Building Green Turns Platinum in Orange County

by Larry Wachtel, CSI, CDT, JELD-WEN Windows & Doors

(Editor’s Note:  Larry Wachtel joined JELD-WEN® Windows & Doors nearly 30 years ago and serves as a JELD-WEN architectural consultant, covering the Northwest, Alaska, and Hawaii.  He is a former allied Board of Directors member of the AIA chapter in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at (503) 720-3969.)

From Architectural West May/Jun ’10

Orange County, Calif., is one of the more challenging areas in which to build sustainable homes.  The county’s stringent environmental codes pose strict standards on architects at every turn, but with dedication and a desire to achieve a certain level of certification, it can be done.

         Case in point:  local real estate developer Steve Blanchard was after the greenest home in Orange County when he began construction on his 5,000-square-foot residence in 2009.  The Costa Mesa Green Home, as the project is known, was designed by David Gangloff, of David Gangloff Architects, Ladera Ranch, Calif., to be a modern interpretation of the California Craftsman style and serve as proof that sustainability and design can work hand-in-hand.

         The home was constructed using the most innovative practices, and Blanchard took diligent care to save energy, water, and natural resources while building a more durable, healthy home for his own family.  He also used the latest building products that offer great form and function.

         After a year of construction, the result was a house that was certified Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) for Homes Program.  Blanchard’s home accumulated 104 points in the rating, four more than it needed for Platinum certification.  Here is how the windows and doors helped achieve the LEED Platinum milestone.

         Gangloff needed the windows to contribute to the home’s sustainable design and build plan.  Energy efficiency was a top priority, so to reduce demands on the heating and cooling system and increase day-lighting views, the building’s envelope was tightly sealed against air infiltration, insulated beyond recommended R-values, and fitted with high-performance, ENERGY STAR®-qualified JELD-WEN® Clad-wood Custom Wood windows and patio doors with double-pane, low-E glass.  The units offered a NFRC label with a U-value of 0.4 or less and a SHCG of 0.4 or less to keep solar heat gain to a minimum.

         “In the southern California climate, the low-E glass is important to keep the sun’s rays out so we don’t have to run the air conditioner as much,” Gangloff said.  “We also achieved the protection we needed without unwanted glass color tint or mirror-like reflective films that would detract from the design.”

         The area is also prone to terrific ocean breezes, a natural element that windows could help exploit.  Gangloff designed the windows to catch prevailing winds and provide cross ventilation, including elevated windows in the family area for stack-effect exhaust that flushes out hot air and reduces the reliance on the HVAC system.

         To ensure that the wood windows would stand up to the coastal elements, units were made with JELD-WEN’s AuraLast® wood, which is treated to the core with a water-based, vacuum-pressure process that is free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

         For years, the myth of sustainable building was that great looks had to be sacrificed.  Not so anymore.  The windows in the Costa Mesa Green Home contributed energy efficiency and longevity to the project, but they needed to deliver on one more benefit:  style with sustainability.  To complement the home’s exterior color palette, the windows with aluminum metal cladding tie in with the exterior doors, wood trim, and steel roof for elegant, coordinated curb appeal.

         “In addition to their energy-efficient features, the windows were chosen for high durability and aesthetics,” said Gangloff.  “The wood adds a warmth and timelessness to the Craftsman-themed interior, while the aluminum cladding ensures a virtually maintenance-free exterior, reducing the need for frequent painting while providing a protective armor against weathering.”

         In the end, the Costa Mesa Green Home came out just as Blanchard and Gangloff envisioned – with world-class levels of sustainability that complement the stunning visual style.  “Except for the array of photovoltaic panels on its southern facing roof, you would not know this home was green,” said Gangloff.

         The lessons learned from the Costa Mesa Green Home are twofold: 1) windows and doors can add sustainability and great looks; they don’t have to be mutually exclusive; and 2) even in the toughest code environments, sustainable building is possible.

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