What’s Green About That? by Bret Hackett

June 30, 2022

His attention to detail and endless pursuit of knowledge to protect the things he loves are well known by everyone who has had the pleasure to ski, bike, kayak or climb with him. […]

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Following family and friends, Bret’s passions include protecting the playground he enjoys daily by practicing what he preaches, and through his new green business, Healthy Home Consultants.

Bret Hackett, local builder and designer of the first LEED home in the Tahoe Basin, discusses the ten key elements that make a house green. And, he should know.  Bret won the 2008 Best in Basin Awards for the “Best Green Building Project” presented by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.  Congratulations Bret!

As the principal of a green design and build company, I receive a lot of questions from clients regarding the green-ness of products and design principles.

Considering past projects and future designs, there tends to be one commonality.

Unless one is looking at a large array of solar panels or a residence that resembles a green house made from tires and adobe, the common response is: What’s Green about that?

Green building is not rocket science, nor is it as complex as nanotechnology. In fact, green building has a closer resemblance to the homes of our ancestors than the homes we live in now. In the words of David Johnson, a green building consultant in Colorado, Green Building is simply “applied common sense.” In this article I will give ten examples of Green Building. The photos will not show endless rows of solar panels or geo-thermal heat pumps, rather, the examples will display simple and elegant solutions to creating a healthy, efficient, and bomb-proof home. Yes, a Green Home.

The ten examples below were all implemented on a recent project which was designed and built by my company, Healthy Home Consultants, in South Lake Tahoe. This home is the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified Home in the Tahoe Basin.

The home is angled on the lot so that one large gable end is oriented to the South. (see top photo)

This allows passive solar heating which can reduce heating bills. It is accomplished by placing an extensive amount of glass on the south side which brings in the low winter sun to heat the concrete floors. The gable end facing north has few windows to protect against heat loss.

The garage is a separate structure from the home, attached with a covered walkway.

This ensures that the home will have the best indoor air quality possible by keeping chemicals and exhaust out of the home.

The home is sided with corrugated steel and CertainTeed fiber cement.

The steel will weather naturally, and last indefinitely with a mountain style patina which requires no maintenance.

The fiber cement siding was finished in the factory and has a 50 year warranty.

Radiant Floor Heating. The Pex tubing is laid out and ready for a finished concrete floor. The home is heated by circulating warm fluid through concrete floors.

There are five separate zones on the first floor and eight throughout the house.

This gives the homeowner complete temperature control, which improves comfort and saves money.

The home is constructed of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) which are stronger, more durable and more energy efficient than conventional building.

Hard at work as the second floor wall panels are craned in. A 6 ½ inch SIP wall has a true R-Value of R-21 compared to a 2×6 stud framed wall with a true R-Value of R-11.

True R-Value is the measurement of a completed wall assembly (studs, insulation, sheathing).

Structure as Finish is a very important green design principle. It unites people with the bones of a building and minimizes resource and material use.

This photo exemplifies how we used two crucial structural elements to create a finished product.

The steel I-beam was left exposed as opposed to being wrapped with sheetrock or wood.

The concrete floor, which holds the energy from the radiant heat, was dressed up for a no-maintenance, beautiful floor as opposed to adding tile or hardwood as a finish.

Daylighting is a green design principle which uses the sun to light a building as opposed to electricity.

Interior glass doors and interior windows located at strategic locations are a vital element in accomplishing daylighting in a building.

This door illuminates an otherwise dark hallway.

One of the basic tenets of green building and sustainability in general, is using local materials and local production.

These counter-tops were made locally (onsite by Healthy Home Consultants carpenters) and produced from locally salvaged wood.

The bar-top is a Juniper slab and the butcher block counters are made from juniper and oak.

In order to supply the home with fresh air throughout the day and night which is essential for Indoor Air Quality, the home has a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV).

This technology is a must in today’s tight homes.

The heat recovery occurs in the winter; as the HRV exhales stale indoor air it stores the heat in a heat exchanger, thus capturing up to 90% of the heat, and using it to heat the incoming fresh air.

This home’s walls are protected by large eaves which are the extension of roof beyond the wall.

The eaves are 2 and 3 feet throughout the house and garage.

This design feature protects the walls from moisture in the winter and intense sun in the summer.

Creating quality Outdoor Living Space is not only a green design principle, but a fundamental element to every structure.

Areas where one can relax, reflect, and connect with their surroundings are essential for promoting a comfortable and relaxing setting.

This home has outdoor living on both the north and south aspects.

The north facing entry porch gives shelter to skiers, groceries and guests in the winter and a cool spot for conversation and relaxation on the hot summer days.

The deck is oriented to due south to take advantage of the warm Tahoe sun whenever one desires.

To see this LEED home and to learn more about Healthy Home Consultants, contact Bret at 530-412-0316 or bret@healthyhomeconsultants.net

Photos by Bret Hackett

Meet Bret Hackett

Bret Hackett lives and plays in South Lake Tahoe with his wife Rosie, daughter Ruby, and dog Osa. Bret followed the snow from Flagstaff, AZ to serve the local community as a ski patroller at Heavenly and an avalanche educator at Lake Tahoe Community College for 8 years.

In between adventures of rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing, surfing and river running, he has worked in the building trades and studied sustainable building since 1994.

From 1996-1999 he studied Ecological Design at Prescott College both nurturing his passion and expanding his knowledge base for green building.

Currently, Bret is paving the way for green building in the mountain environs of the Sierra Nevada. In 2008, he designed and built the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) home in the Tahoe basin. Bret continues to serve this beautiful mountain town with stunning architecture and high quality craftsmanship with his company Healthy Home Consultants.