What makes a good home? Sturdy walls, hurricane-rated windows, fine and fancy appliances. What makes a smart home? One that can utilize simple concepts and smart technology while actually saving the homeowner money.
Ask Steve A. Hennell of Steven A. Hennell Inc., Custom Home Building and Remodeling. Last year, the Marco Island custom home builder won the Aurora Award for “Green New Construction” at the 2014 Southeast Building Conference (SEBC) for his Florida Green Building Certified Model Home at 316 Bald Eagle Drive. The home now serves as the model center for Hennell and consists of three bedrooms, three baths with a den and 2,310 square feet under air.
It was no surprise to Marco Islanders that Hennell was recognized for his commitment to energy conservation and green design. After all, his career spans 30 years, beginning in Massachusetts where he learned a thing or two from his father, also a builder. He also has spent the last 14 years building a reputation on the island for trust, professionalism and innovative design, while building home in Florida — designed for Florida.
Hennell offers comprehensive design and build capabilities, as well as competitive bids. His experience includes custom design and building of new homes, competitive bids on home designs, interior residential remodels, condo updates and renovations, home additions (pools, garages, second stories) and energy efficient sustainable building solutions.
Hennell began “thinking green” during the most recent recession, when the uncertain economy hit the housing industry hard. He knew he didn’t want to use low-ball techniques; instead, he wanted to continue to offer a home that would be solid and affordable. His answer was green construction, and he began researching immediately.
What did he find in his research? That homeowners will start saving money the minute they move in. That homes built to green standards are 33 percent more efficient than those built to standard building codes. That green homes are 45 percent more efficient on electric bills.
What exactly makes a home “green?” Well, for Hennell’s green model, it begins with the building envelop. Hennell completely seals out the Southwest Florida heat using insulation products, windows that deflect light, insulated doors and different sealing techniques. The home also qualifies for the very exclusive designation of an Energy Star Certified Building from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Once buttoned up so tight, the inside of the home offers just as many green features. Cabinets are only built from sustainable hard wood. It’s a “cut down a tree, plant a tree” kind of thing. Paints and stains used contain zero volatile organic compounds, and no formaldehyde is used in any of the glues.
Then there is the indoor air quality. Hennell uses the Carrier Infinity Series Air Purifier in every home. This air purifier not only filters the air in a home, but also captures and kills airborne pathogens, such as the virus that causes the common cold. The air the home will be cleaner overall, as this system re-purifies the air not only once but as many as eight times in one hour.
A 500-gallon gas tank buried underground again cuts down on electricity. It runs the pool, stove top, dryer and hot water heater. The two hot water heaters in the home are tankless and provide instant hot water. LED lighting is used throughout the home. Canister lights feature lighting diodes rather than an actual screw-in bulb; they last for 30 years.
Outdoors, Florida-Friendly Landscaping is a must for Hennell and his team. All plants are native and drought tolerant. The sprinkler system uses drip irrigation to ensure minimal water usage and utilizes smart technology to know when to water and when to stop.The pool uses salt instead of chlorine. The salt filters through a system which makes its own sodium chloride, making the pool easier to maintain and healthier.
Touching the tip of the iceberg as features are concerned, Hennell continues to learn and implement more as he educates himself further. He even took the course to be a Florida Green Building Certified Inspector — just to learn. He has no intention of becoming an actual inspector, but he knows what to expect, which is helpful as he strives to build mostly Florida Green Building Certified homes. No exceptions.
Hennell’s advice for building a custom home:
- Once you have a list of potential builders, call and set up an appointment to meet them. Look for a builder who is unique, showcasing their creativity and unique architectural design ideas.
- Don’t settle for a cookie cutter home; add unique features to set it apart.
- Remember, though, that the right builder will to listen to all your needs and wants and will help incorporate your ideas into your plans. They can visualize the project on paper as well as correct any potential problems on the plan, and should have pride in creating your dream house.
- Do your homework. Get referrals. Call past customers to discuss their experience. Look at current and previous work. Also check with the cities building department and sub-contractors. Your builder should have a great reputation with everyone they work with.
- Establish trust with your builder. It’s important to hire someone whose personality meshes with yours. Not only are you building a home but you are also building a relationship.
- Establish a budget. Make sure the builder does what they say they will do, and any extra costs should be addressed in advance.
For more information about Steven A. Hennell Inc. stop by the model 10 AM-4 PM, Monday-Saturday, call 239-289-3975 or 239-394-3349, or visit the web site at www.stevehenell.com.