August 15, 2010
SANDY RIDGE, N.C. - Dave Boyer built himself a teaching tool.
With the help of a "green" architect and a "green" builder, Boyer, who teaches science at Kernersville Middle School, is putting the finishing touches on a ridge-top home in Stokes County that not only won't require power from commercial sources, but will generate enough extra electricity to sell to Duke Energy.
"On a personal level, I am passionate about the environment and concerned about the planet," he said. "I wanted to back that up."
Solar panels, a geothermal heating-and-cooling system and other features make the house so green that the National Association of Home Building has given the house its highest rating - Emerald. The association says it is the first house in North Carolina - and one of only 22 in the country - to receive that rating.
Boyer, 31, has brought students out to see the house as it was being worked on, and he intends to continue keeping them engaged through features such as a system that enables students to monitor, over the Internet, the operation of his home's solar panels.
He traces his desire to build a green house to the life-changing experience of being lost in the Amazon rainforest with a friend for six days in 2002. (Their ordeal was later dramatized on a Discovery Channel show.)
"Before I was lost in the Amazon, I wanted nothing to do with people or the next generation," he said. "Now I have dedicated my life to doing my best to invoke change in the next generation of Forsyth County teens. ... I believe my house and property will be the best tool I have for opening the eyes of the youth around me."
The house has two types of solar panels - one that generates electricity and another designed to heat water. The house's air is heated and cooled by a geothermal system set into a trench 75 feet long. The roof is designed to funnel rainwater into a 1,000-gallon cistern behind the house that collects water to use for watering plants. (Drinking water comes from a well.).
Many of the elements inside are made of renewable resources or recycled materials. In the kitchen, the floors are cork, and the countertop is concrete made from dredged river pebbles and fly ash, a residue of burning coal.
Boyer estimates that the green features added $60,000 to the $260,000 cost of the 1,375-foot-square house. The builder has calculated that Boyer will get all that money back in nine years.
Eventually, the house will turn a profit from selling electricity to Duke.
Builder Ron Ricci, who works only on energy-efficient projects, says a green house can be more comfortable and healthier for the residents than a standard house. Rather than any air coming in as drafts through gaps, the house is tightly sealed and has a system that filters all air and controls moisture, so mold won't ever be a problem.
When the house was being certified, it received points for harvesting lumber from oak trees that grew on the property and using it for such things as stair treads and bookshelves. Other green touches include compact fluorescent lights inside and solar-powered landscape lighting outside.
Boyer's parents live near Kernersville Middle. Their support and letting him live with them while he developed his project has made it possible for someone on a teacher's salary to do what he is doing, he said.
"If it weren't for living with my parents, this house would still be just a dream," Boyer said. "I have been blessed and supported by my parents."
Now that he is living in his house, he will be driving 75 miles round-trip to work and even more to referee high-school soccer.
"I have tried to minimize the atmospheric and environmental effects of driving by purchasing a Prius," the hybrid gas-electric car made by Toyota, he said.
One day, Boyer hopes to modify the car with a system that would enable him to use power generated by the house to drive all the way to work on battery power only and to plug into his parents' house at the other end.