At Home in Arkansas: As a builder, tell us about your decision to build your own green home in Woodlands Edge, which is a sustainable neighborhood.
Jennifer Franks: It was an obvious next step for us to build a traditional Southern-style home, our favorite look, and marry that with green technology. We wanted people to see that you can live comfortably in a certified green home. We’re not extremists. You need to balance your life with all these things, but it’s doable.
Bret Franks: We learned much more by actually building it than was possible by just reading books about how to do it.
AHIA: How do green building practices figure into your work?
BF: We have always used sustainable products, green technologies and made our homes as energy-efficient as possible. Two years ago, we decided to take it a step further and become a Certified Green Professional. The certification—which requires courses and an exam through the National Association of Home Builders—simply furthered what we were already doing. Energy Star certification requires efficiencies in heating, air, lighting. Green building takes it to another level, including air quality, conserving water, how you clear the lot—everything involved with reducing the carbon footprint of building a home.
AHIA: There are four basic levels of certification through the National Green Building Certification Program: bronze, silver, gold and emerald. How did you achieve your silver rating?
BF: There are minimum standards in six different aspects of construction: lot design, resource efficiency, energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and operation/maintenance. Our rating was based on the points we earned in each area.
JF: It begins with how you prepare the land. Our home is positioned so that we have passive heating and cooling from the sun, with southern exposure during the winter and shade from trees during the summer. We also consulted a certified arborist to determine what trees could be saved, and we used mulch from the trees that were cut to protect their roots during construction.
AHIA: What other steps did you take?
BF: Part of earning points is smart building. When framing the house, we had wood sized properly to reduce the amount of waste. But you can’t use every inch of wood, and there will always be excess scrap materials like shingles and cardboard boxes, which we separated and recycled.
JF: A lot of our furnishings are family heirlooms, or bought from flea markets. We were going for a Southern, cottage-style theme, so we incorporated the things we already had and tweaked them to have that look. Indoor air quality was also a big aspect, so we installed the CleanEffects filtration system by Trane that removes allergens.
AHIA: What does green mean to you?
JF: It means respecting the environment, appreciating what it provides and using it wisely. The Earth and its resources sustain us, but we have to protect it. You don’t have to be extreme, just smart. I’m amazed at how many people don’t recycle. Think about what you can do to reduce your impact, but beyond that think about what you really need and don’t need.
BF: One of the reasons we’re builders is that we love to create things, we love challenges, we don’t want to do the same things over and over again. I knew this would be a huge undertaking, but in the end I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment I haven’t felt in a long time, knowing that we did something to save nature, while building a home where we can live more comfortably and for less money in the long run.
Tips for green building from Bret and Jennifer Franks of Bret Franks Construction, Inc.
• Tankless water heaters provide hot water on demand from an energy-efficient and space saving design.
• Perform a duct blaster test on your duct system to accurately measure air leakage of the ductwork.
• Assure that recessed can lights are airtight and install compact fluorescent light bulbs in the place of incandescent lighting, which uses more energy.
• A TechShield roof barrier blocks heat from entering the attic, lowering energy costs and adding to the comfort of your home.
• Minimize the amount of sod on your property and opt for native and drought-tolerant plants.
Builder Bret Franks Construction, Inc., Little Rock
Landscape installation Natural State Landscaping, Vilonia
Air filtration system Chenal Heating and Air, Little Rock
Bathroom sink, tile and granite The Little Rock Flooring Company, Little Rock
Brick Antique Brick, Little Rock
Curtains, kitchen pendant lights Pottery Barn, locations statewide
Custom cabinets James Hardman, North Little Rock
Dining chairs Arkansas Grand Showroom, Clinton
Faucets, shower head Arkansas Supply, Inc., North Little Rock
Flooring McGowan Hardwood Floors, Little Rock
Furnishings Dillard’s, locations statewide; Fabulous Finds Antiques, Little Rock
Lighting Pro Builder Supply, Little Rock
Outdoor furnishings Unpainted Furniture Center, Little Rock
Paint Sherwin-Williams, Benjamin Moore, locations statewide
Rugs Cobblestone & Vine, Little Rock
Windows, doors Whit Davis Lumber, locations statewide