local couple Josh and Kathy Jacobs purchased a waterfront lot on the bike path between West 4th and West 5th Streets on which to build their family dream home. They were interested in going about it in an energy efficient way, which ultimately led them to seek LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the US Green Building Council. There are many commercial LEED certified projects in Solano County’s seven cities, but no residences as of mid-August, according to the organization’s website, USGBC.org. The Jacob’s home is now under construction and they are hoping to garner, at minimum, a LEED Gold certification, the second highest level of four: LEED Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.
To reach their goals, the couple hired local architect Tom Wilson, who is LEED accredited, and Pat Donaghue, a Benicia general contractor who has built other homes with green features. “I like the renewable energy projects around town,” says Josh. “We wanted an energy efficient house. We interviewed a lot of contractors—the process took over a year. Pat is a genius. I would throw out a concept, and he would turn it into actual actions to create something useable.”
The home is a large two-story; three if you include the full basement. Extra points needed to be realized from the green aspects to offset the size. There are too many green items to the home’s construction to list here, but they include the use of Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF’s) in the basement walls, LED lighting and combined photovoltaic and hydronic heating, which, according to Wilson, is an innovation that is more commonly used in commercial construction. To use it in a home, he says, is very innovative. The home’s walls and ceiling are so well insulated that there won’t be any need for forced air heating and cooling.
They were also able to salvage much of the lumber from the original house that was on the property to use in the construction and as decoration. In the landscape, permeable pavers will be used on the driveway and a drought resistant landscape is planned.
A third-party consultant or “rater” has to be hired to ensure the standards for certification are met in the areas of sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. A project must satisfy all prerequisites and earn a minimum number of points to be certified at any of the levels.
“We want to be as close to net zero as possible,” says Josh. “The house represents getting what you want in a home, with a little forethought as to environmentally friendly products.” Once the home is finished, the owners can apply for the certification, which will be based on the awarding of points for a long checklist of items. The points earned will determine which level it might qualify for—a process that can take a year to complete. The home is scheduled to be finished in December.