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Posted on Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 5:30 p.m.

Green under construction: Tour to show off environmentally friendly Ann Arbor home

By Janet Miller


Michael Klement, principal with Architectural Resource, stands outside of the Riverview House, which is on track to be southeastern Michigan's first Emerald remodeling project under the National Association of Home Builders rating system for residential construction.

Janet Miller | For

When it comes to environmentally friendly home construction, there is more than one shade of green.

There are deep green houses, with the highest standards for energy conservation, building methods and construction materials. The United States Green Building Council in 2000 created a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system for commercial and residential green building.

But that’s the gold standard, said Ann Arbor architect Michael Klement, principal of Architectural Resource, who has designed a number of home remodeling projects that have won LEED certification.

There are lighter shades of green, Klement said, where the strict LEED standards aren’t met, but there’s still a push for energy conservation and eco-friendly construction.

Klement and Ann Arbor builders Old School Construction Inc. are on track to make what Klement named the Riverview House southeast Michigan’s first National Association of Home Builders "Emerald" certified house, the highest level of this newer rating system developed just for residential construction.


A view from inside the house, which is under construction. Construction began in November and is expected to wrap up in April or May. Still, Architectural Resource and Old School Constrction will hold a free open house of the project Feb. 4 and 5.

Janet Miller |

“For a LEED house, you pretty much have to gut everything and take it back down to where it’s like building a new house. It can mean a $500,000 project on a $300,000 house,” said Ben Lutzeier, owner of Old School. “With (NAHB), it’s more accessible, people can afford it, but it still makes a big difference.”

Riverview House, a three bedroom mid-Century Ann Arbor brick ranch sitting on a hill overlooking Huron River Drive and a bend in the Huron River, will be open to the public for an under-construction Visible Green House tour Feb. 4 and 5. Advanced registration is required.

While the project won’t be completed until April or May, Klement said he wants the public to see green construction unfolding in real time. “It helps people understand that green begins in the design phase,” he said. Past under-construction tours of house remodel projects have attracted up to 400 people, Klement said.

To win the Emerald certification, water and energy consumption will be reduced by at least 50 percent, while at the same time adding 1,055 square feet to the 2,500-square-foot house. Klement said he expects energy consumption on Riverview House to drop by 65 percent.

A new south-facing roofline is being added that will hold 40, 230-watt solar panels that will generate enough electricity to power the house, including the hot water heater. There will be auxiliary solar panels on the existing roof.

“The original roof is orientated east-west,” Klement said. “The new north-south roof is optimal for energy harvesting.”

The remodel also includes a passive cooling system that takes advantage of a near-constant breeze that comes off the bluff to create a wind tunnel aided by a giant fan with eight-foot blades mounted 18-feet above on the cathedral ceiling. “They won’t need any air conditioning,” Klement said.

A high efficiency gas furnace and low-flow fixtures and toilets also will be installed. And foam insulation will be in the exterior walls of all of the new construction. Finally, the new exterior walls use 30 percent less lumber replaced instead by more insulation, another green feature, and the new roof is constructed of a single panel rather than sheets that are fastened together to eliminate energy loss.

The project adds family gathering space on the main floor that takes advantage of one of the best views in Ann Arbor — a peninsula of land that juts out on the bend in the Huron River and a perch that’s a reminder that Ann Arbor is nestled in the Huron Valley. “It capitalizes on the stunning siting and the beautiful view to the east,” Klement said. “Before, the hallway and the mechanical room were given the best views.”

It also adds a second story to part of the house that will be used as a game room and will include an energy-efficient fireplace.

While the NAHB rating system isn’t as rigorous as LEED certification, it is easier to win, Klement said. “The NASB program is more user-friendly, and a little more accessible. I call it green for the rest of us. Any shade of green is good.”

The tour will be held on the hour from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 4 and 5. While the tour is free, registration is necessary. Go to for more information.



Fri, Feb 3, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

This isn't as clear as it should be. "..low-flow fixtures and toilets also will be installed." The low flow fixtures are for the faucets. No one uses low flow toilets any more. They use dual flush toilets. Low flow for #1, regular for #2, depends on how you flush the toilet. This sounds like it's going to be an awesome house!!!


Sat, Feb 4, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

All toilets made today are low flow toilets with a maximum 1.6 gallons per flush. Dual flush toilets are still low flow toilets with ~0.8 gallons for liquid waste and still 1.6 gallons for solid waste. Some toilets are now 1.2 gallons per flush. New low flow toilets have been re-engineered to prevent clogging right at the toilet, but there is still the issue of clogging your underground sewer lines on your property. Michael, do you know the latest research on low flush toilets and residential sewer line clogging?

John Q

Sat, Feb 4, 2012 : 4:08 p.m.

Most energy efficiency measures have a great return on investment. If we invested the kind of money that's wasted chasing around for oil and coal into energy efficiency measures, we could massively reduce the amount of energy we needed. But some fools apparently like to waste their money on using up as much energy as possible.


Sat, Feb 4, 2012 : 5:19 a.m.

Sounds like it's going to be a stupid waste of money designed for Prius and Volt drivers who have more money than sense. ....and are equally clueless about return on investment, engineering and the global weather fraud. .....but that's just my opinion. LOL


Fri, Feb 3, 2012 : 7:33 a.m.

Low flow toilets are causing major problems in California now. There's not enough liquid flow to move everything down the line. This all leads to deposits throughout the main which hardens and blocks flow.

John Q

Sat, Feb 4, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

All that water that goes down the sewer line has to be treated. The more water, the more cost involved in treating it. Why should my sewer bill go up so you can be wasteful?


Sat, Feb 4, 2012 : 5:16 a.m.

They have to size the pipes larger and slope them steeper....assuming the mains at the street have enough depth. This is Michigan - there is more water here then we know what to do with so why anyone needs a low flush anything escapes me. We don't live in the DESERT as they do in the south-west.


Fri, Feb 3, 2012 : 1:48 p.m.

Low flow owners eventually learn the double flush technique which probably uses more water than a single larger flush.


Fri, Feb 3, 2012 : 1:43 a.m., that looks like real plywood. Good job Mike.


Sat, Feb 4, 2012 : 5:11 a.m.

OSB is about the same but green wise, but plywood is more expensive so must be better. ...maybe it's "certified lumber" plywood, one of the biggest farces in the construction industry!


Fri, Feb 3, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

It does, but wouldn't OSB be more " green "


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 10:40 p.m.

Better tape that Tyvek air looks a little leaky...........:-)