Out of the 351,465 single-family homes in San Antonio (according to the 2012 state code assessment), approximately 1,000 have been certified green by Build San Antonio Green or LEEDS. Some are located in San Antonio’s most desired neighborhoods: Lavaca/ Downtown, Stone Oak and Willis Ranch. Others are scattered throughout the city.
Lavaca, the city’s oldest neighborhood in the back of HemisFair Park, has recently come alive with new and retro green projects. CVF Homes’ architect/builder Juan Fernandez is leading the trend, winning the 2012 San Antonio Green Building award for his energy-efficient/low-maintenance home for Corrie and Jeff McPherson on Leigh Street off South Alamo.
“Because Lavaca is a registered historic district, we had to conform to neighborhood standards and included columns, a front porch and front driveway to blend in,” Fernandez said.
The structure has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a study and the popular open plan kitchen/living area, “all in just 1,700 square feet,” beamed owner Corrie McPherson. “The 1,000-square-foot terrace was a bonus, with a 6-kw solar panel system covering the roof. It faces the Tower of the Americas and is our favorite spot for relaxing and entertaining.”
The roof was designed with a pitch to conceal solar panels from street views. Among the 79 homes nationally to be certified Emerald by the National Green Building Standard, the Leigh home is the first ever to be certified Level 3 by the San Antonio Build Green program. It is also ENERGY STAR-certified with a HERS index of 17 and recognized by the WaterSense label for meeting the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) criteria for new home water efficiency.
“This house received one the city’s first permits to include a gray water recycling system, which recycles water from the master shower and sink into all toilets,” Fernandez said. “Tank-less water heaters are strategically placed at point of use, and the home is 240V 45 amp pre-wired for charging electric vehicles.”
“Lavaca is truly San Antonio’s best neighborhood,” the McPhersons proclaimed. “We can walk to all the trendy Riverwalk and Southtown restaurants, hop on major highways in minutes and mingle with the best neighbors in the world.”
G5 Home Contractors and Consultants owner Larry Graf, AIA, LEED AP, and his wife, Kathi, took advantage of a 2010 disaster that demolished a large portion of roof on their 1996-built Stone Oak home and turned green.
“We took the opportunity to add all of the energy-saving features we had wanted, lower our energy bills and respect the environment,” Larry Graf explained. “We had a 5.06-kw system installed by CAM Solar over a metal roof using S-5 clips to prevent penetration. A home energy rating by ATS engineers showed a 58 percent improvement in energy efficiency, and we were inspired to up the standard with additional sustainable features.”
Foam insulation in the attic, solar window film and ENERGY STAR-rated doors with blinds between the glass increased energy savings to 70 percent and earned a Build San Antonio Green Level 2 certification. The HERS rating went from 135 to 53, and the energy bills reduced from $360 to $110, peak summer. CPS Energy rebates (in 2010), plus a 30 percent tax credit, paid for two-thirds of the system.
“Since then, our neighbors have taken notice and added similar features to their property,” the Grafs said. “We were the second house in our Stone Oak neighborhood and have watched it grow to one of the best in the city. It is conveniently located to major highways, but still maintains the peace and quiet of the country.”
San Antonio’s Imagine Homes became the first developer in the nation to include 1.94 kw of the DOW POWERHOUSE solar shingle system on every home in Willis Ranch with upgrades available up to 5 kw.
The Persimmon 3,627-square-foot model (all homes are named after herbs or plants) features a 3.24-kw system, plus optional sealed, semi-conditioned foam insulation in the attic and walls, a tank-less gas water heater, 15 SEER HVAC, a 95 percent AFUE furnace, vinyl double-pane low-E windows, low VOC (volatile organic compounds) recycled content wood floors, low-flow plumbing fixtures, dual-flush toilets and native landscaping with drip irrigation.
The Persimmon is ENERGY STAR-3 certified by Build San Antonio Green, and it achieved a HERS index rating of 45. On average, Willis Ranch homebuyers can expect an annual energy savings of about $642. Homes range from 1,747 to 3,631 square feet, with many options available. Just in the beginning stages, Willis Ranch will have 300 homes set in a creative plan that follows the natural contour of the property with many large trees that were saved.
“Because setbacks are staggered, no two homes face or back each other, and there is more land between each unit for increased privacy,” said John Freisenhahn, co-owner of Imagine Homes (with Jim Bistoni). “Every walkway backs up to green space, making the community ideal for walking or biking. That’s why Willis Ranch is one of the best places in San Antonio to live.”