Three Cheers for the "Go Green" Polk County Builders Association Showcase Home

By Tammy Serebrin

GO GREEN! Sounds like a cheer for a football team? On the contrary, it is the cheer of the Polk County Builder's Association and their new GO GREEN Showcase Home which had its ribbon cuttion ceremony in September. Located in the Morgan Creek Preserve off Pipkin Road in South Lakeland, this 2300 square-foot home has as its head cheerleader and builder, Mike Hickman. President of Hickman Homes, Mike is exuberant as he explains how the home achieved highest marks according to industry standards: "The home surpassed all of our expectations. " Among a number of distinctions, it was first in the state to be certified a NAHB ANSI (National Association of Home Builders - American National Standards Institute) Gold level home and received the highest score possible by the Florida Green Building Coalition. It boasts an Energy Star HERS rating of 46. The lower a home's HERS (Home Energy Rating System) index, the more engery efficient it is. Each 1-point decrease from 100 in the HERS index corresponds to a 1% reduction in energy consumption. This makes the GO GREEN home, with its score of 46, 54% more energy efficient than the reference home.

Lakeland's GO GREEN home meets all the standards of the key elements of a Green Building. The home is proven to be energy efficient. Hickman estimates that the total electric costs for the year will be $765. He commented that "a lot went into the design to make it efficient." The use of solar panels at the back of the roof, facing south, feeds electricity to Lakeland Electric and provides 40% of the electricity to the house. Ten foot ceilings and an abuncance of windows allow for natural light. No windows are on the south and north sides, and the south side overhang extends as much as five feet. The solar hot water heater has a gas back-up that kicks in when necessary. All appliances, light fixtures, the double glazed windows and the roof earned the ENERGY STAR rating and all light fixtures use energy efficient, compact flourescents. The foam insulation system forms a continuous thermal barrier that insulates and air-seals the home, thus significantly reducing energy costs.

The indoor environmental air quality of the home is maintained as a result of the insulation system. The insluation is water based and does not contain formaldehyde or any volatile organic compounds. It seals out dust pollen and other allergens and minimizes the potential for condensation, mold and mildew.

Recycled content was used in the building process. All counter-tops are made from eco-friendly re-cycled glass providing a non-toxic 99% organic durable surface. Caprets are made from recycled food-grade plastic bottles. The insulation-filled, recycled concrete block walls are made of 25% recycled materials.

The GO GREEN home uses the building site in a sustainable manner. The GOLD STAR landscape utilizes a low flow irrigation system. It also utlizes a rainwater harvester, a tank that holds rainwater by capturing the runoff through a gutter system on the rooft connection via underground piping to the tank which then pumps the rainwater into irrigation lines. The sprinkler system is made from recycled plastic and the evaporation sensor in the system judges sunlight and humidity in order to gauge the water usage needed. The yard, designed by the University of Florida Extension Service and the South Florida Water Managment district, has a lawn of zoysia grass, which requires 30% less water than other common grasses. Florida friendly plants were used and designed to fit the landscape at mature growth.

When asked, "How can the rest of us make our houses 'green' and is it worth it?" Hickman states that he and other builders can "retro-fit older homes with green elements. For example, a solar panel system has an eight year return on the investment and the state is giving huge rebate incentives for green renovations."

Mike Hickman acts like a proud papa when talking about and showing off the attributes of his GO GREEN home. He emphasizes that "the most important part of this home is that all the proceeds of the sale will go to the Polk County Builder's Association Foundation for student scholarships and for PCBA's Future Builders of America (FBA) program." He boasts that FBA is active in five schools in Polk County, impacting 200 kids locally (and 1800 statewide). The home is for sale for $299,000. Hickman says that this is about "$50,000 less than what it would normally go for because many local businesses and organizations were so generous with their contributions of time, expertise and materials."

Until the home sells, the PCBA wants to educate the community. The group plans to bring in organizations to view it such as the Garden Club, Builders Association Sales and Marketing Council, Realtors, the Green Building Council, high school and college groups, as well as seminars for the public at large. Organizations wishing to tour the home or individuals who may be interested in purchasing it can contact Hickman Homes, at 863-646-1166.