Green Architects Conway SC
Site-Built Homes, Owner/Builder
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Going Green at the Beach
Dave and Anna Porter are taking green living to a new level. After Dave exchanged his large luxury car for a new Toyota Prius hybrid a few years ago, he and Anna looked at each other and wondered what else they could do.
“Getting rid of the car represented the realization that there are certain things you just don’t need,” Dave says. After discussing what their new, greener lifestyle would look like, Dave and Anna sold their suburban Seattle McMansion and purchased a beachfront cottage on Port Susan Bay, about 40 miles north of the city, with the idea of turning it into a green homestead. And so begins an amazing remodeling journey they’ve dubbed “Going Green at the Beach.”
Deep Green Design
While the couple’s journey toward a greener lifestyle began in the early 1980s, when Dave became a loan expert for buyers of energy-efficient homes, the 21st century has brought with it a deeper level of understanding of greenbuilding for the Porters.
With three of their four children in college, the couple took a fresh look at how to right-size their new home. “Over the years we learned that big houses with big lawns not only cost money to maintain but they cost a lot in time too,” Dave notes.
The Porters decided their remodeling project would be distinctly deep green from the beginning. They also planned to share and promote every aspect of their building experience, in hopes of inspiring others to build green homes — durable, functional, non-toxic, energy-efficient and attractive enough to stand the test of time.
By choosing to remodel on an existing home site, the Porters didn’t disrupt a pristine piece of land. In addition, infrastructure was already in place. Still, building on an existing 31-foot-wide beachfront lot presented plenty of challenges.
“The narrowness of the site, the ‘build green’ creative direction and the overall design goals of maintaining the existing beach-cottage character of the old home put a lot of solution-driven prerequisites on the design team,” notes project architect Pat McBride, principal at GMS Architectural Group, located in Bellevue, Wash.
One of the biggest differences between conventional building and greenbuilding is that the latter requires a larger investment in time and money during the design and planning process. To get a strong start on a green design project, it’s necessary to have all parties involved sit down and work together from the beginning, explains Anna. The tricky part, she adds, was balancing a team that included greenbuilding experts as well as those who didn’t know much about greenbuilding.
“It would have been a lot easier for everybody if we could have written the entire script before we started filming,” says Anna with a smile. Adds Kevin Murray, vice president of Chaffey Homes, the project’s builder, “It’s all about communication. It’s imperative to have seamless communication between the owner, the trade partner and the general contractor.”
Unbuilding and Building
The Porters began by “unbuilding,” or deconstructing the existing home on the property. During the deconstruction phase, which typically costs more in labor than simple demolition, the Porters salvaged as many building materials as possible for use in the new home.
For instance, they used decking salvaged from the original home to create wine racks for the new home’s wine cellar. Other materials, such as paneling, siding, flooring and cedar shingles, as well as a shower stall, vanity and dishwasher, were salvaged and sold or given away to other building projects. In all, about 80 percent of the original home’s materials was diverted from landfills.
Once the deconstruction phase was completed and the building of the new home got underway, the Porters focused on ensuring a highly insulated, airtight building envelope, which is a top priority when designing an energy-efficient home. A building’s envelope, or shell, includes the exterior walls, doors, windows, roof and subfloor. Each provided the Porters with the opportunity to choose long-lasting, durable materials that will require minimum maintenance and provide maximum energy efficiency.
For instance, advanced framing techniques significantly reduced the amount of wood used to frame the home by placing studs 24 inches on center rather than the standard 16 inches.
To seal the home, the Porters opted for Icynene foam insulation, which works with the house wrap to create a tight air barrier. Foam insulation fills cracks and crevices in the walls, floors and attic, effectively sealing out moisture, allergens and pollutants. Sprayed-in-place foam insulation products have up to twice the R-value per inch than traditional fiberglass batt insulation, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
The Porters also specified a standing-seam metal roof, which contains recycled content and will be recyclable at the end of its 40-plus-year life, as well as cement board shingle siding, which is faux-painted to resemble cedar shingles. The siding is expected to require less maintenance than traditional siding over its expected 50-year life.
