Make us your home page

Eco-friendly home grows from fire's ashes in St. Petersburg


There is much to admire about the new house on Third Avenue N: the open, inviting floor plan, the made-for-entertaining kitchen, the double water views (lake out front, pool out back). • But none of these features come up when state Rep. Rick Kriseman talks about his new home. "I've never been excited about an attic before," he says, "but this . . ." • And he's off, leading his visitors to a nearby hallway. He pulls down the attic stairs and stands back triumphantly. • It's quickly apparent what the excitement is about. No heat emanates from the space above despite a July morning well on its way to sweltering. In fact, the temperature in the attic very nearly matches that inside the living room. • The cool attic is one of several "green" concepts Kriseman and his wife, Kerry, incorporated into the home they built in the wake of a devastating fire in June 2008. • "We saw it as an opportunity," says Kriseman, the ranking Democrat on the state House Committee on Energy. "If you're going to (build an eco-friendly home), it's easier to do from scratch."

The Krisemans were on vacation in Virginia with their two children when they heard about the fire. Updates throughout their 14-hour drive back to St. Petersburg made it apparent that the home would be a total loss.

With the help of family and friends, the couple saved what they could and quickly turned to the next step, rebuilding.

"Your perspective changes when you don't have a choice," Kerry Kriseman says. "You just go on."

The couple interviewed three builders before choosing Deslandes Contracting, owned by brothers Andrew and Steve Deslandes, who grew up next door and used to mow the Krisemans' lawn. ("That was years ago," Andrew Deslandes is quick to point out.)

The Deslandes had never built a green home but were eager to learn, as was residential designer Tim Roney. The project team was then expanded to include Darren Brinkley, whose REAL Building firm provides advice on energy-efficient construction and certifications through the U.S. Green Building Council.

Brinkley made suggestions for design tweaks, product choices and building practices that would meet the council's LEED certification requirements. Homes that are LEED certified are considered the epitome of green construction. Of the four LEED levels, the Kriseman house is being consider for the top, or platinum, ranking.

• • •

The Krisemans continue their tour, noting the bamboo flooring and nontoxic paint, the double-pane windows and the solar water heater. The walls, made of common concrete block, have an environmental twist as well. The blocks were filled with spray insulation and then sandwiched between layers of insulation, turning a wall with a typical R-value of 5 into a structure with an R-value of 25. (R-value refers to insulation's resistance to heat flow. A higher R-value indicates a more effective insulation.)

The attic also benefited from a type of spray insulation called Agribalance, which is a soy-based product and therefore more environmentally friendly than comparable spray insulations.

Outside is a feature that rivals the attic for wow! factor: a rainwater harvesting system several notches above the common rain barrel.

Water drains from the roof into two huge 500-gallon tanks. It is then filtered and pumped into the house to be used for flushing toilets and washing clothes. A spigot off the back of the house also is tied into the system and provides water for washing the deck or topping off the swimming pool. One good Florida rain will nearly fill the tanks, Kriseman says, though the system also is tied into city water should the tanks run dry.

All of these features help the house earn credit under the LEED certification process, but just as important were the procedures followed by the contractors.

"The green concept comes from using local materials if possible, reducing waste and using certain components in construction," says Roney, the home designer.

Recycling was a given, with the contractors separating the materials instead of dumping everything into one huge container bound for the dump. "There was a lot of time spent by the contractors to reduce waste," Roney says.

"It's very easily done, just to spend a little more time," Andrew Deslandes says, "and it's definitely a good-feeling kind of thing."

• • •

Feeling good about the environment only goes so far for most people. Sooner or later, it's about the money.

Everyone involved with the Kriseman project is upfront about building green: It's not cheap.

"There is a significant increase in cost," contractor Steve Deslandes says. Green construction often can qualify for rebates or tax credits, but even with these incentives, you're still likely to pay 25 percent more than the cost of typical construction, and 50 percent more without the rebates or credits, he says.

Brinkley says building to green standards means building to higher standards. A green home will cost more than a standard home because of the quality of the materials, he says.

"You do have to understand you are doing things to a higher standard and higher quality," he says. "You can't build a green house for the same price as a home that is not. If you want green features, you have to sacrifice or compromise other things."

One of the first questions people often ask is how long it will take for green features to pay for themselves, he says. The payback period depends on the features you choose, with some items, such as solar water heaters, paying off much more quickly than others.

"If you're going to be there for 10 years, you're going to pay for a good portion of what you put into it," Steve Deslandes says.

And your savings won't just show up on your monthly bills. Though Kerry Kriseman estimates that their electric bill is $100 less per month than this time two years ago (taking into account rate increases by the power company), "we've actually saved a ton on our insurance," she says. "That's been amazing."

