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Good Energy: Urban NW Builders commits to greener, healthier homes

KGW's Good Energy series highlights the ways our community is committing to environmental stability. Urban NW Builders is creating "good energy" from the ground up.

RIDGEFIELD, Wash. — We spend so much of our lives inside our homes. As technology evolves it is getting easier and less expensive to make that space better for the environment and your energy bill.

Troy Johns and his business partner Jerud Martin are the owners of Urban NW Builders. Their mission as builders is to design and build greener and healthier homes.

“Providing, really, the best indoor air quality and health benefits to our clients is really our focus right now,” Martin said. “Energy efficiency is kind of an old hat. We’ve done that for a long time.”

Since 2008, Urban NW Builders has been committed to building better and sustainably. They now meet National Green Building Standards in every home.

“Being that National Green Building Standard builder – we can focus on energy, health, wellness, and of course, with the pandemic right now, everybody wants a healthy home, and they deserve it,” Martin said.  

Johns’ own home in Ridgefield, Washington was built with the very best in energy efficiency, but also the latest technology for air quality in the home.   

“For our family, it means, either having asthmatic issues or not having those issues,” Johns said. "And that’s a no-brainer for us we have to do that.”

There are several features in his home, including proper insulation, solar energy, and heat recovery ventilation (HRV), which uses heat in outgoing stale air from the home to warm up the fresh air.

“The most interesting thing in the house, as far as air quality goes, is the Air Scrubber,” Johns said. “It actually changes the molecular structure of the air so that your hard surfaces are disinfected.”

Johns' house is also heated using a ground source geothermal loop. It draws energy that the earth naturally produces to then heat the air and water in the home.

“Literally, the earth is heating the home,” Johns said.

Their passion for green and healthy homes is a passion the two have brought to their clients, such as Peggy Ellis. She and her husband built their Net Zero home in Vancouver in 2017.

“I think the nicest thing is the peace of mind knowing we’re living lighter on the planet,” Ellis said. “Climate change is happening and it’s really important for people to do what they can. And we could. So we decided we wanted to build a NetZero house.”  

Like Johns’ home, Ellis' uses the power of the sun. Solar panels create enough energy to offset the energy she and her husband use.

She also has a heat pump to heat and cool her home, which is about 300% more efficient than a standard electric water heater, according to Martin.

Homes built by Urban NW Builders feature all LED lights along with triple pane windows and insulation.

“You want a nice, tightly sealed thermal envelope,” Martin said. “Take a look at your windows, make sure you’ve got good energy-efficient windows.”

The folks at Urban NW Builders say going green when building a new home doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend a lot more. It does often cost more on the initial investment, but Urban NW Builders strives to be able to make sustainable building an option for everyone.

“Probably, the number one thing that stops people from building green is they feel like it comes with a price tag,” Johns said. “And we’ve dedicated our company to fitting that needs at every price point.”

“As technology has gotten better and better the initial investment has really come down. So, it’s not much more to build a responsible, above code level home,” Martin said.

A healthier home that’s better for the planet.

“That investment, though, is good for the homeowner right now today, but it’s also good for the next homeowner and it’s going to benefit, really our entire community in the end,” Martin said.