There’s another interesting aspect to the roof, and it’s literally green. The Porters installed a modular roof system called GreenGrid, which consists of two-by-two-foot panels, or grids, that contain soil and are preplanted with a mixture of drought-tolerant plants, including sedums, fescue and lavender, all of which will perform well in a beach environment. The green or “living roof” section covers 364 square feet of the Porter’s home.
Sun and Earth Energy
Energy efficiency is an important aspect of the Porters’ home, which features solar photovoltaic (PV) electric and solar thermal (water heating) systems. The Porters expect the 1.2-kilowatt solar electric system to meet up to 50 percent of the home’s demand for electricity. “We’re connected to the grid and have the ability to sell power back to the utility,” notes Dave, “and because the PV system includes a battery backup, we won’t ever be without power.”
The home is also plumbed for an evacuated-tube solar hot water system. “We didn’t need to add it initially, because we have a tankless hot water system that uses propane. But if propane costs go up, we’ll have the option to switch over,” explains Dave.
A geothermal heat pump system provides a constant water temperature for heating the home in the winter and cooling it in the summer. The system is also tied into the home’s in-floor radiant heating system.
Approximately 70 percent of the lighting in the Porters’ home is provided by compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. Kohler low-flow toilets will save up to 3,000 gallons of water per year per fixture. Appliances throughout the home are energy and water efficient. Smart Design
Dave refers to the green design elements found throughout the home as “smart design,” which includes integrated spaces that have multiple uses. For instance, the upstairs room is a multitasking entertainment area where the homeowners and their guests can listen to music, watch television or play games. Instead of separate formal living and dining rooms, a single great room combines the two. “We tried to create rooms that would have multiple spaces and serve several purposes,” says Anna.
This includes the incorporation of universal design, which will allow the Porters to age-in-place, and will make the home easily accessible to people of all ages and with diverse physical abilities.
The Porters worked with designers Keith and Beth Miller of the Seattle-based green interior design firm Miller & Associates to create a home that incorporates eco-friendly elements into the traditional Northwest cottage architecture, with a touch of coastal whimsy mixed in. The overall goal, notes Keith, was to create a safe and healthy interior for the Porters, incorporating the latest developments in green design.
Seattle’s Environmental Home Center, now called Ecohaus, served as a retail source for many of the home’s interior finishes, such as wood flooring certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), durable tiles made with recycled content and paints with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Other green components of the beachfront house include:
• PaperStone countertops, which are made from up to 100-percent post-consumer recycled paper
• IceStone countertops, which consist of recycled glass and concrete, and are manufactured using an emission- and chemical-free process
• Marmoleum and bamboo flooring, both incorporating rapidly renewable materials
• Neil Kelly cabinetry, made with sustainably harvested woods and low-VOC finishes
• American Clay natural earth plaster and low-VOC paints.
The Porters opened up their home for tours during the construction phase and plan to host open house events throughout 2008. “We could have built a green house quietly, more quickly and a lot cheaper,” says Dave, “but we wanted this to be an educational process for builders, other homeowners and for providers of green materials.”
For information on public tours of the home and other related events, you can visit the project’s website at www.goinggreenatthebeach.com . On their website, the Porters will also report on the home’s ongoing water usage and energy performance. It’s just another demonstration of their unwavering commitment to doing the right thing, both in terms of what building green means to the planet as a whole, and for the local community in which they live.
Tracy Fox writes about energy-efficient design, healthy building materials, and sustainable design and building practices. Her firm,
Foxline Design (foxlinedesign.com,) is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council.
Green Luxury Condos
When most homeowners think of greenbuilding, they envision single-family homes with bamboo floors, solar panels and high-efficiency heating and cooling systems. But builders across the country are proving that condominium projects can be just as green.
