A Conversation with Mission Viejo’s “Queen of Green”

By Sherri Butterfield

EverGreen Award recipient Jan Shomaker talks about remodeling homes to make them more energy and water efficient.

Last fall, Jan Shomaker was selected from a distinguished pool of nominees to receive the 2016 EverGreen Award given by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Green REsource Council. Jan was nominated for this award because of her solid commitment to green building practices and her ongoing work within the community to drive sustainability. She was selected for the award by an independent panel of green industry professionals and received it in November, during the NAR Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida.

Specifically, what had you done to merit an EverGreen award?

In 2007, I started a Green Committee for the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce. Then, in 2009, with encouragement from President Mary Jane Cambria and the Orange County Association of REALTORS® (OCAR) Board of Directors, I established and chaired OCAR’s first-ever Green Committee to help spread the word about energy efficiency. Since then, OCAR has produced three EverGreen Award winners: Evan Little for greening the Multiple Listing Service, Eileen Oldroyd for her veggie mobile, and now me. No other Association of REALTORS® has this track record!

What experiences motivated you to go green?

I sat on the Huntington Beach Planning Commission for eight years. We were presented with the new building codes pertaining to energy efficiency. Even though my husband Allen and I had improved many of our homes, we were not aware of the Building Energy Efficiency Standards (Title 24), which became law in 1978 and which—in my mind—correlated with catalytic converters on automobiles and toilet exchanges to save water.

One of my aha moments came when we put the first solar hot water tank on our garage roof to save energy. Another of my aha moments came when I was visiting a neighbor. I noticed that she had dual-glazed windows. I realized that our home, which was among the first ones built and had been constructed before the new code, had single-glazed windows. I changed the windows to dual glazed before I sold the home.

You and Allen have remodeled four older tract homes to make them more water and energy efficient. What are some of the features you have included?

We have remodeled and energized two homes in Long Beach, one in Lakewood, and one in Mission Viejo. Basically, we use the same template for all of our properties—water (pipes wrapped if possible), electricity, gas, insulation, windows. We install water-efficient faucets, showerheads, toilets, and landscaping. We replace incandescent bulbs with LED lighting throughout the home and garage. For additional savings, we use solar tubes in windowless places, such as dark hallways and closets. We place solar fans on the roof to draw the heat out of the garage and attic on hot days. And we use solar shades to prevent excess sun and heat from entering the home in the first place. And just for the record, anything we remove, we donate to Habitat for Humanity.

When you and Allen moved from Huntington Beach to Mission Viejo, you selected a gently used hillside home and remodeled it inside and out to go green. What goals did you have in mind for this home during the eighteen months when you were doing the research, planning the project, and choosing the products and materials that would become a part of it?

Our first goal was to enjoy our home once it came to fruition. We rebuilt that older home to conform with Mission Viejo’s Green Standards. We love what we have accomplished! Recently, John Shipman of Build It Green brought the graduating Green Education class of Orange County REALTORS® to visit our home.

An article in the January 2017 issue of the Mission Viejo Reporter terms you “the Queen of Green” and mentions, among other things, your extensive use of solar tubes to light windowless interior spaces in your Mission Viejo home. Are you still making changes and adjustments as technology improves and new products and materials become available—or you become aware of them?

Yes, we are always tweaking our home. For example, recently we installed screw-in diffusers on our faucets (which cost approximately one dollar each) and put in new toilets. We are replacing our showerheads with the lower-flow variety. We need to know what works well and what doesn’t. We regularly open our home to interested REALTORS®, and we don’t want to pass on bad information.

What advice would you give to the owners of older homes who want to go green but don’t know where or how to begin?

When we started the Green Committee, we determined that we were the “Source of the Resource.” I would hope that home owners who want to go green know REALTORS® who have taken the Green Education classes and have applied some of that technology to their own homes so they can walk the talk!