On a warm, July day in Blaine, Sterling Builders’ Phil Dyer and Slav Pakhnyuk are hard at work at 1286 Garfield Avenue. The duo supervise site contractors as they race against the clock for their sustainable home to be ready for an open house a month out.
Sterling Builders’ two-man team prides itself on building energy efficient homes through Built Green certification. The program is made to create homes that are cost efficient, reduce energy and water use, and create healthier living through low-toxic paint and good indoor air quality, according to the Built Green website.
According to Dyer and Pakhnyuk, the easiest way to improve energy efficiency is sealing surfaces where energy can escape, whether that is through windows or light fixtures. All connection points, where plywood meets another piece of plywood, is taped so no energy escapes through small surfaces.
“Every seam is a weak spot,” Pakhnyuk said. “Every door jam, window jam – everything is taped so there is a continuous air barrier and there’s never a break.”
Taping the baseboards eliminates cold air coming through the floors as hot air rises, Pakhnyuk said.
Dyer recommends people looking for quick, energy efficient upgrades with the biggest impact to start with windows. All of the windows in the Garfield house are triple-pane, instead of double-pane. Although more expensive, triple-pane windows will save money on energy payments over time.
Dyer and Pakhnyuk said the best thing someone can do in a home that is already built is to seal any penetration they see along the building’s envelope, which is the physical separator of the building’s interior and exterior. Because most people purchase a home without knowing its condition, Dyer recommends homeowners hire an inspector to look at the insulation and air sealing.
“Movement of air negates the effectiveness, so even if you have an insulated wall but there’s air going through it, that insulation loses all of its value,” Pakhnyuk said.
The team also installed sloped window sills in the Garfield house that will flow any water intrusion away from the house.
“In the long run, we’re building structures that last a lot longer than everything else. The things will be hidden but basically the framing of the windowsill is sloped, so when it leaks, and maybe it will in 100 years, it’ll all flow out,” Pakhnyuk said.
Other energy efficient features the house includes are adding more windows on the sunniest side of the home to catch passive solar, Dyer said. The builders also ask electricians to drill an individual hole for each wire on the house’s perimeter and focus on precision, making sure every light fixture is calculated to an eighth of an inch.
The energy efficient house at Garfield Avenue is their second home in Blaine, with the other situated just two doors down, albeit a smaller home. Dyer, who has built 56 homes in the county, is looking to include more downtown Blaine homes in his
“I like working in Blaine,” Dyer said. “Blaine government wants you here doing stuff and they welcome your business.”
The Built Green certification is a Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties program. The program used to involve Whatcom County, but disbanded after little interest from builders in the county, Dyer said. The program certifies houses on a point system going from three to five stars, and then having an emerald star as the highest certification after a five-star home.
The new Garfield Avenue home, which is not on the market yet, will be four stars after an inspector verifies Sterling Builders has met over 400 requirements.
“If large builders can do something a little bit cheaper, save $50, and then they can multiply that if they’re building one hundred houses,” Dyer said. “To them it’s a pure economic situation. For us, it’s what we could do that’s really energy efficient and helps the planet.”
For more information on Sterling Builders, visit phildyer.com or call Phil Dyer at 360/739-9900.