In municipalities as diverse as Chicago and Las Vegas, Los Angeles and New York City, environmentally friendly condo towers are rising. In the pages that follow, we spotlight four of these cutting-edge residential projects. You might be surprised to learn how easy it is to go green in a condo.
The Winthrop Club
Chicago and its suburbs are home to an impressive number of green projects - everything from residential subdivisions to environmentally friendly office buildings. Bob Horner, a managing member of Chicago-based Winthrop Properties, plans to add to this green legacy with the 98-unit, 15-story Winthrop Club condominium project, which is scheduled for completion in late 2008.
The Winthrop Club will be the first residential project to attain Silver LEED certification in Evanston, a suburb just north of Chicago. The U.S. Green Building Council awards LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) honors to buildings that meet certain environmental criteria in areas such as site development, water and energy conservation, the selection of building materials, and indoor air quality.
The condos at the Winthrop Club will feature water-saving fixtures, heating units that can be controlled individually by homeowners and green roofs on its various levels. In addition, the building is located within walking distance of public transportation, another key component of environmentally responsible building design.
During the 20-month building process, which began this summer, crews will rely on recycled building materials and use concrete with a high content of fly ash. A residue given off during the firing of coal to produce electrical power, fly ash is a reclaimed material that actually improves the strength and durability of concrete.
Aiming for an environmental first has resulted in relatively few problems for the Winthrop Club's construction crews and designers, Horner says. "We've been studying greenbuilding techniques and the LEED program for several years now. We realized long ago that creating a building that met potential buyers' criteria for quality and energy efficiency already put us most of the way toward LEED status. It was a simple matter to step it up a notch or two."
Buyers are responding. As of mid-summer, 30 of Winthrop Club's 98 units had been sold, Horner says. Though he doesn't attribute this solely to buyers' desire for green living, he notes that the project's environmentally friendly features certainly haven't hurt sales.
"Buyers don't necessarily know they want a green building," Horner says, "but they do want a high-quality one that is energy efficient, used quality building materials and is convenient to shopping and transportation. Those criteria, while they are green-oriented, also tend to be quality-oriented."
MGM Mirage CityCenter
Las Vegas, Nev.
Las Vegas is known for lots of things; greenbuilding hasn't been one of them. MGM Mirage is out to change that.
The development company is now building MGM Mirage CityCenter, a $7 billion mixed-use community on the famed Las Vegas strip. Set to open in late 2009, the 76-acre development will boast four residential towers. When complete, CityCenter will be the first, and definitely the largest, LEED-certified residential project in Nevada.
The towers, each unique in its design and conceived by four of the country's top architects, will bring 2,400 condominium units to the strip. The Residences at the Mandarin Oriental will feature 277 one- to three-bedroom condos, while the 1,543-unit Vdara Condo Hotel will offer studio units and one- or two-bedroom penthouses. The Harmon, a hotel, will include 228 one- and two-bedroom condos, while the twin Veer Towers - which are being built at a five-degree angle to make it appear as if they are tipping slightly - will add 352 condominium units to the mix.
The towers will feature luxury amenities befitting a development where units will list for as much as $12 million. But CityCenter will also be green - extremely green. Rooms will feature energy-efficient glass, and carpeting will be made from recycled materials. Some of the stonework being used in the towers is being shipped from a retaining wall torn down in Great Britain, while much of the wood is reclaimed from old barns in the United States. In addition, the project will recycle as many materials as possible from the old Boardwalk casino, which was demolished to make room for CityCenter.
Most impressive, though, may be the project's central powerplant, which will produce 36,000 metric tons of air conditioning and will also heat and cool the water for use by tower residents. The plant will produce cool air by pushing it over pipes containing the cold water it will pump throughout CityCenter.
Those involved with CityCenter say its high-end luxury status, size and, of course, its location on the Vegas strip will bring even more attention to the benefits of building green. "This project is attracting international attention," says Tylere Brennan, sales executive with CityCenter. "It's one of the largest LEED-certified projects in the world. It is 18 million square feet of LEED-certified construction."
