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Tips On Green Design for Your Home: An Interview with Blake Brewster of Brewster Builders, Inc.

By Blake Brewster

Tell us a little bit about your experience, company history and the services you offer.

We are a residential and light commercial construction and remodeling company. We have been in business since 1988 here in the metro Atlanta area. We do all types of construction projects including 'green' custom homes and remodeling projects, additions, and commercial build-outs. We are qualified to do Earthcraft certified new home and renovation projects, a green building program offered through a partnership between the Greater Atlanta Home Builders and Southface Energy Institute. We have been long standing members of both organizations as well as having met the qualifications to be designated a Certified Professional Homebuilder by the NAHB for many years as well.

What are the main differences between the process of green building and a regular building project?

To me the biggest difference is in the level of performance, quality, and design. The basic term 'green' usually means a higher level of energy efficiency, sustainability, and indoor comfort.

Can you explain a little about what sustainability means for green builders and homeowners?

Sustainability to me means making a home that will last, using as many locally sourced and sustainably harvested materials as possible, of good quality and durability, which are designed to reduce energy needs while creating a healthy environment within.

What are some of the misconceptions you've come across about green design?

The biggest misconception is that something is 'green' or it's not 'green' as opposed to recognizing it is a continuum of varying levels of 'green'. There are so many possible 'green' features of a project, not just an absolute declaration. It generally begins with constructing a tight building envelope and then efficiently heating and cooling it; but it also incorporates the selection of various design features, products, and materials, all of which together work to create the 'greenness' level of a building. One thing to point out is that what used to be considered a 'green' level of building has become standard building code. In GA for example, what used to be energy efficient windows 5 years ago are now required in the standard building code.

What are some of the most popular green design features for homes in your state?

It starts with a tight building envelope which includes good quality, durable, efficient doors and windows. We also like to use foam insulation if the budget allows. Higher efficiency Hvac equipment. Low VOC construction materials and paints. Water saving plumbing fixtures. Sealed fireplace units. Tankless water heaters. Many, many choices and options to consider depending on the level of 'greenness' desired and budget considerations.

What advice would you give a homeowner who wants to use solar or green design in their remodel, but they have a limited budget?

Start with a well designed project, then install good quality windows and doors, do air sealing and insulate to the highest level you can afford, and use reasonably high efficient Hvac systems. Then begin to look at the next level of options to continue to improve upon it; like perhaps using a solar water heating system or better ventilating bath fans, locally sourced flooring materials, etc. The more exotic the sometimes more expensive so make sure to do the basics properly first. A solar cell electrical system costs a lot of money and will not be of much help if the building itself is not air tight and well insulated. But above all consult a design professional familiar with green building practices to help consider all your options. Also, on a remodeling project, consider having an 'energy audit' done to examine and test existing conditions and performance of the home to identify any problems or conditions that should be addressed while you are remodeling.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you and your company?

We can be reached through our email address or call us at 404-872-0997. You can also check out our website

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