Green home builder snags award

By: Andrew DiLuccia, Journal Real Estate Editor
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Nichoel Farris is changing minds about modular homes, and her company, Auburn-based American Home Sales, is winning awards in the process. With a commitment to producing green homes, Farris said she and her company have designed and produced the nation’s first totally green pre-fab home, the Sonoma House. And recently, her company was awarded a 2008 Flex Your Power award for Innovative Products and/or Services for the design and building of the Sonoma House. “We’re so honored and so excited,” Farris said. “First, for the industry, to be recognized. And second, for a small, woman-owned business to be recognized by the state of California.” Farris has the glass plaque proudly displayed in the company’s showroom at 1450 Grass Valley Highway. According to Farris, her company went up against larger corporations, including large energy providers. Along with the award, the Sonoma House, which made a successful appearance at the Auburn Spring Home Show, will be featured on Home & Garden Television’s “House Hunters” show during the channel’s “Green Week” in April. For Farris to design and produce the first entirely green pre-fab home, she and her company went through several stages of planning and design to qualify for green home designation. American Homes Sales followed green-building guidelines to meet Department of Housing and Urban Development eco-friendly standards and worked with environmental firm Build it GREEN in Berkeley to come up with the house. The Sonoma House, which has been produced 11 times since the Auburn Home Show, comes as an 1,199-square-foot home that features two bedrooms and has a base starting price of around $67,000. However, buyers can upgrade the home and change the configuration. “What she (Farris) did was put together something that I think is in demand, in that people are looking for products that are affordable and are still energy conservation conscious. And she did that,” said Lani Johnston, owner/producer of the Auburn Home Show. “All of the accolades I heard from the attendees were stupendous. She just hit a home run.” Some of the highlights of the Sonoma House include: PV Solar, metal roof, no or low volatile organic compounds paints, lime plaster paints, LCD flat screen with Control 4 Home Monitoring System, reclaimed wood flooring, Pergola and Cupola constructed for scrap/reclaimed wood, insulated concrete forms, smart vents, natural soapstone counters, whole-house water filter, LED lighting, occupancy sensors, tank-less water heater and an electric car plug on the outside wall. The pre-fab homes are built in a climate-controlled environment in Paris, Calif., and can be shipped all over the country. Recently, Farris oversaw the transportation of one her homes to Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California. Farris is dedicated to offering affordable green homes and pursues continuing education on the subject and getting multiple certifications for her company. Currently, Farris is taking a yearlong program from UC Davis on green building, and is getting a certification to work on Native American construction. American Home Sales is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, Build It Green, California Manufactured Housing Institute and an active member of the Energy Star New Homes program. With a commitment to green building, American Home Sales is seeing a surge in business. “That’s been huge,” said Heidi Jo Minton of American Home Sales. “We have people asking if we can ship to Hawaii, to the East Coast. I believe we are the first of our kind.” But with it comes understanding the ways of green construction as you go, sometimes on the fly. “It’s been an uphill learning curve,” Jo Minton said. “There’s been lots to learn.” One example is learning what to do with all the waste from the construction of homes. To answer that, American Home Sales is taking the construction leftovers and recycling them into other projects. In the end, Farris wants to show people that prefab homes aren’t what they used to be, and that going green is in everyone’s grasp. “The misconception is people can’t afford green. Our homes average between $45 and $75 a square foot,” she said. “It’s available to people with average incomes.” The Journal’s Andrew DiLuccia can be reached at, or post a comment at ---------- What is Home & Garden Television? HGTV, America’s leader in home and lifestyle programming, is distributed to more than 89 million U.S. households and is one of cable’s top-rated networks. is the nation’s leading online home and garden destination that attracts an average of 5.2 million unique visitors per month. The network’s branded programming also can be seen in 47 other countries and its selected programming is available to servicemen and women on board Navy ships and through American Forces Radio and Television Service which services more than 1,000 outlets in over 175 countries. It’s headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., with offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville and New York, About “House Hunters” (Weeknights 9/8 central) “House Hunters” takes viewers behind the scenes as individuals, couples and families learn what to look for and decide whether or not a home is meant for them. Focusing on the emotional experience of finding and purchasing a new home, each episode shows the process as buyers search for a home. — Courtesy Contact American Home Sales Call: (530) 885-4555 On the Web: