Local Builder McStain Builds Green

It’s refreshing to learn that there are local builders concerned about more than just making a buck. McStain Neighborhoods is a local builder that’s been around for several decades. At a recent meeting, McStain representatives claimed that the company has been focused on green building for almost 40 years; long before anyone really used the term ‘green’ when talking about residential home construction techniques.

Some of the particular methods McStain uses are common among other builders these days.

Since about 1998, all their basement floors have been built with ‘engineered wall and floor systems. Using a Structural basement floor reduces heaving and cracking and is resistant to mold. Combining this with a ‘geo void’ during construction using foam board, and connecting the concrete floor to the foundation with re-bar, protects the floor even more from potential movement. Concrete window wells are also used which are stronger than metal and are less prone to damage during the construction phase.

The company also heavily utilized Laminate Veneer Lumber (LVL), and Laminated Strand Lumber (LSL). Using engineered wood has two benefits: it is straighter and stronger, and it minimized landfill waste. They also use I-Joists with a center web of oriented strand board (OSB) which provides benefits similar to LVL and LSL.

On the framing, the homes are built with 2 x 6 construction to provide room for greater insulation. On the outside, FiberCement (sometimes known as Hardi Panel) is used because it holds paint longer, and is more resistant to deterioration than wood product siding. It also contains recycled materials.

The HVAC system I saw implemented in the Hyland Village project includes the use of a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV). This utilizes a process where the system can mix the temperatures of fresh air with the temperature of recovered air from within the home to make the climate control process more energy efficient.

These are some examples of techniques being used today by McStain. To give an overall understanding of where their homes fit in when compared to other builders consider that McStain does a blower door test on every home they build. This is rare among builders even today.

Blower door tests are a method used to determine the relative tightness of a home. Each McStain home gets a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rating.

To put this in perspective, a builder only needs to do a blower door test on one of every seven homes it builds. McStain does this on every home it builds. Also, in order to achieve an Energy Star qualified rating, a home must get a HERS score of at least 85 (a lower number is better, and the worst number is 100 going downward from there). Home built by McStain in the last 1-1/2 years have been averaging a HERS rating of 67. At 18 points better than the standard for Energy Star, this builder is achieving some great results.

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