Arlington Designer Homes is committed to green building for the health benefits, energy savings, and reduced environmental footprint it provides for our buyers and our community. With constantly changing regulations, technologies and products, buidling a new green home from the ground up isn't always easy - but it's always interesting!

Welcome to our behind-the-scenes blog about green building and remodeling, where you can watch a green home go up step-by-step and learn about using green building techniques for your own home. And visit our website at to learn even more about green building and remodeling.

February 27, 2014


                I just returned from the NAHB’s International Builders Show in Las Vegas. What a great experience! Our company takes part in so many different ‘behind the scenes’ activities that not only make us better at what we do but help us provide better materials as well as a more complete knowledge base to our valued clients. Taking advantage of opportunities like attending the education sessions and walking the floor to talk to ALL the company reps. Helps us to build relationships and continue to expand our understanding of Energy Efficiency and Green building. This expanded understanding helps to set us apart from other builders.

                Regular attendance at trade shows is but one of the many important things our company participates in. Andrew Moore, is Co-chair of the NVBIA Green building committee and active in the NVBIA on the executive committee and Custom Builders Council. We are also part of a buying group called CBUSA that helps us to purchase materials at a lower rate. A rate that we pass directly onto our buyers. CBUSA allows us to pool our buying power and buy at the rates of any of the national chains. These local affiliations help to grow our reach. Networking within our community is essential to what we do. As a part of the larger Building and Energy community we can work together to serve our clients.

                One example of us working together was mentioned in a previous blog post about The Energy House team. They let me do what I do. Without these collaborations we would be a lesser company offering a lesser product. But with my partners I can stand on the shoulders of those that came before me an aim higher.

                That is exactly what we are doing with our newest LEED home, aiming higher. This home with its advanced energy package, including geo-thermal HVAC will  be the best home it can be because of my partners. Partners like the USGBC that have helped to pave the road ahead of me. Using approved techniques we can build a more efficient, more comfortable, healthier home. And the consumer will know it is a better home because we will have it inspected by an independent third party who will verify it to the exacting standards as set forth by LEED for Homes.


October 24, 2013

4033 N 22nd St. Arlington, Va. 22207 For Sale!
Site Selection:
                As the old adage goes there are three important rules for selling a house: location; location; location. Well we know there is a lot more that goes into building a good quality home. However, location is a very important part of our building process.
                As Green/ Energy Efficient builders we take site selection into our building process. We believe that smart infill growth is sustainable and efficient. Most green building programs, LEED, Earthcraft, NGBS award points for proximity to community amenities such as stores, restaurants, churches, etc. If you are lucky enough to live and work in Arlington, like I am, than you know how convenient and special it is.
                Our newest house located at 4033 N 22nd St. Arlington, Va. 22207 has a walk score of 69 and a bike score of 80. Because of the great location the future owners will have the ability to walk, bike or take public transit to any location in the Metro DC area. 
                As part of our LEED rating we will gain points by showing how this infill building site will rely upon existing infra-structure rather than having to build new facilities to accommodate a new home. This site already has gas, electric, sewer and water to it. So it is a matter of merely connecting to these utilities rather than having to cut down trees to install a separate septic system for this one house, for example.
                Working in and near the communities in which we live saves us valuable resources in time and fuel expenses while helping to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions associated with these transportation costs. 28% of all energy use in the United States is consumed by transportation. 
Almost half of all energy consumption is consumed by our buildings, which is why we are working to improve the total energy efficiency of where we live. But that is another topic for another blog. Stay tuned!

October 15, 2013

Geo-thermal and the Whole House System

                Arlington Designer Homes has started drilling for our next new custom and new home For Sale: 4033 N 22nd St. Arlington, Va. 22207. We are drilling for our Geo-thermal wells. It is a very exciting time and process. We have been through county review, we have our plans and permits approved and we are ready to go.
                Geo-thermal drilling is a loud and sometimes messy process. We will be drilling 3 wells total for the two homes. The first well we are digging will be 290’ with the 2nd and 3rd being 220’ deep each. The depth of the wells is determined by the size and construction of the house. For more information on Geo-thermal systems see our blog from 11/5/2010.

