Greener BeeGreen GadgetsGreen-build: The update

The green-build home debuted three years ago this month, but it wasn’t until December of the following year — 2010 — that it found a buyer.

Farrah and Shad Roberts had lived a total of 12 years in Germany and Japan, where they experienced a pervasive emphasis on natural resource conservation, so they were excited to find the green-build home in Bettendorf.

“I started house-hunting from Germany online and was attracted to that: the green house philosophy of the Europeans,” Farrah said.

“And when I saw the home in person, I fell in love with it.”

The Bettendorf home was built to the silver level of what was then the National Association of Home Builders’ green building guidelines. To reach the different levels, a builder earned points in various categories, seven in all. Some features were obvious, such as energy and water efficiency, and some less so, such as the distance materials traveled to reach the site or the use of rain gardens that conserve water.

Both the homeowners and builder Ryan Windmiller, who was the general contractor for the house, are delighted with the home’s energy efficiency.

“It’s better than we projected,” Windmiller said.

When the home was finished, Alan Anderson, a third-party green-build verifier from Peoria, Ill., estimated a total annual utility bill of $2,408 — $1,059 for gas, $929 for electricity and $420 for service charges.

The reality for the 12 months of January 2011 to December 2011 was $1,530.68 — $692.15 for gas and $838.53 for electricity, including service charges.

Tim Grabinski, the director of communication planning and advertising for MidAmerican Energy Co., said it’s impossible to say whether households in general spend more on one type of energy than the other, but that it is not uncommon to spend more on electricity because of the number of electrical appliances and gadgets in use nowadays.

The Roberts home is 1,940 square feet on the main level, with about 1,500 square feet of finished space on the lower level.

It has a gas furnace, water heater and stove/range. The washer and dryer are both electric, and Shad runs a lot of computer equipment due to the nature of his work, although he has set up his computers to shut off automatically or go into “sleep” mode when not in use.

He also has used a “kill a watt” meter to measure the usage of almost everything in the house. “Things that I found to be power hogs or using energy when not being in ‘use,’ I either eliminated or put on green auto switches,” he said.

Most of the lights are compact fluorescents and he is “just waiting for LEDs (light-emitting diodes) to come down in price to make the next step to higher efficiency.”

The home at Devils Glen Road and Field Sike Drive had an asking price of $419,900 and sold for $335,000 about 15 months after it was finished. Windmiller said the lower cost likely had to do with the home’s lot, positioned next to high-traffic, high-speed Devils Glen Road.

“The lot detracted,” he said. “I think if it (the home) had been in the neighborhood, we would have gotten around the asking price.”

The Robertses found the lot overexposed to traffic, too, and received a variance to install a 6-foot wood fence all around their backyard, including the frontage along Devils Glen that is considered a second front yard.

“When I explained that it was a safety issue, they (city officials) had no problem,” Shad said.

Now, son Lennon, 2½ can run around in the backyard in safety, there are no bicyclers or joggers from the recreational trail cutting through the property and the enclosed area has the feel of a private retreat.

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