News Press Article
Greencastle Feature in the News-Press
Cape Coral company helps owners save money
From the low-flow showers and toilets to the 12-inch think walls, everything about the Madrigal family home is environmentally friendly.
"We're trying to be independent of oil and we know the rates will be going up," Juan Madrigal said.
Madrigal, his wife MaeLee, their dog and cat moved into their new Fort Myers home earlier this year. From the outside the house doesn't appear out of the ordinary. Like many Florida homes it features three bedrooms and two bathrooms; a two-car garage and large living/family room that opens to the kitchen.
The similarities end there.
"There is no fiberglass insulation in this house," Juan Madrigal said. "It's isonene. It's healthier for the respiratory system."
The house also lacks carpet, which can trap moisture and pollen, and holds heat. Instead, the Madrigals opted for a combination of tile and laminate. The extra-thick 12-inch walls provide relief from the heat outside and help lock in cool temperatures in the hot summer. Stronger cement with fly ash added to the insulating qualities. The outside walls were constructed of concrete forms with superior insulating qualities.
"No air from the outside gets in unless I let it in," Madrigal said.
A light tube in the kitchen adds a free shot of light, without the use of electricity. The light shines bright as long as Mother Nature doesn't send a cloud over the sun. And even on the hottest days a trip up to the attic from the laundry room isn't exactly cool - but isn't the barn-burner of standard houses.
The Madrigals waited years to find the right builder, and lost money to someone who swindled them out of thousands, before landing Greencastle Inc., a Cape Coral company headed by Shawn Harvey. Harvey delivered the Madrigals' dream and is watching them reap the rewards of an electric bill that didn't exceed $65 during the hottest part of the summer.
"Green building is really high performance building," Harvey said. "It's building with better materials that last longer and are sustainable in the environment. They provide a better finished product."
Harvey, who moved to Cape Coral from the Washington, D.C. area in 2003 didn't find many takers for his green concept when he arrived.
"No one was interested in building green at the height of the market," Harvey said. "But we stuck with it."
Business still isn't exactly booming but for the families and businesses that take the leap, the rewards are tangible.
"You have healthier indoor air quality and the walls protect you from storms," Harvey said. "You have a higher resale value and lower maintenance."
Harvey admits that the cost of green building is more expensive than traditional construction but debunks the myth that the costs are prohibitive.
"The cost of building green up front is a couple of percent more, but when energy costs are half of what the neighbors pay, it pays for itself quickly," he said.
Green homes accumulate wealth in another way, according to Harvey.
"Every dollar saved annually in utility bills equals $20 in value for the house," he said. "It's a formula recognized by property appraisers."
What can homeowners who live in traditionally-built homes to do jump on the green bandwagon?
"One of the best things is to put on a light-colored roof," Harvey said. "And minimize carpet. Carpet holds mildew and bacteria."
Insulated windows, ceiling fans and solar water heaters can also help lower bills.
Paul Shahriari, CEO of Greenmind, a consulting company in North Fort Myers, has worked on projects for national and international building companies for five years. He has seen improvement in the number of companies incorporating green practices but said it's not enough.
"I'd like to see Cape (Coral) greener because we have a green environment to protect," Shahriari said.
Shahriari plans to build a green house and office combination in Cape Coral. Construction begins later this year and should be complete sometime next year.
"It will be like a living lab for me," he said.
Shahriari, the former president of the Florida Green Building Association, said the key to getting homeowners to live a green lifestyle is to retool their thinking on what they want out of a home.
"Instead of crown molding, I'll have a low-energy system," he said.
He will also forego designer cabinets in favor of something more sustainable.
"It's not a fad," he said of his decision that he hopes will rub off on others. "It's a way of focusing. I'm saving my family money so I can spend on something else. Your money is better spent on you than LCEC (Lee County Electric Cooperative)."
Shahriari's views aren't far off the beaten path. Businesses are also taking the road to environmental responsibility.
Saturn of Cape Coral was built with smaller windows, native landscaping, lights that turn off automatically when someone leaves a room, and a system that recycles water used to wash cars.
Cape Coral Eye Center installed a 99 panel solar system on its roof as a way to power the business.
"It's going to generate about 45 percent of our energy," director of marketing and public relations, Kimberly Smith said.
Smith said the physicians and staff are trying to be as green as possible.
"It was the smart thing to do economically," she said. "Lasers consume a lot of power. We wanted to offset that as much as we could."
Smith said the group wanted to install a windmill at the North Fort Myers location but couldn't get a permit from the city.
"They told us we couldn't put up a windmill but we're definitely going to put up solar panels," she said.
Solar panels may be next for the Madrigals, too. Their house is green, but Juan Madrigal dreams of more upgrades that will put him close to living off the grid.
We need bigger trees on the south side and our next step is a solar water heater," he said. "We'll keep doing more as we can pay for it."