In the rebuilding, the home has greater protection from storms — "A lot of the green stuff we did helped with hurricane strengthening," Kriseman says — and from fire. The couple put in a residential sprinkler system with drop-down sprinkler heads throughout the house and in the attic.

When it came time to insure the new home, the Krisemans were able to almost double their coverage for a third of the cost of their previous premium.

• • •

As green construction becomes more popular, it also likely will become more affordable.

"It's just like when calculators first came on the market. A basic calculator that did addition and subtraction, it was $150. Now you can pick one up for $5 or less," Roney says.

Once the prices come down and more people build with an eye toward the environment, the idea of a "green house" will be better understood as well.

"In 2006, (people) would think I was talking about a place to grow vegetables or a mud hut with branches on it," Brinkley says.

Now, he says, the preconception has changed to "it's for Hollywood or rich people."

"Green homes don't look like mud huts or Hollywood mansions," he says. "They look like every house."

B Buckberry Joyce, Times lifestyles news editor, can be reached at bbuckberry@ or (727) 893-8113.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: The soy-based spray foam insulation used in Rep. Rick Kriseman's home ("A greener life ahead," Aug. 8) is Agribalance, a product made by Demilec. A different product was listed in the story. Bayside Installed Building Products of Tampa offers the product locally; call Victor Cristia at (813) 979-0230 or e-mail

Rainwater Harvesting Cistern

AGRIBALANCE spray insulation

Solar HOT water system

fast facts

What is LEED?

LEED is a third-party green certification system administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit environmental group. LEED-certified homes are energy efficient, use nontoxic building materials, are water-smart and are designed to respect the environment in which they're constructed.

There are four levels of LEED certification: certified, silver, gold and platinum, with platinum as the highest level. You can see some of the certified homes in Florida online at

Source: U.S. Green Building Council (

on the web

Take a tour

Join Rep. Rick Kriseman

for a tour of his eco-friendly

St. Petersburg home on

YouTube (type "Kriseman family" in the search box).


Green construction

Deslandes Contracting: Andrew and Steve Deslandes, contractors; (727) 456-6866, Web site ( coming soon

Rainwater Services: Brian Gregson, president: (727) 388-2655,

REAL Building: Darren Brinkley, founder and president; (727) 388-9777,

Roney Design Group: Tim Roney, residential designer; (727)-822-8600,

The right ingredients

The new home of Rick and Kerry Kriseman offers many ideas for those who want to live more efficiently, from something as easy as screwing in a light bulb to something as complicated as harvesting rainwater to use in the laundry. Here are some green features to consider:

m Rainwater harvesting cistern: Depending on their use, these systems can cost as little as a couple thousand dollars up to $20,000, says Darren Brinkley of REAL Building. Often used outdoors for irrigation, the rainwater system at the Kriseman house will be used for laundry and utilities.

m Solar hot water system: A solar hot water panel can pay off in two to three years in some cases, contractor Andrew Deslandes says.

m Agribalance spray foam insulation: This lightweight insulation is made from soy beans and can be added to older homes as well as new construction.

Instant hot water system: Instead of running the tap for a minute or so as you wait for the water to warm, these systems use a circulation pump that delivers hot water in seconds. Depending on the location of the plumbing in an older home, these systems can be fairly easy to retrofit.

• High-efficiency wall system: The Krisemans kept costs down by using standard concrete block in the construction of their home, but they improved the material's energy efficiency by adding insulation inside and out.

• Zero VOC, or low VOC, paints, stains and finishes: These paints release no or few toxins (volatile organic compounds).

• Bamboo flooring: Unlike many hardwoods used for floors, bamboo is fast growing and reaches maturity in just a few years.

• Dual-flush toilets and low-flow faucets: Water conservation is a major tenet of green building.

• High-efficiency, impact-resistant windows and doors: Many of the green features also help protect against hurricanes and severe weather.

• High-efficiency HVAC system: As important as the system, builders say, is its location in the house. Centrally placed systems are more efficient.

• Florida-friendly landscaping: Drought-tolerant plants and drip-system irrigation help conserve water.

• Energy Star appliances: These appliances incorporate advanced technologies that use 10 to 50 percent less energy and water than standard models.

• Docking station for electronics: Phone and iPod chargers left plugged in draw electricity even when not in use. A docking station makes it easy to cut off the power.

• Compact fluorescent lamps: Better known as CFLs, these light bulbs use 75 percent less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb. You also now have options to the funny-looking twisty bulb, and the color of the light has changed greatly since CFLs first hit the market. The price has come down too.

Sources: REAL Building,,

Eco-friendly home grows from fire's ashes in St. Petersburg 08/07/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 17, 2009 12:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours