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HGTV Green Home 2009: What Makes it Green?

The HGTV Green Home 2009 is a 2,430 square foot single-family residence with a 610 square-foot detached garage that has achieved the highest level of green certification available, LEED Platinum. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to certify just how “green” a home is.

Learn More About Our Platinum LEED Certification.

There are seven basic sustainability areas LEED covers that are being targeted: innovation and design, location and linkages, sustainable site, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, awareness and education.

Innovation and Design

Integrated Project Planning – From the outset, designers, energy experts, and construction specialists all worked together to develop a comprehensive approach to the project. Through charrettes, coordination meetings, and complete team involvement, innovative ideas were created.

Durability Planning – A comprehensive list of durability issues were identified as key issues that must be addressed and inspected during construction. These included design details that improved the durability of the house by anticipating pests, rot, natural disasters, and controlling water inside and outside of the house.

Location and Linkages

An environmentally sustainable home is one that is conveniently located and connected to the daily services that we all need. A sustainable home makes it easy to walk to the corner store and makes use of existing infrastructure. Tradition is a master planned community that creates this convenience:

Neighborhood Services – Tradition is a community with retail, fitness, schools, dining and offices within walking distance. This reduces reliance on cars and improves convenience.

Open Space – A key part to encouraging a health lifestyle is readily accessible green spaces and parks. Tradition has numerous parks, most of which are interconnected with bike trails and walking paths. This encourages a true neighborhood experience where neighbors meet and interact.

Sustainable Sites

Another hallmark of a green home is a beautiful outdoor environment. This means protecting and enhancing the natural beauty of the site through minimal site disturbance, controlling erosion, and beautiful landscaping.

Permeable Pavement– Using permeable pavers on the driveway allows rainwater to naturally seep into the ground rather than running to the stormwater system.

Drought Resistant Landscape – Tradition engaged the landscape architecture firm of Krent Wieland Design to design a sustainable outdoor environment. Their design features native plants that are naturally drought tolerant and require less irrigation.

Hydroponic Food Source/ Vegetated Roof – Nothing is more sustainable than growing your own food, especially through a self sufficient hydroponic system, which is approximately 100,000 times more water efficient than conventional farming. The HGTV Green Home has a small hydroponic garden and also a small herb garden as part of the rooftop system.

Limited Turf – By limiting the turf around the house, the amount of time and money invested in maintenance and irrigation is reduced. Shade Trees – Large canopy trees are planned to cast shade on the patios and driveway to reduce heat build-up on site.

Light Colors – The hardscape (driveway, walkway, patio) colors are highly reflective to reduce the heat build up around the house

Water Efficiency


The HGTV Green Home includes design features that will reduce the overall water consumption by 50% over a conventional home. This not only reduces the utility bill, but reduces the community’s total demand for clean water.

Water Reuse – Tradition as a community collects stormwater from streets and stores it in a network of retention ponds. This water is then reused for irrigating of lawns.

Water efficient fixtures – Using low-flow toilets reduce water usage while maintaining water pressure. Aerators on sinks and showers are added to reduce water flow. (Products from sponsor KOHLER.)

Water efficient irrigation – Using drought-tolerant and native plants reduces the need for irrigation and fertilization. The irrigation system features a rain sensor that automatically restricts the system during wet weather. The system also uses high efficiency heads that direct the proper volume of water exactly where it’s needed.

Rainwater Harvesting – The HGTV Green Home collects rainwater from the roof into rain barrels and will be used for irrigation of the hydroponic garden and vegetated roof.

Energy and Atmosphere

Most people associate a green home with one that is energy efficient. Though there are many other factors that make a house sustainable, energy efficiency is at the heart of the issue. The HGTV Green Home will use about 50% less power than a conventional home. The following are several ways that accomplish this savings.

Insulation – The entire house, including the attic and foundation walls are insulated. The wall system is ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms), which achieves 3 to 4 times the insulation “R” Values of a conventional wall. The ceilings of the house are insulated with a sprayed foam that expands to fill every cavity and void.

Energy Star Labeled Home – The HGTV Green Home will be certified by the EPA’s Energy Star Labeled Home Program. This means that the house must exceed the minimum code requirements for energy efficiency by 20%. Energy Star also requires a third-party inspector to make sure the insulation and systems in the house are done correctly before they are covered up.

Air Infiltration – A common misperception is that a house needs to breathe. Its true that a house must be ventilated, but it should be controlled. Breathing is essentially uncontrolled air leakage. The HGTV Green Home has ventilation that pre-conditions incoming air and introduces it in a controlled manner. The amount of air infiltration is also checked by a third-party inspector.

Efficient Windows – The windows in the HGTV Green Home are among the most efficient. They reduce the amount of glare and heat gain through high performance glass. They are also well-built to limit the amount of air leakage.

Superior Heating and Air Conditioning Systems – The heating and air conditioning system has a number of features that improve efficiency:


  • Individual Controls – The system features several zones that allow for unoccupied rooms to save energy and give people greater control of the temperature in the spaces they’re using. Thermostats automatically adjust temperature settings during the day, evening and weekends to save energy.

  • No CFC Refrigerant – The system does not use any potentially harmful CFC-based refrigerants.

