Anne Arundel offers incentives for green homes

John Hamblin didn’t have to think twice when asked what he liked most about his new green home in Gambrills.

And no, it’s not the native landscaping surrounding the property or the granite countertops in the kitchen.

Rather, it’s the energy-saving heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. After all, he’s an HVAC nerd.

“They sealed in all the duct work in the area, and it’s all confined within a conditioned space and insulated,” said Hamblin, who works with HVAC systems for a living.

Hamblin moved in recently to the home in the Preserve at Seven Run. He’s the first homeowner to take advantage of a law passed by the Anne Arundel County Council a year ago that gives tax credits to residents who move into environmentally friendly homes.

“I hope a lot of people do the same thing,” Hamblin said.

Hamblin’s home in the Preserve — a green development off Route 175 — is designed according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

The county law gives a property tax credit for high-performance dwellings built in the county on or after July 1, 2010.

The amount of the tax credit depends on how green the house is, per LEED standards.

Hamblin’s 3,100-square-foot home, the second built in the Preserve, garnered a silver rating. That will net him $5,000 in property tax credits over five years, said

A gold rating earns the homeowner $10,000 over five years; a platinum rating, $15,000, said Michael Baldwin, president of Arnold-based Baldwin Homes.

“What LEED does is provides a series of guidelines before you even start construction,” said Baldwin, the builder for the Preserve. “It takes awhile to understand all the nuances of it.”

The Preserve eventually will include 73 green homes, according to his plans.

“I’m a pioneer, and pioneers tend to have arrows in their backs,” Baldwin quipped at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the home.

The house’s features include recycled asphalt, a built-in recycling center for the kitchen, rain barrels and recycled ceramic tiles.

Other energy savers include Energy Star appliances, low-flow shower heads and faucets, which use about 20 percent less water, and low-emission coating on windows and doors.

It’s about 40 percent more energy efficient than the average home, Baldwin said.

“Last month, the electric bill was $78, and that’s with subcontractors going in and out of here with power tools,” Baldwin said.

Hamblin said he thinks the bill might be even less than that.

“[Baltimore Gas & Electric Co.] told me $51,” he said.

The county legislation was introduced last year by Councilman Jamie Benoit, D-Crownsville.

“This is the way houses are going to get built in Anne Arundel County, hopefully,” said Benoit, joined by Councilman Jerry Walker, R-Gambrills.

Del. Cathleen M. Vitale, R-Anne Arundel, was on the council when the bill was passed. County officials wanted to see more residents in green homes, she said.

But such homes don’t necessarily come cheap.

The property ended up selling for $560,000, said Lisa Webb, a spokeswoman for Baldwin Homes. Depending on how they’re built, green homes like Hamblin’s generally cost about 5 to 10 percent more to construct than regular homes, though Baldwin maintains that many of the more costly energy-saving features end up paying for themselves in the long run.

The county already offered different perks for people who make various environmental improvements to their yards, Vitale said. This legislation took that one step further.

“It’s an incentive for doing things correct,” Vitale said.

She and Del. Pamela G. Beidle, D-Anne Arundel, also were involved in the passage of a state law that allows homes in Maryland to be certified under a separate standard offered by the Green Building Council. LEED certifications typically focus on the structure itself, but there’s an alternative standard that rates the site development plans and other factors.

LEED was designed more for commercial construction, while this standard focuses more on residential homes, Vitale said.

But Courtney Baker, residential operations manager for the Green Building Council, said there’s been a definite uptick in the number of homes that are LEED certified.

Around 2007, such homes accounted for 1 percent of the real estate market, Baker said. That’s up to about 4 percent now, with just under 14,000 homes certified nationwide.

“We’ve seen a lot of builder certifications go up, as [builders] attempt to set themselves apart,” Baker said.

Hamblin’s house was assembled in about five months with the help of 60 high school students enrolled at the Center for Applied Technology North in Severn, Principal Daniel Schaffhauser said.

“It’s that real-world experience,” Schaffhauser said. “They’ll remember for the rest of their lives that they had the chance to work on a green building. You can show them a video, but this is the ultimate.”