The next Styrofoam cup you toss in the trash may find its way into the walls of someone's home in the near future.
The long-lived plastic foam product has been the bane of environmentalists for years, but now it is being reincarnated into eco-friendly building materials.
Payson's Glen Whitlock is making use of those materials in his new home and plans to use them in a new development.
Whitlock recently formed a development company "WeBuildGreen LLC" with the intent of bringing affordability and environmentally friendly new home construction and development to Payson.
"Because population continues to increase everywhere, I believe we all have the very important responsibility of protecting our community and our planet in every way we reasonably can," Whitlock said.
"I believe we all need to rethink many of the things we have always previously taken for granted. One of the areas that I believe would provide immediate relief to our beleaguered planet is by using more environmentally friendly building products, particularly in new housing construction and development. But just building ‘green' isn't enough. These homes need to be built affordably enough that the average working family can afford them, not just the wealthy." Whitlock is teaming with Pete Undlin, a licensed general contractor who feels the same way he does. They are working together to bring "green" building to Payson, with the commitment that we would market and build our homes for our local working people and others that live on more modest incomes. Undlin's company L.G. Builders primarily focuses on finish work and emphasizes detail. "We are the perfect match," Whitlock said.
He said if someone wants an energy-efficient home, the single most important component is the building envelope. Without a well-insulated, tightly constructed envelope, it won't matter what other energy-efficient components are added.
Traditional stick frame homes with standard insulation are not very energy efficient, he said.
"After doing a lot of research, we settled on using structurally insulated panels (SIPs), for the building envelope for our homes. SIPs panels look like an ice cream sandwich, with Styrofoam on the inside, sandwiched between two sheets of OSB [Oriented Strand Board, which is a manufactured 4-foot-by-8-foot wood panel of wood chips and glue]."
He said both of these components can be made from recycled materials and the combination gives you about twice the amount of insulation R-value [resistance to passage of heat] as traditional stick framing, at the same cost. When the panels are used for the walls, roof and floor, an incredibly tight building envelope can be created. Additionally, the panels are precut to exact size from a traditional set of building plans at the factory, including cutouts for windows and doors, so there is almost no waste that ends up in the landfill. Once the panel package is made, it is sent as a complete package to the job site. Since the panels are precut to size, the entire building envelope can be erected and dried in within about a week of delivery of the panel package to your site. This can reduce construction time by as much as 60 days.
Whitlock said while the cost of the energy-efficient materials is more, the reduced time in construction makes the price "a wash" when compared to traditional building methods. The energy-efficient nature of the construction could also qualify potential buyers for a mortgage they might not otherwise be able to obtain, he said.
The building envelope can then be finished with quality, Energy Star windows and doors, resulting in a home that is so tight, the home should only use between 25 and 50 percent of the heating and cooling needed in a traditionally built, stick-frame or block home. If someone wanted to add some other technology such as solar or wind power, that supplemental system could also be reduced substantially, thereby reducing that initial cost as well, Whitlock said.
"All products that we'll use in our homes have two criteria that must be met," Whitlock said.
"First, the product must be environmentally friendly material and offer a specific benefit to the homeowner. And secondly, there must be a long-term cost benefit for the client and be environmentally friendly as well. An easy to understand example of this would be products that translate into lower utility costs over the long term without adding additional cost to the project. This not only reduces our ongoing living costs, but puts less demand on our energy suppliers, thus being better for the environment."
The first home by WeBuildGreen LLC will be a home Whitlock is building for himself at 207 S. Arroyo Dr. A little more than a week after the panels arrived, the building envelope was already close to being enclosed.
"We are building my home just like we will build all the rest of our homes. We'll be using 8-inch thick wall panels (R-31) and 10- or 12-inch thick roof panels (R-46). When you compare that to a traditional 2-by-6-inch stick frame house that claims an R-19 wall, but usually only tests out at about R-11, it's obvious that our homes will be much more energy efficient. Then we'll add the Energy Star windows and doors and our homes will cost much less to live in over the long term. Hopefully, every one of our clients can smile when their utility bill comes, rather than dreading it," Whitlock said.
The company's first subdivision is going in just west of Walgreens, on Colcord Road. It has 11 lots there. Plans are to build three-bedroom, two-bath homes between 1,200 and 1,600 square feet. "We will be building using 8-inch wall panels and 10- or 12- inch ceiling and floor panels. We hope to start construction on our first home there within 60 days with estimated completion within 90 days of our start date," Whitlock said.
"I would like to encourage anyone that is considering building with any alternative building material to call myself or Pete. We'll gladly share what we've learned with them and would welcome any information on new building technologies that they may have learned that they could share with us. This goes for everyday Joe citizen as well as building contractors alike. Besides building what we believe to be much better homes, we hope to bring an awakening to our local building industry and encourage them to consider using building techniques that are more environmentally friendly. Our planet and our children and grandchildren will thank us if we do. As a special side note to contractors, the Town of Payson building department has shown a very open-minded attitude regarding the use of more environmentally friendly building techniques," he said.
Whitlock can be reached at (928) 978-4011 and Pete Undlin can be reached at (928) 595-1748.