  • Sealed Ductwork - All ducts are sized to deliver correct airflow to each room and sealed with mastic to prevent leaks. The ducts are tested by a third party to make sure they work as planned.

  • High SEER Rating – The system has 16 SEER ratings that well exceed code requirements for efficiency.

  • Noise – The system is rated among the quietest systems available.

  • Energy Recovery Unit - The air that is exhausted is cycled through an energy recovery unit. This unit uses a radiator-like device to pre-condition the air being introduced for ventilation with the conditioned air that is being exhausted.


Water Heating – By using both solar and tankless water heaters the home will save energy by allowing the sun to create hot water, and any additional heating will be generated by the tankless heater on an as needed basis. Also, a recirculation pump has been installed to ensure that all fixtures and appliances receive hot water on demand, which increases the water efficiency of the house.

ENERGY STAR Appliances – By purchasing Energy Star Certified Apppliances (from sponsor SEARS KENMORE), the house uses 30-40% less energy and water than standard models.

Sealed Attic – The attic is sealed and insulated to reduce heat buildup in normally hot attic storage areas. This allows duct work to be contained within conditioned space and greatly improves comfort.

ENERGY STAR Lighting Fixtures – By using Energy Star Certified light fixtures, the house provides excellent lighting while reducing the amount of electricity used. Compact fluorescent fixtures are used extensively to reducing lighting loads and limit the amount of heat added to the house by lighting.

Natural Light Tubular Skylights – Westcliffe will be using tubular skylights that capture daylight and channel the light into the house, reducing or eliminating the need to use conventional lighting on a sunny day. At night, the same skylights are equipped with a compact fluorescent light kit and are used as a standard light fixture.

Solar Power – Westcliffe Residence generates some of its own electricity with solar power. The house includes a photovoltaic (PV) system that provides about 40% of its required power.

Materials and Resources

An important aspect of a sustainable house is the selection of materials that can be locally made; do not release dangerous fumes; and can be rapidly re-grown or recycled.

Local materials – Most of the materials used to construct the house were manufactured or harvested within 500 miles of the site. This reduces transportation costs and associated greenhouse gases, while encouraging a healthy local economy.

Waterproofing – Providing additional thicker flashing around windows and doors helps prevent moisture problems.

Extensive recycling – Construction waste has been separated and recycled to reduce the volume of material going to the landfill by nearly 75%.

Flooring and Tile – Both the flooring and a portion of the tile used (from sponsor SHAW) are made with recycled content.

Countertops – The countertops (from sponsor CAESARSTONE) are not only gorgeous and durable, but also made with recycled glass.

No Tropical Hardwoods – The project uses no tropical hardwoods that might endanger rainforests by encouraging unsuitable harvesting practices.

Metal Framing – The interior walls are framed with metal studs, which not only are more durable, but also are fabricated with recycled materials and are recycleable.

Synthetic Drywall – Several manufacturing processes create synthetic gypsum as a by-product. This gypsum has the exact same chemical composition but does not require mining to extract. All gypsum wallboard in the Westcliffe Residence is synthetic.

Low VOC and Microbial-Resistant Paints and Sealants – The sealants and paints used (from sponsor SHERWIN WILLIAMS) have reduced volatile organic compounds that can off-gas and release chemicals into the air. These products also have special additives that help resist mold growth.

Water Resistant Materials in Showers – All of the material concealed behind and under showers and wet areas are made of a cementitious product that is extremely decay resistant. This improves durability in case of a water leak and reduces the potential for mold growth.

Indoor Environmental Quality

It's important to control the quality of the air inside a home. This can be done by sealing off or exhausting unwanted dirt and fumes. The indoor air quality also requires reducing incoming moisture and improving ventilation.

Ventilation and Moisture Control – Every house needs fresh air. By controlling the amount of air, how it’s filtered and its temperature and humidity, the air in house can stay fresh.

Balanced System – The design and construction team carefully sized the mechanical system and ductwork in order to deliver the appropriate amount of air to every room. This eliminates areas that are too cool or hot in a room. The system also balances humidity to avoid sweaty grilles that can support mold growth.

Efficient Bathroom Exhaust Fans – The exhaust fans are tied to occupancy sensors so they run only when needed to quietly remove unwanted moisture and odors from the home.

Dirt Control – It might seem like simple housekeeping, but proving a place for people to take off and store dirty shoes, helps keep a clean environment. The HGTV Green Home also has a central vacuum system in order to control dirt inside the home.

Detached Garage – The garage is detached from the house. This prevents carbon monoxide, water vapor and other contaminates from migrating into living areas.

High Efficiency Filters – The system uses high efficiency filters that can remove even the smallest particles from the air. It also includes an ultra-violet air purifier that removes nearly all bacteria from the house.

Awareness and Education

Homeowner Education – Tradition will provide a detailed walk-through of the house and an owner’s manual. As with any complex machine, a home requires proper maintenance and management.

Public Education – The project team feels strongly that one of the benefits of the HGTV Green Home is the opportunity to educate the public on the benefits of a green home. Through public events and tours, web sites and media exposure, the HGTV Green Home can be an inspiration for all of us to be better stewards of our environment.

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