The “Vita Sana”

September 20, 2016

Vita Sana”, recently presented by Marnella Homes in the Green Home Street Fair, defines the healthy indoor environment offered by this new home.  Featuring a highly efficient two stage gas furnace, electronic air filtration and HRV that combine to create indoor air quality that is seldom found in any home. Extensive air sealing and additional insulating measures help to minimize outdoor pollutants from entering the home to provide a comfortable and balanced environment.
From the foyer, the entire main floor can be viewed due to the expanse of this open concept design. From the gathering room you will appreciate the large bi-fold patio door system that opens up to a large covered patio for an indoor/outdoor experience designed for entertaining.

_mg_0038The kitchen draws you closer with its painted cabinets and Bosch experience stainless steel gas appliances that will spoil the family chef. Past the kitchen is the iSpace, this little workspace keeps the clutter that normally finds it’s way to the kitchen counters out of view. Next the drop zone collects the day to day coats, backpacks and the like, all in one place. At the top of the stairs is the Lounging loft, perfect for video games, homework and movies. Not tucked away in a corner, but a secondary gathering space. The 9’ ceilings and oversized windows on all floors create an abundance of light and volume regardless of the seasons. With an over 7’ wide master shower, taking quick showers might be difficult. This home and community will be NGBS Emerald certified which is found in very few new homes.  With so many features included in this home for the event, it can’t be rebuilt for the current list price of $429,950.  It will be a great value for it’s future owners.  Contact Tony for a viewing @ 503-709-3900.


Why Marnella Homes?

August 8, 2016

When looking through the many listings for different builders and their homes, what makes their homes different from one another?  It is far more than just the architectural style and price range.  As I often say, “what is behind the sheetrock is as important, if not more so, than what is in front of it.” I encourage anyone looking at a new home to walk the builder’s homes prior to the installation of sheetrock to see how they are assembled. You will see a lot of surprising things, not all good.  A few things that are in built into every Marnella Home are; Advanced framing, extensive air sealing, blown-in insulation and HVAC systems that are in the conditioned space.  These are just some of the features that, with all we know about building science today, it still surprises me that more builders refuse to build with these systems.

More wood is not better.  However, that is the theme amongst most builders because it is how they were taught.  They are just following the lessons of their Grandfather, Dad or the mentor that got them started.  In the new way of building, less wood is better.  The Advanced Framing technique, utilizes less wood which means room for more insulation, which means a more comfortable and efficient home.  This style of framing really stands out from conventional framing.

Extensive air sealing isn’t just filling over-cut openings in the exterior shell of a home.  It is the air sealing of every seam and joint in the exterior shell of a home.  The benefit of this is not simply to improve efficiency and energy loss, though important, it is also to improve the health of the indoor environment by sealing out pollutants that can be drawn into the home.

Blown-in insulation is so important to effectively insulate a home.  Installing Batt styled insulation is such an inferior way of insulating, yet still most common.  The insulating performance of insulation is its thickness.  So, why does anyone expect that a compressed batt, forced over plumbing or wiring in a wall, is going to perform to it’s intended performance?  I know, right?  It can’t.  That is why blown-in insulation that completely fills a wall cavity, regardless of what is in its path, will perform to it’s intended performance.

HVAC systems in the conditioned space is one of the smartest moves that we have made in our homes…ever.  Not only are these systems exponentially more efficient than a standard forced air system, but they create a more comfortable home.  In 2007 we moved our HVAC systems inside the home, our service calls for uneven heating/cooling  and requests to have the systems balanced, stopped completely.


So, as you are looking around at new homes, remember to look at the homes in their pre-sheetrock stage.  Food for thought, a home built to the building code minimum, is really a home that is barely legal.  Anything less, and the building inspector would not approve it for occupancy.  On average, a Marnella Home is built to 35% over the code minimum.  The benefits to our homeowners include, lower maintenance, lower heating & cooling costs, greater comfort and lasting value.

The Few, The Deserving

August 16, 2011

After receiving a comment, on a post I wrote about home performance from a builder, that all new homes were ENERGY STAR certified. It occurred to me that if someone in my industry didn’t understand the facts about the ENERGY STAR new home certification then I needed to clarify this further. I agree that the energy codes for new construction have been elevated significantly in recent years. However, so have the requirements for the new homes programs of ENERGY STAR, Energy Trust of Oregon, Earth Advantage and the like.

ENERGY STAR rated homes perform to a minimum of 15% up to 30% more efficient than code built homes. These are homes that have real performance and energy efficient features and practices built in. These homes are built using higher standards for the building envelope and HVAC system. These higher standards and additional measures are verified through third party inspections utilizing duct blast and blower door testing. In addition, if the builder is serious about performance, he will have had his homes rated with one of the performance measuring systems like EPS (Energy Performance Score) or HERS (Home Energy Rating System). Here in Oregon we mostly use EPS.

