Written by: By Linda Lewis
Caribella Homes is pushing the envelope by building homes of the future today. The world is changing all around us at a lightning fast pace, and Caribella is keeping up with these changes. The high cost of dwindling resources demands new and innovative building materials and techniques and a new way of thinking. This innovation is a key ingredient in Caribella’s growing success.
Green building is a mandate that cannot be overlooked any longer. Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and our human footprint is simply the necessary and smart thing to do. The completed home we are showcasing, in this article, fits into a niche market of green “system built” homes that are at the forefront of the homebuilding industry.
We have learned a great deal about ecosystems over the past few decades. By definition, it is a system of interconnected living organisms that interact with their environment. This concept has been adopted in the “system-built home.” For example, all the systems that make up the home such as the structure, water, air conditioning, heating, lighting, etc., impact each other. Therefore, in order to maximize efficiency, this impact has to be recognized and taken into consideration.
The owner of Caribella Homes, Rafael Munguia, has taken steps to ensure that his projects meet the requirements of a system-built home. Munguia and his team are Energy Star and HERS certified. Energy Star is a U.S. government sponsored program that has created standards for energy efficiency. Munguia and his team are certified partners of the Energy Star program. His HVAC contractor received his credentials through an EPA recognized industry organization. The HERS index measures a home’s energy efficiency. HERS certification requires a 40 hour training course that prepares raters to conduct energy audits and inspections to assess compliance with Energy Star specifications.
Munguia’s mission is to create “100% comfort” for his clients. A major component of this comfort is knowing that you have a solidly built home that is low maintenance and cost efficient. You might be surprised to know that six years ago he was not able to build these homes because home appraisal guidelines were at odds with this new system of building homes. They weren’t attuned to the fact that paying higher material costs initially, creates savings over the long run. With committed builders like Munguia pushing for change, the guidelines have been changed. As a result, Munguia currently has eight projects under construction. The first step in the process of building a comfortable Caribella home is creating a reinforced concrete structure.
If you have ever lived in an uninsulated concrete block home you know they are not comfortable, because temperatures are unstable. In the Caribella home, the foam that comprises the Insulating Concrete Form (ICF) structure will keep you cool in summer and warm in winter and smooth out spikes in the temperature. Reduced energy use is a savings for the consumer and the environment. But, this isn’t the only advantage of an ICF home. ICF technology totally surpasses concrete block structures.
The same advantages that eclipse concrete block also eclipse other traditional building materials. Installation time and labor costs are dramatically reduced. Thermal insulation reduces the cost of heating and cooling. Total ICF construction gives new meaning to the word “cocooning,” because you will be enveloped in a structure that is fire retardant, insect resistant, mold free, vapor free, formaldehyde free, quiet, and energy efficient.
The insulating forms are a thick dense foam made from expanded polystyrene (EPS) sheets. The forms are stacked to conform to any conventional design plan, however, walls are slightly thicker. The forms are stabilized with supports, and then rebar is inserted at intervals into the center of the form. Concrete is then poured into the forms. This creates “reinforced concrete” walls. The forms are permanent; they become the home’s insulation. Pretty nifty!! An exterior facing, like stucco, can be added directly to the block forms, or you can easily apply a stone facing with a frame that is attached to the foundation.
The Caribella home featured, in this article, has every trendsetting element desired in today’s homes. High ceilings, an open concept, a chef’s kitchen, an outdoor kitchen and entertainment area, wood flooring throughout, spa-like bathrooms, large master suite, and a separate “junior-suite.” The kitchen is particularly noteworthy. A large center island features two separate sinks set into a slab of elegant grey and white granite that is reminiscent of marble. High-end appliances and a professional range, with a pot filler, make this a dream kitchen.
The homeowner’s selections of fabrics for the kitchen’s banquette seating, side chairs, and bar stools create a composition of colorfully casual elegance, and just a hint of whimsy. Exceptionally tall kitchen cabinets give the area the grand presence it requires to compete with the 20 foot ceilings in the living area. The ceiling is actually a turret, and is Munguia’s signature design element. Clerestory windows line all four sides of the turret, allowing plenty of natural light to enter.
I asked Munguia if having an outdoor stairway to the roof was also a signature, but he said it was just coincidental that the previous home I reviewed had a stairway to a rooftop deck. The metal stairway on this home leads to a second floor private suite. Throughout the house, there are traditional elements juxtaposed against modern. For example, the ceiling in the turret is clad with stained bead board, the kitchen and the formal dining room both have beams set into tray ceilings, in different configurations. Barn style sliding wood doors with lion’s head pulls lead to a study off the living area. Lighting fixtures and furniture are a mix of traditional and modern, as are decorative items.
Materials, design elements, and colors are repeated throughout the home, creating a cohesive look. Scraped wood flooring appears in all the rooms of the house. The gray and white granite is repeated on the fireplace surround and ledge, and all the counter surfaces throughout the house. The main living area is painted in shades of gray named “gauntlet” and “mindful” to complement the granite. Accents of red and turquoise punctuate the neutral palette of gray, black and white.
In the contemporary home, the formal living room has been replaced by the great room, and the family room has been replaced by the outdoor living area. This home’s outdoor entertainment space is set up for maximum flexibility. The outdoor fireplace, in the cozy seating area, will set the mood. The Kegerator, set into the counter in the outdoor
kitchen, makes drink service easy. Throw some burgers on the grill, and you’ve got a party!
Caribella Homes is filling a growing niche in the Rio Grande Valley. Homeowners want to reduce their impact on the environment. They want to live in toxic and allergen free environments. They want to reduce their reliance on energy and reduce costs. They want sturdy low maintenance homes. Most of all they want a comfortable and beautiful home that fulfills the needs of their family. These are just a few reasons they are purchasing Caribella homes.