                Let me take you back a few months. The first thing that you need to do when you are considering Geo-thermal well installation is to calculate the load of the house. The ‘load calculations’ are based upon the specifications of the house. In our case because we will build a tight house, 2x6” walls with exterior ‘out-sulation’, high performance windows and doors and advanced framing. Using these techniques we were able to keep the total heating and cooling load for the house down.
                What this means is that because we are designing a more energy efficient, tight house to begin with we start saving money and creating a more comfortable home immediately. Before we have even put shovel to dirt we are already reducing overall construction costs and ultimately overall operating costs for the home. Proper prior planning is a key component of the LEED certification process, more on that in our next Blog.
                Specifying and modeling the house is a key component of what Arlington Designer Homes does. We plan for the heat load based upon the super energy efficient houses we build, then we monitor how the plans and decisions we made sometimes years ago affect the energy efficiency, performance and overall comfort of the home. With the new data we can tweak our systems, update our modeling and continue to improve our systems.
                We look at the whole house, and the construction of the whole house as a systematic process. A affects B which in turn affects C. The decisions we made a year before we decided to go Geo-thermal necessarily affects the HVAC system and beyond. It changes the whole level of efficiency performance and comfort for the whole house. Having made these decisions we are excited to finally be putting them into practice.

August 20, 2013

Energy House Partners

We have started working with a new group called Energy House. I am just getting started with this group but what I can tell you is that we have an exceptional team of Energy Experts that will help Arlington Designer Homes, Inc. Produce a better more energy efficient house. For a long time we have been focused on the ‘Green home’ and we still are but now we are able to partner with energy experts who will help us get our word out there and save you even MORE green.
We participated in Energy House VI with our newest house (under contract) 2617 N. Nottingham St. It was a great success. As part of Parade of Homes and Energy House VI we had more than 300 groups through the home. We received rave reviews, they did a segment of it in a couple of our local micro news site:; the Patch and the Washington Post. It was a great opportunity for people to come in and ask questions of the experts in energy efficiency and Green building.
We will offer another such opportunity Sept. 20th-22nd at the Dulles Expo Center, Capital Home Show. Here we will have our team of experts on hand to answer general or specific questions about your home and energy needs. It is a unique opportunity to learn about some of the newer technologies, techniques and take advantage of our expert’s time to leverage your next construction project into being more successful and more energy efficient.
I look forward to what the opportunities that partnering with other area experts in the industry will offer our customers and our company. It will be a win, win, win.

July 18, 2013

Energy Star 3.0

Energy Star is an energy program developed by the EPA in the early 90s to help builders address persistent problems with energy conservation. Specifically things such as making sure there is insulation behind the tub, proper air sealing to prevent air infiltration, proper insulation installation, efficient appliances and windows, etc. Things that should have been done as a matter of course, but that consistently were found to be wanting, especially in sub-standard builders. The programs were an attempt by the EPA to make sure all builders are building to a consistent standard.
As Energy Star has evolved it has gotten more difficult to get certified and more costly. Having addressed, and to Energy Star’s credit, largely eliminated the low hanging fruit among quality builders, they are being more aggressive with Energy Star 3.0. Energy Star’s goal is to be 15% more efficient than the current energy code.  As the energy and building codes become more efficient so does the Energy Star program.
Energy Star (ES) recently upgraded from ES 2.0 to ES 3.0. As part of the transition they went from ES 2.0 to 2.5 and finally to the current version of ES 3.0. We have certified homes at all three levels of Energy Star. One of the major, and most difficult to achieve, advancements of ES 3.0 is its requirement of testing our HVAC systems to a much higher standard. Our heating and cooling systems use over 50% of our total home’s energy on average.  The fact that many home builders currently do not test their mechanical systems, which are huge energy sucker and very poorly understood, even by those in the industry is baffling to me.
What ES 3.0 does for HVAC systems is it tests them in many different ways to make sure they will perform to above the current Energy Code. It requires HVAC contractors to use the correct analysis to assure that they are sizing equipment and ducts properly to create comfortable and efficient homes, and then it checks their work. I applaud this advancement. We can and should expect more from our HVAC systems. Now we can expect more from these systems and we can prove the efficiencies and functionality of these systems through third party testing of our homes.

