Home & Garden Festival


Formerly known as the Home & Garden Show, the 39th Annual Blue Ridge Home Builders Association (BRHBA) Home and Garden Festival takes place on April 20-22nd at the John Paul Jones Arena. There’s a feeling of excitement and celebration as BRHBA focuses on the word “Festival.” This year brings together more exhibitors than ever before (120 including the outdoor booths) to demonstrate their newest home and garden products and services, and to answer your questions. This is the destination for the latest tips and trends for 

homeowners who are remodeling their current homes, updating to sell, or even building a new home. At only $5 admission, with children under 12 free, it is an enjoyable weekend for the whole family, and a good introduction for newcomers to area businesses and services. 
Special Events
Just visiting BRHBA’s website (www.brhba.org) will whet your appetite when you see the exciting range of activities planned, all included in the price of admission. The exhibitors are going out of their way to welcome you and to put on marvelous displays. And this year will have even more treats and special events, according to Jim Kuznar, Executive Vice President of BRHBA. “We’re anticipating the best turnout ever. Our sponsors, partners, and participating vendors are exceptional and we have many events planned that we’ve never done before, including live music and wine tasting.” 
One of those events is Radio Disney Team Green Game Show – Power Edition, sponsored by BRHBA and its partner, UVA Community Credit Union. In this fun game show, families will compete for prizes and learn about energy-saving home improvements and PowerSaver Loans. Children will have a chance to win a Radio Disney Party for their elementary school, while parents can talk with representatives from the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) about financing energy upgrades. Building or retrofitting a home with energy efficient and sustainable products is a well-intentioned goal, and there are many things the homeowner should know about before embarking on the venture. LEAP is there to help with information on products, builders, etc., and with financing. You can also enter to win free home energy reviews.
In another area of the arena, a special “Kid Zone,” sponsored by Charlottesville Gas, will provide children with many hands-on activities to keep them busy and involved. While a particular treat for adults comes from two local vineyards, Reynard Florence of Barboursville (www.reynardflorence.com) and Stone Mountain Vineyards in Dyke (www.stonemountainvineyards.com), who will offer wine-tasting. The SPCA has an outdoor booth and all pet-lovers will want to visit and think about taking home a new ‘little one.’
Quality Exhibits
If you peruse home magazines and dream of building, remodeling, redecorating, or even upgrading elements of your home, then visiting the Home and Garden Festival will surely bring that longing into focus and be a real first step on the road to your dream. As you walk the aisles and stop in at the many exhibitors’ booths, you will be doing much more than collecting ‘trinkets.’ This is an exceptional chance to learn, so BRHBA invites you to allow yourself time to enjoy this valuable experience. 
Whether you’re knowledgeable or not about products and services for your home, you will find that after a little browsing you’ll know the questions to ask and you’ll be able to get answers that will put you on the right track for your needs. As Jim Kuznar asserts, “We’re very proud of the response we got to this year’s Home and Garden Festival. There are top-notch providers in every area of building and remodeling and they’ll be ‘manning’ the booths with knowledgeable people who are excited to help. A real resource for information—and a good time!” 
Local exhibitors include quality builders, remodelers, and landscape contractors. You’ll also find a full range of the latest and finest building products represented: HVAC, including geo-thermal; insulation; windows and siding; roofing; water treatment; wood and other flooring; tile and stone. There will be booths showcasing a broad range of interior and exterior products, such as wood stoves, window shutters, closet systems, carpeting, wood and other flooring, spas, plus many others. You’ll also see local repair and service companies in addition to national concerns that have a presence in the Charlottesville area. The range of display is wide and varied—a real treat for the serious shopper as well as the casual browser. Many vendors will have unadvertised specials for visitors to their booths, so be on the lookout for a good deal on products you need or want. Yes, be sure to collect the trinkets—and you’ll come away with a lot more, too.
The Green Theme
A cursory look at this year’s exhibitors (full list is on BRHBA’s website: www.brhba.org) clearly demonstrates how far the building trades have come in the last 39 years in Central Virginia. Over the years, Blue Ridge Home Builders Association has grown, matured, and become a leader in promoting sustainable building practices. So, too, have area builders and remodelers, tradespeople, service providers, product vendors, and consultants become fluent in the ‘green language’ of energy conservation and green building.
At this year’s Home and Garden Festival, BRHBA continues its focus on ‘green education’ with additional opportunities to learn the language yourself through a series of free workshops, presented by UVA Community Credit Union. These workshops are designed to help educate and inform the public on a variety of green building and design principles. “In addition to green building, the seminars will also provide local residents and property owners easy access to information and resources that will help create more energy efficient, healthy and comfortable homes,” Kuznar says.
