The first Energy Star-rated houses are being built on Guam at the Navy’s North Tipalao housing area, according to Navy officials.

The 204 homes — nearly half of which will be finished this year — are built to maximize cooling and dehumidifying systems while using less energy, according to officials with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific in Hawaii.

Yet the duplexes for enlisted families at Guam Naval Base also will withstand 170 mph winds and serve as shelters from typhoons, all without looking like drab concrete bunkers, according to John Weick, the project manager.

One major reason: The engineers got a waiver around the military’s normal color spectrum — off-white to off-beige — and are using blues and greens that more reflect Guam’s island landscape, Weick said.

"It’s very, very nice," said Heather Horvath, the ombudsman for Naval Base Guam. "It’s modern. It looks more like a home. Everyone is anxious to get in there."

About half of the homes in the $78.6 million project will be ready by the end of this year, with the first families moving in around October, Navy officials said. The remaining 108 houses will be completed by the end of next spring, according to Don Rochon, spokesman for the Pacific engineering command at Pearl Harbor.

The Energy Star certification means the builders, Watts Constructors, have followed EPA specifications meant to prevent energy waste, Weick said during a phone interview last week. The houses will have Energy Star-approved appliances, lighting and cooling systems, Weick said.

The rating costs an average of $553 per home, which covers the cost of inspectors from Energy Management Solutions in Hawaii traveling to Guam for tests. "There’s no Energy Star certifier in Guam," Weick said. "In fact, Guam was not on the Energy Star map."

The efficiency efforts mean each house, on average, will use $262 less in energy annually, Weick said. Over 25 years, that savings for 204 homes adds up to nearly $1.4 million, he said.

Horvath said that means a lot to her, even though Navy families don’t pay utility costs when living on base.

"People might think, because we don’t pay rent, we’re not conscious of those things," she said. "A lot of us are very conscious and turn our lights off. I think the homes will be nice for that factor. Every little bit helps."

Still, each home is costing the Navy $385,000. Navy officials say that reflects two main factors: The price of importing nearly everything, including some labor, needed for the project onto the island, and special materials needed to keep the houses mold-free and typhoon-ready.

Navy engineers estimate that building on Guam costs as much as 2.6 times more than in the continental United States, according to Kyra Hawn, a spokeswoman for the Navy’s engineering command at Guam Naval Base. In the States, these same homes would cost on average $146,000, according to Hawn.

Keeping the homes free from mold, wind and water damage also ups the cost, according to Weick. That means no traditional bathroom tiles, no traditional insulation or, even, doors, he said. Even the drywall must be paperless.

"Paper is candy to mold," Weick said. "That’s a real problem with drywall."

Instead, the homes are built with reinforced concrete and garage doors, spray foam insulation that resists water, a vapor barrier protecting the foundation slab and all footings, and an internal dehumidifying system, Weick said.

Even the storm shutters should withstand 170 mph winds, Weick said.

They have to, he said. The homes are built on a bluff overlooking the sea, with no natural barrier between the water and the homes.

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