Going green has becoming an increasingly more popular trend in the past few years, and the world of construction and architecture is following close behind. Builders and contractors alike have been studying ways to make homes and structures less expensive and more energy efficient.
Local Oxford builder Britton Jones of Winters Construction has done just that, and his green efforts have not gone unnoticed.
The Cottages at Oak Park, located in Ocean Springs, were recently granted Platinum Certification by the Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design, or LEED, which is a system recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council.
These cottages are the first rental development to receive the Platinum Certification and the second project in Mississippi to be granted Platinum status.
Cottages at Oak Park developer Joe Cloyd said there were three main elements that led to LEED certification: site development, interior elements and landscaping.
“The site is near tons of different commercial and social things," he said. "You can walk to school, the grocery store, the drug store, bars and restaurants. That’s a really important aspect."
The location helps cut down on gas usage for residents.
Because the development of the land was also important, the cottages were built on land that was formerly a mobile home park. So, rather than building a completely new infrastructure, the developers took advantage of the infrastructure that was already there.
“The main thing in energy star and also in LEED is your insulation, or what they call the envelope of the house, which is your walls and your roof,” Jones said. “They just want the insulation done properly, which if you use bad insulation, they want it to be expanded to make sure the cold air does not get out and the hot air is not getting in.”
The other important element in building the cottages was the HVAC. In order to gain Platinum status, the HVAC had to be sealed properly so air gets into the house but does not escape.
The construction did not take long because they were energy efficient, but Jones had to do a lot more work up front with the architect and the developers. The LEED rater was out of Oklahoma City, so Jones had to coordinate with her when to check the homes.
The cottages also had to be checked during the building process to make sure they were following both the energy star ratings and the LEED ratings.
“The challenges are educating the contractor, myself and the subcontractor and the people doing the work just because they are used to doing things the standard way," Jones said. "It’s not that hard, but there are just a few extra steps, going a little further."
There are 29 cottages in the development, and they are available for rent. One bedroom, two bedrooms and three bedroom cottages are the options in the energy efficient neighborhood, with rent ranging from $600 to $1,150.
To build the house, Winters Construction used local wood products that were from within 500 miles of the site, energy star appliances and lights and all low energy doors and windows.
“Most of that is common sense,” Cloyd said. “There are oftentimes people who want to build green and they decide to use solar panels on the roof and geothermal energy. We couldn’t afford that, so we just did a very green approach.”
After the completion of the Cottages at Oak Park in August 2011, many people have become interested in renting the homes. Jones said the utility bills each month are around $50, and although it costs 5 to 10 percent more to build these homes, the savings pay off for the renters in the end.
Cloyd, along with Jones, recently completed a similar development in Pass Christian. Just two blocks from the Gulf sits the Cottages at 2nd Street with the same options as the Cottages at Oak Park; one, two and three bedroom rental properties.
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