Articles

Students Help with Green Home in New Caney

Posted in the Houston Chronicle on 11-12-2013. The original article can be found here.

A new home for green building is being constructed in Montgomery County.

The U.S. Green Building Council's Piney Woods chapter has joined with New Caney Independent School District to build a demonstration house, crafted from used shipping containers.

Students from the district's vocational training program will work alongside architects and contractors focused on sustainability to earn real world experience in the construction industry.

Once the project is complete, the public will be welcome to visit the energy-efficient - and cost effective - model home for ideas and inspiration.

Piney Woods chapter

Sergio Grado, owner of GradCo Structures & Homes, LLC a construction company specializing in "green construction," is leading the effort.

Nationally recognized as a "Graduate Master Builder" and "Certified Green Professional," Grado describes himself as a second-generation builder with decades of experience in the industry.

Grado had been attending meetings of the Gulf Coast chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council - but soon felt that there should be a group closer to home.

"I thought there needed to be a presence in Montgomery County," he said.

In 2010, Grado joined forces with Paul Vanderwal, a local architect focused on sustainability and Michael Martin, partner of law firm Martin & Stillwell, LLP, to organize the Piney Woods chapter.

"Our focus is to advocate and educate about sustainability," Grado said.

Still, the group lacked a home base.

"We came to the realization that we needed something that would say, 'The Piney Woods chapter is here,' " Grado said.

He decided that a showcase for sustainable development would be a perfect way to introduce the group to the community - and to create a place for the interchange of ideas on green building.

A shipping container home

Grado fell in love with a design by Costa Rican architect Benjamin Garcia Saxe.

He contacted Saxe after reading an article about his shipping container home.

"I asked if he would be willing to sell me the rights to build the design," Grado recalled.

Finding a place to build the project was more of a challenge.

Grado searched for community partners for two years.

"We could build it, we just needed a place to put it," Grado said. "We just wanted raw open land, and we would take care of the rest. I really didn't think it would be as much of a challenge as it was."

Earlier plans to move forward with Lone Star College and the city of Conroe fell through at the last minute.

"I was really pretty disillusioned," Grado said. "At that point, I was close to giving up."

Finally, he connected with the New Caney school district.

"Then, I guess luck struck," Grado said. "I went to a meeting and started presenting the project. Their eyes lit up. They saw the potential."

A win-win situation

Gary Yancey, director of Career and Technical Education at New Caney ISD, said the project will be a prime opportunity for students to practice carpentry and welding skills.

"We'd been looking for a project for a couple of years," Yancey said.

"This looks like a project that will benefit our students.

"The kids can take what they learn in the shop and get real world experience."

He said that the district chose a location that will be easily accessible to the public.

"I think this will be a win-win for both groups," Yancey said. "We're going to try to get everybody involved."

The Piney Woods USGBC Branch will pay for the project materials.

The group's members will also serve as mentors to the students.

"The building kids will do framing, drywall and electrical," Yancey said.

The students in welding classes will be able to join the shipping containers and cut openings in the metal walls where needed.

Construction is slated to start this month.

Bigger, better things

When completed, the demonstration home will showcase energy efficiency, recycling, water management and the use of readily available green products.

The home will be constructed out of two 40-foot cube shipping containers that are no longer suited for shipping cargo.

The building will be designed to function totally "off the grid," meaning that it will not rely on public utility services for power or water.

There will be solar panels for electricity, a composting toilet, a rainwater capture system and a thermal dynamic water heater.

The Piney Woods branch will seek LEED for Homes certification for the project.

Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design is a program that provides third-party verification of green buildings.

"We want to show what the possibilities are," Grado said.

The demonstration home will also serve as the office for the Piney Woods Branch in Montgomery County, and it will be open to the general public.

Grado hopes the building will inspire others in Montgomery County to make their homes green.

He said the home will also be cost-effective to build - and he hopes that nonprofit organizations focused on the demand for affordable housing will take advantage of the model.

"We're going to build it green, and it's going to be the start of bigger and better things," he said.

"The thing that excites me most is the potential this has."


New Caney ISD Students Building Super-Modern Home

Posted in the East Montgomery County Observer on 09-27-2013. The original article can be found here.

The Piney Woods United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Branch of Montgomery County has entered into a partnership with New Caney ISD to build a “green” demonstration home from used shipping containers. It will be the first of its kind built in the country.

When completed, the fully functioning demonstration home will showcase to the public the most energy efficient, affordable home features available, including energy efficiency, recycling, water management, and use of readily available green products.

The layout includes two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen, and a family room with closets for storage. Constructed of two 40-foot cube shipping containers no longer suited for shipping cargo, the demonstration home will be designed to function totally “off the grid,” meaning that it will not rely on public utility services for power or water.

New Caney ISD has a notableCareer and Technical Education (CTE) program. The Building Trades and Welding Technology CTE programs will be involved in the project.

Students in these programs will have the opportunity to improve their skills in carpentry and welding while working on the home. The Piney Woods USGBC Branch will pay for the project materials. The labor to construct the container home will be provided by the students, with branch members serving as mentors.

“We are excited about the opportunity to provide a real world project that will give the students hands-on experience,” said Gary Yancey, Director of Career & Technical Education of New Caney ISD.

He noted that the project would offer students an opportunity to apply the skills learned in the classroom.

The Piney Woods USGBC branch will seek LEED for Homes certification for the project. Upon completion, the building is planned to serve as the office for the Piney Woods Branch in Montgomery County, and be open to the general public.

The Piney Woods USGBC Branch members consist of engineers, architects, builders, indoor air-quality specialist, landscapers, builders, and retired veterans practicing sustainable building methods. It is an extension of the Texas Gulf Coast United States Green Building Council Chapter, from which the group derives a 501-C3 nonprofit status.

For more information on how to join the local chapter of the USGBC and become a joint member of the Houston Chapter and the Piney Woods Branch, contact the USGBC Central office at 281-506-3867 or adminservices@usgbctexasgulfcoast.org.

Membership allows residents to participate in the project.

Piney Woods launches Branch Home: It's a container!

Read Here to learn how we are building the mission in The Woodlands