The actual number of new homes certified in the United States each year is less than 20%. Here in the northwest, the 2011 year to date percentage of new homes certified in Washington State is 12.7% and in Oregon it is 14.2%.

The bottom line is, don’t be fooled by “Green” marketing and assume that a new home is certified by one of the new homes programs. Ask questions, have the builder or sales broker show you their certification. The builder might have simply installed an Energy Star rated dishwasher and recycled the cardboard from the box.

heat-recovery ventilatorDoes the quality of air in your home rank up there with the finish level of your counter tops? Maybe it should. To certify a home for even the basic level of Green or Performance building certification, a fresh air exchange is required. This is usually a fan in a utility room that is just blowing out stale air from the interior of the home and pulls in fresh air from the exterior. The downside to this is that on a 30 degree day, it is pulling in 30 degree air to your already comfortable 72 degree home. This makes your furnace work extra to heat up this cold fresh air. In addition, these fans are not balancing an equal amount of air being pulled from the home with an equal amount of air being drawn in. This can pressurize the home, potentially pulling air through unintended areas.

What you should be asking your builder for is a Heat-Recovery Ventilator or HRV. The HRV also brings in that 30 degree air, except it uses the heat in the outgoing stale air to warm up the fresh air. Depending on the model, HRVs can recover up to 85 percent of the heat in the outgoing airstream, making these ventilators a lot easier on your budget than opening a few windows.

Using a small fan, the HRV system maintains a continuous flow of filtered outdoor air in the home. To avoid pressurization the system removes an equal amount of stale, used air from the home, especially the kitchen and bathrooms where moisture and odors are heavy. These systems can change the entire air system in a home in under 3 hours.

HRVs are ideal for tight, moisture-prone homes, like here in the Northwest, because they replace the humid air with dry, fresh air. That is why an HRV is a standard feature in every Marnella Home. For the long term health of your family and home, shouldn’t you expect this of your next home?

After reading some of the many negative articles that have been written since my last entry, it occurred to me that we quote from some of the same statistics.  However, the naysayers quote only what is negative, builders and home owners having a tough time and how the market compares to previous markets.  Yet, if any of us in the industry, and now more outside of the industry, spot light improvements and opportunities in the market we are labeled as propagandists.


This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t keep in perspective past markets, but to inform based only on how the current market compares to the past without including current performance is, I feel, disingenuous.


Would you even listen to the news if it only mentioned how the stories statistics related to the year before?  If the weather broadcast for the week only stated that the temperature would be 5 degrees warmer than last year, but didn’t tell you what the temperature would be for the week.  How about the news caster stating that “Crime is up 6% over last year”.  With no mention that actually all crime was down, except auto thefts.  Would this be acceptable as a complete story?  Would you even listen after awhile when you began to realize the missing information in the stories?  So, why listen to those who say that the Portland market is declining.  When in fact, out of the 12 regions of the Portland Metro area only 2 are showing signs of depreciation.  Compared to last year yes, the median sales price for May is down 3.2% however, it is up from April ’08 4.5%.


Acknowledgement of the opportunities within the market isn’t a denial of the current market slump.  Of course, the market is down from last year.  No one argues that.  Sales are off by over 30%.  It is also up month over month since December.  May’s sales in the Portland Metro area where up 17.8% over April.  I am criticized because this is a seasonal trend and so, this fact is irrelevant.  However, if you listen to those who are telling only the negative about the market.  How would you even know this is happening?  Seasonal or not?  With all this negative press, unless you are in the industry you would never realize this. The facts are that rates are at historic lows again and prices have corrected back to an affordable level.  To say that the market is good and it is a good time to buy again does not ignore what the current conditions are.  It clearly informs those in or considering getting in the market that conditions to buy are great.  You hear that it is difficult to get financing.  Yes, it is compared to the last couple of years, but recent improvements from Fannie Mae and FHA allow home buyers to still get 97% financing and there are even still products for 100% and stated income financing.  However, all you tend to hear is how difficult is to get financing.  How does that statement and the like inform or help anyone?  Builders are selling homes at or below cost to move them.  Isn’t that an opportunity that is worth looking into if a buyer is considering a home?


You decide who is churning out propaganda and who isn’t.  There will always be those who view the glass half empty and those who view it half full.  Obviously, I see it half full.  The reality is, we all have to adjust to this market and some of us are having a tough time.  No doubt, there will be more bad news which will be exploited by those that enjoy doing so.  However, to just resign to the fact that things are bad and ignore all that is positive, is foolish.  Moreover, to try and convince people that they shouldn’t invest without full disclosure of all the market offers is disingenuous to say the least.  I would rather inform people of the opportunities they can take advantage of than fear people into inaction and miss out on opportunities.   Really the only thing that people should fear now is that if the market continues to improve prices will strengthen and rates will go up. 


Those that do ignore the advice of the naysayers will reap the rewards of this market in the yeas to come.  I do feel that the market has made it’s correction and since real estate historically doubles about every 10 years, I feel this is the beginning of the next 10 years.