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.

September 24, 2010

Saving Money by Going Green

I received a question the other day that I get quite a bit.
How much does it cost per square foot to build a house?
The real answer is, “It depends.”  There are companies out there (mostly large national or regional companies) that advertise set prices of $80 per square foot. It sounds like a great deal, but what the ads don’t usually tell you is that this price doesn’t include permits, site work, sewer and water connections, landscaping, experienced construction supervision, etc. – the list goes on. Anyone can give you a $80 s/f price when you pull things like site supervision out of the equation.
There are people out there who can do it cheaper than a smaller custom builder can, but can they do it better? I believe the answer is no. When you start to sacrifice supervision, or hire less-experienced or untrained crews to cut costs, you get an inferior product. 
(To determine how much it’s really going to cost to build your home, you have to first ask yourself what you want to have in your house. Every decision that a customer makes has a direct result on the final “per square foot” price. If you choose to upgrade your kitchen countertops or flooring, the total house costs will go up.  Another factor that should be calculated into prices is the overall operating cost of the house. Square footage is like a pyramid. The bigger your house, the more overall costs you will have to pay. You have to buy the land, you have to pay for the materials and labor for a bigger home, you have to pay taxes and maintenance, then you have to heat, cool and clean your house. )
There is another way to reduce the costs of building your home that doesn’t require you to sacrifice quality. If you build smarter, you can save a lot of money over the long run. At Arlington Designer Homes, we don’t think bigger is better – we think smarter is better.  
Spray-in foam insulation costs a bit more upfront, but more
than pays off for itself with reducing heating/cooling costs
and will actually save you money over the long term.
If you are able to recycle your construction materials (see previous blog entry), you will save money on disposal costs. If you install a better insulation package, you will save money on future energy costs. If you spend the money now on a more efficient hot water heater, you can pay it off with reduced operating costs in just one year, and for the next 20 years have more money in your wallet. All of these green improvements translate into a house that can be significantly more cost effective to run. Think about cutting your house’s operating costs in half and saving the other half over the next 20 years. If you haven't, maybe you should.

September 21, 2010

Protecting Trees and Reducing Waste

It took months of planning, design and consultation with
city government and arborists before we even got to
this phase of construction!
Welcome to Arlington Designer Homes’ newest GREEN project! I hope that we can use this project to help guide people who might be interested through the green home building process. We have the fortune to be building two unique, new single family homes, side-by-side, in Falls Church City. One of these homes has already been sold; one is FOR SALE.
When you decide to use green building methods to construct a new home, the process should be started as soon as possible. From lot selection to floor finishes, nearly every decision you make will impact the home you are building and could potentially affect green aspects and efficiencies that you want to incorporate into your home. We’ve found that to minimize stress and headaches later on, it’s best to start thinking about green building at the very start of the design and construction process.
Our current green homes are being built in Falls Church, VA. Falls Church City bills itself as "Tree City USA", and the city government has taken some extraordinary measures (which some say far exceed the city’s legal rights), to protect trees.
Also, this area of Virginia is protected by some of the most far-reaching land protection measures in the country. These measures were enacted to protect one of our greatest natural resources, the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (CBPA) governs everything that we are able to do on any lot inside the designated area.  The CBPA  limits clearing and grading, proscribes runoff protection measures, and includes canopy calculations that guide planting trees after construction.
So, as soon as we selected our lots and began looking at home design with our clients and our architect, we had to make sure that we would be able to comply with the strict environmental protection measures mandated by the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act and by Fall Church City.
After months of discussions with Falls Church, and lots of good  back-and-forth with our arborist, we were able to come up with some solutions to make sure we would comply with all relevant regulations and protect the environment – and trees! - during the construction process. One thing that we are doing to recycle materials and preserve site conditions is to mulch all of the organic material possible into the soil and leave it onsite to act as root protection for existing trees. This green practice not only improves the soil condition, but also reduces the amount of waste that needs to be trucked off site and then either re-purposed or disposed of.
Throughout the construction process we are incorporating a systematic approach to re-using and recycling our construction materials. We sort all materials on-site in different locations in order to re-use smaller pieces of lumber, rather than cutting an existing 8' 2x4 for a 2' block. This not only reduces the amount of waste we produce but it also reduces the overall costs of the project and increases the overall efficiency. Once we have pre-sorted the material, we contract with an offsite company that hauls off the material and recycles up to 90% of all of the waste we produce. Since we started this practice we have cut all waste hauled off site by half!

September 20, 2010

Want to learn more about green home building or remodeling? Welcome!

Hello, and welcome to our new blog. You can find all the information you need about our company, Arlington Designer Homes, from the attached contact links. But I also wanted to include a little bit about me - the author of this blog - before moving forward.
Our most recently-completed custom green home is the
first house in Arlington (and only the 6th in the state!)
to be awarded NAHB GOLD certification for its
green features.

My name is Andrew Moore and I’m the President of Arlington Designer Homes, Inc. I started in the construction business when I was old enough to hold a rake. I learned the business from the ground up from my father, William Moore. The whole construction business has changed A LOT since that time. I was looking at the construction documents for the first house we built back in 1978 (where I now live with my family), and it is two 12"x18" pieces of paper that contain all the information a carpenter was given to build the house. These days I can't get all the information I need for a grading plan alone on two 12"x18" pieces of paper.
I’ve spent a lot of time and money over the past decade going to 'green' classes and educating myself about green building. I am a Certified Green Professional, and a Residential Construction Supervisor, as well as a contributing member in both my local building industry association (NVBIA), as well as the National Association of Home Builders, and our Green Building committee.
What I have learned is that I learn the most from doing, and being a part of a larger 'green' community. It is the interactions that I have with HERS raters, Spray Foam installers and building officials that really get me thinking. The green building field is still emerging, and constantly changing. There are new technologies coming out every day that we have to keep on top of. It is a great challenge, but one that I really enjoy. All of us at Arlington Designer Homes are passionate about green building, for the benefits it offers our customers and the communities we live in, as well as our own families and our contractors.
All the education, time and money invested in growing our green business becomes worth it when you have a success like we had this week.
This week, we were able to certify our first (and the first in Arlington County) NAHB Gold home, with a HERS rating of 55.
This means that our house will save its new owner significant money by operating 45% more cost effectively than a standard home built today.  We are among only 6 houses in the entire state of Virginia to be certified Gold by NAHB!

So, welcome to our green homes blog, and please stay tuned! Soon we’ll start providing regular behind-the-scenes updates on a couple of green homes that we’re currently building. If you’ve ever thought about building a new home, or are pondering a remodeling project, and you’re interested in green building, this is the place to learn what you really need to know before you get started. And if you have any questions, let me know!