April 24, 2013

Comparing Green Building Certification Programs

A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak at the Arlington Chamber of Commerce about green building programs, and so I've spent some time recently thinking about and researching all the different green programs available to us in Northern Virginia. There are four programs that are the most well-known and often-used in Northern Virginia, and Arlington especially. In no particular order, they are:
Energy Star appliances are just one aspect
of Energy Star 3.0 certification.
Over my next few blogs, I'll talk a bit more about each of these programs, so this is just a quick overview to start us off.
All four programs rely on the EPA's Energy Star program in some way, shape or form. One ofArlington Designer Homes, all our homes are Energy Star certified, and it is certainly the easiest way to demonstrate that you have met a particular program's energy requirements. But because Energy Star certification is not required for Home Innovations certification, it gives the builder and homeowner more flexibility in using a variety of green features to meet certification requirements. And with all the new green building technologies available to us today, there are so many different ways to make a house more energy efficient!  All of the other programs require Energy Star certification to certify a home at a certain level. (I will talk more about Energy Star 3.0 in my next blog.)
the reasons that I like Home Innovation’s green rating system is that it allows you to certify a house without it being certified Energy Star 3.0. At
A solar water heater is another green feature that helps
improve energy efficiency and earn a home's green certification.
There are many more things that unite green certification programs than divide them. All of the programs mentioned above have categories covering different types of green features - you can refer to our blog from May 19th, 2011, to review basic categories for the Home Innovations certification program (formerly NAHB Research Center). All of the programs rely on Energy Star in
some way. And most importantly, all these programs require strict third party certifications.
Our green rater always performs a blower
door test.
Arlington Designer Homes works with Kelly Ross from Kelly Green Raters to help us certify HERS energy rater to help us quantify total home energy use. Kelly uses sophisticated computer modeling to show how the house will perform and what energy savings we can anticipate over the life of our homes. Most of our homes come in with a HERS rating of close to 50. This means that we are constructing houses that are set to run on almost half as much energy as a conventionally built home.
our green homes. Together we rely on a
All the major green building certification programs share the same goal - to encourage builders and homeowners to choose more efficient, sustainable ways to live. Some of these choices are as easy as switching out a light bulb. Others are more complicated, like designing a whole house energy package. Green programs offer us a map to help guide us towards more environmentally friendly alternatives and greater savings, comfort and health for our customers.

April 2, 2013

Unique Green Home First Completed Under Arlington's Special Use Permit

We are very proud to have just finished building one of the greenest houses in the county! 

This unique single-family home, located on the first pipestem lot to be developed in Arlington County under a new special use permit process, features a living green roof and an advanced storm water management system.

Green Living Roof Under Construction
The new 3,100 square foot, 4 bedroom, 3 ½ bath home, located at 2617 N. Nottingham St., is the first house built under Arlington County’s Use Permit process, established after the county changed its zoning ordinances for pipestem lots. The permit process included extensive collaboration among Arlington Designer Homes, county staff, neighbors and community members, and resulted in a green design that is truly one of a kind.

Responding to county and neighborhood priorities, we committed to extensive storm water management techniques and practices. Our new home showcases what in-fill construction of the future will look like. In fact, the lot will produce less storm water runoff post-construction than it did prior to development.

These storm water management techniques include multiple rain gardens, native plants and grasses, permeable pavers and a living green roof. The Liveroof® system is a modular system where sedum plants that serve to absorb rain and protect the roof are grown in trays and then transported to the building site ready to go. The advantage to this system is that you can install a fully planted green roof in a day.

The house also features an advanced insulation package including both cellulose and spray foam insulation, Energy Star Jeld-wen windows, a high-efficiency furnace with a heat pump, 1.28 gallon per flush toilets, pre-finished flooring and siding, and PVC trim for a low maintenance exterior. It will be certified under the Energy Star 3.0, Arlington County Green Home Choice, and Home Innovation NGBS Green Certified programs (expected).

Our new green home located at 2617 North Nottingham Street in Arlington will be open to the public and prospective buyers this Sunday, April 7, from 1pm to 4pm. Come check it out!