New York, N.Y.
The green-oriented developers at Albanese Organization, a Garden City, N.Y., real estate firm, hope their latest residential project, The Visionaire, will offer more proof that it's possible to mix greenbuilding techniques with luxury construction. The 35-story, 251-unit condominium project is now under construction in New York City's Battery Park neighborhood, with its opening scheduled for the summer of 2008.
Photovoltaic solar panels installed throughout the Visionaire tower will generate 5 percent of the electrical power used by residents. The company will purchase another 35 percent of its power from renewable-energy sources such as windpower providers.
The Visionaire boasts its own highly efficient heating and cooling system, which will supply conditioned and filtered fresh air to each condo unit to ensure healthy indoor air quality. The system will consume 35 percent less energy than typical HVAC equipment.
Roof gardens will harvest rainwater for irrigation purposes, while The Visionaire's in-building wastewater treatment system will be designed to conserve water. The system will push water recycled from the units' sinks and showers to re-supply toilets. It also will provide make-up water for the HVAC system's cooling tower. Energy Star clothes washers and dryers will also help conserve energy and water.
Steps like this have put The Visionaire on track to achieve Platinum LEED status, the highest level of environmentally friendly certification possible.
According to Michael Gubbins, vice president and director of residential management for Albanese, it's the buyers who are pushing developers toward these sustainable features. They appreciate the quality that comes with green construction, he notes. "Once people finally move into a green building, they can't live anywhere else," Gubbins says. "Green has become a definite selling point."
Residents also appreciate new homes that conserve energy, Gubbins adds, and not just because efficient residences are good for the environment. "Those building energy savings translate into lower utility bills [for homeowners]. It helps the pocketbooks of the tenants. People want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. This helps them do that."
Elleven, Luma and
Los Angeles, Calif.
It's all about what Tom Cody calls "20-minute living," and it's why Cody and his fellow developers at The South Group are so excited about South, a new high-rise community located in downtown Los Angeles. Comprised of three residential towers located above ground-floor retail shops, the South project marks the first green residential high-rise buildings in downtown Los Angeles.
Two residential towers, Elleven and Luma, are already completed. A third tower, Evo, will open in the summer of 2008. Once these three buildings are complete, The South Group will begin work on South Figueroa, a fourth new residential building at the project.
"This is about creating an entire sustainable neighborhood," says Cody, principal with The South Group. "It's 20-minute living. You have everything you need to thrive within a 20-minute walk. You have shopping, restaurants and open space all within that walk. You don't have to hop into your automobile and drive for hours to get to grocery stores."
This may not seem like a green amenity but it is: One of the most important tenants of green construction is building residences that encourage owners to use more foot power and less gasoline.
"It's not something like solar panels - that hits you over the head with its green nature," Cody says. "But there are some fundamental things you can do with good planning and smart growth that make a much more profound impact on the environment. We are doing these large gestures along with the smaller items, the energy-efficient features and design attributes of the building."
All of the buildings will incorporate green features such as bamboo flooring, water-efficient fixtures and energy-efficient windows. In addition, the units' dual-flush toilets, which Cody describes as "sexy," will enable homeowners to control the amount of water they need to flush away waste. Cody says these toilets can save hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a year in each building.
Planners of the project are hoping that South becomes the first LEED Gold-certified project in downtown Los Angeles. "This is a place that has not been known for its environmentalism in the past," Cody notes. "Hopefully, this project will open the floodgates and create a new paradigm here."
The best news is that buyers are asking more frequently about the buildings' green features, Cody says. "We really have turned the corner. Late last year, it seemed, the consumers shifted gears. They are now much more aware of the environment. If you asked me a year ago, I would have said they loved the green features but weren't making the purchase because of them. Today, people are making purchases because of those features."
Dan Rafter profiled 2007's Innovative Homes in the January/February 2007 issue. He's based in Chesterton, Ind.