by Jamie Schultz
Jay Epstein—founder of Health-E Community Enterprises of Virginia, Inc.—builds high-performance, green homes that are affordable.
“It’s not always the bottom line,” Epstein says. “It’s doing the right thing, building the right product and having it available for the buyer.”
Since 1991, he has built over 1,000 energy-efficient houses, including a Williamsburg townhouse community, and the first solar community in Virginia called The Villas at Rocketts Landing, with single-family net zero energy homes.
Epstein’s work on zero-energy ready homes hasn’t gone unnoticed. This past year he won the Department of Energy’s 2016 Housing Innovation Award, which recognizes forward-thinking builders for delivering homebuyers with the homes of the future, today.
The homes are built with sustainable features including solar panels, spray-foam insulation for increased energy-efficiency, 50-gallon high-efficiency water heater, and a plumbing system that delivers hot water to any location in the home in less than 5 seconds, reducing the amount of wasted water.
For Epstein, it’s imperative to reduce the carbon footprint, while saving on the home energy bill—which he boasts is about $1.50 a day. Chalk it up to the 6.8-kW solar electric generation system. With 24 roof-mounted panels and three inverters that convert power from DC to AC, the home produces as much power as it uses in a year.
More people and companies are getting involved in the green movement, Epstein says. “People care today,” he continues.
James Hardie is an eco-minded company with products made from natural or sustainable raw materials. In fact, for the fifth year in a row, the Green Builder Reader's Choice survey of industry professionals selected Hardie® siding as the Greenest Siding Brand. James Hardie works hard to recycle the materials that go into its products, including recycling water not once, but up to four times.
“Working with James Hardie is a natural fit, a perfect marriage,” Epstein says. “It’s a green product that fits with this type of home building.”
After developing communities with vinyl siding, Epstein found himself looking for a more durable, eco-friendly option and he halted the search when he found James Hardie. Epstein says he wanted to “use a product that exemplified the strength of what’s behind the walls, and the Hardie® product was that feeling of strength.” For his upcoming developments, he will be cladding all his homes in Hardie® siding and trim.
Epstein’s motivation to build green homes all started with his need to make the air cleaner in his home. With five children, and three suffering from asthma, he wanted to do all he could to reduce the environmental triggers.
“If I can make the air cleaner, you’re going to feel better,” he says.
Indoor air quality for all homes was enhanced tenfold with the help of the MERV13 filter, and new construction options that resist mold and mildew.*
“I realized, I can make a difference, we can solve the problem,” Epstein says. “Now, homeowners with allergies, asthma and breathing concerns all benefit from the clean air of the home.”
“It’s time for people to wake up and realize this type of home can be offered to them,” Epstein says.
Epstein is not alone in his vision. There are 122 builders across the nation with the same goal of creating energy-efficient, eco-minded homes available to all families, he says.
“We all have visions of building homes for the future, and eventually this will be the norm,” he says.
With eco-minded forward-thinkers like Epstein, calling a net zero energy house, home, doesn’t have to be a far-off goal.
“We have answers and it’s time to listen,” Epstein says.
*James Hardie makes no warranty or representation as to the energy efficiency or air quality of any building. Contact Health-E Homes of Virginia for information regarding the performance of the homes featured in this blog post.