The Festival workshops are geared for the DIY-er, the person intending to build, and those looking for energy savings in remodeling or in simple upgrading, and for anyone wanting to add value to their homes. They cover topics from new construction questions, to water conservation, to geo-thermal, as well as showing simple, cost-effective improvements you can do yourself.
BRHBA’s Workshop Schedule
Friday, April 20 
  • 2-3pm – New Construction: What to Ask Your Builder
  • 3:30-4-30pm – Home Energy Assessment 101
  • 5-6pm – It’s Time to Think About the Water
Saturday, April 21
  • 11-12pm – Composting
  • 12:30-1:30pm – Cash for Comfort- How to Pay for Energy Improvements
  • 2-3pm – Reducing Your Carbon Footprint with Geothermal
  • 3:30-4:30pm – New Construction: How to Save 30-50 percent on Energy Bills
Sunday, April 22
  • 1:30-2:30pm – Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Improvements
  • 3-4pm – Home Energy Assessments: Get Information for Big Savings
One of the first booths to visit, where many of your questions about green construction will be answered, is EarthCraft-Virginia’s (www.earthcraftvirginia.org), where you’ll enhance your learning of “comfortable conservation.” EarthCraft is a non-profit organization in the Southeast U.S. that trains builders, consults with them during the building process, and certifies their homes. By using a builder or contractor who is affiliated with EarthCraft, your new or remodeled home and upgrades will have EarthCraft certification. This assures that your home is more sustainably built or improved well beyond standard building codes, yielding utility savings and better resale value as well as more comfort in daily living. 
All EarthCraft Homes average a 30 percent reduction in energy usage compared to typical code-built homes. In addition to outstanding energy performance, their certified homes are durable, comfortable, and both water and resource efficient. EarthCraft informs us that while there is no research available in Virginia, a recent study conducted by a realtor’s association in Atlanta showed that ‘green’ homes spent 80 days on the market (versus 140 days) and received 93 percent of asking price (versus 90 percent). 
Currently, 19 quality builders in the Charlottesville area are certified to build to EarthCraft standards. Two local construction companies, as well as other contractors, that work with EarthCraft are exhibitors at the H&G Festival. 
Abrahamse & Company Builders (www.abrahamse.com) has been a high-quality, award-winning builder in the Charlottesville area for 35 years, a long-time member of BRHBA, EarthCraft, U.S. Green Building Council, and many other sustainable groups, but this is their first visit to the Home and Garden show/festival. When asked why, Dale Abrahamse explains that he believes sustainability and good quality construction belong in homes at all price points. “I’m excited to talk with people about how to increase efficiency and sustainability—without having to spend a fortune to do it. Sustainable construction and products have reached the point that they are available and should be used for everyone. It is not more expensive to use energy efficient products,” Abrahamse states.
While Abrahamse & Company is known for working with architects on new custom homes, in the last years they have been  working with the Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) and bringing their ‘high-end,’ quality construction and green principles into the field of retrofitting existing homes  to increase energy efficiency and sustainability. They invite you to stop by their booth so they can show you what’s possible–plus they have a little ‘trinket’ for you.
Another EarthCraft affiliate, Artisan Construction, Inc. (www.artisaninc.com), founded by Doug Lowe in 1987, has a long-standing and stellar reputation for sustainable construction.
In 2005 Artisan Construction built the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified home in the area and recently Lowe was a judge on the Department of Energy’s “Solar Decathlon” international research project.
All this started, Lowe says, from a keen interest in energy efficiency and the process evolved into one dedicated to sustainability. To each home they bring knowledge gained from products used in their commercial buildings, mostly medical and high-tech. Because of this high-tech background they are called upon to build homes that are highly custom and unique—ones requiring this expertise. Yet, as of 1996 they had built homes in most Charlottesville subdivisions, too.
Doug Lowe is adamant that green building not be restricted to only custom homes. In his view, “…all homes are custom” and with some forethought and planning, homes can easily incorporate green design principles. For example, Lowe tells us that the “…most common sense and important energy efficient design principle is the siting of the house. Does it take advantage of passive solar? Is it protected from the cold winds of winter? Does the landscaping add to its protection in summer and winter?” 
Artisan Construction has been an exhibitor at the Home and Garden Show for many years and Lowe is excited to return. “I always enjoy the show, seeing old friends. So I hope many people will stop by to talk—we’d like to make new friends and we have lots to show them.”
And that last statement can be attributed to all the exhibitors, “Stop by. Say ‘hey.’ We have lots to show you!”
Francesca Toscani (Interior Editions) specializes in reworking and remodeling difficult kitchen, bath and other interior spaces to unlock their potential. Contact her at francesca.toscani@yahoo.com.