One look at Jennifer Pippin’s new home and design studio in Sherrills Ford, N.C., near Charlotte, and your first thought isn’t necessarily, “That’s green.” But looks are deceiving. The 4,459-square-foot structure is built almost entirely on the foundation of a previous 1,200-square-foot home to preserve the bulk of its lakeside lot. The only significant new impact is the two-car garage and connecting spaces Pippin and her two colleagues added during the project; they also upgraded the parcel with erosion-control measures and native landscaping.
Pippin salvaged wood from the original home’s roof sructure, among several reuse and recycled-content materials and products employed in the project—an important lesson for new-home builders looking to go green. “A sustainable home is a holistic system,” she says. “Every single detail has an impact.”
Pippin created a long list of those details, from fly-ash-content concrete for the garage foundation and retaining walls to advanced framing techniques that reduced construction waste. She also reused the original kitchen cabinets in a new “drop zone” area between the garage and the main living area; specified durable, recycled-content, low-maintenance metal for the home’s siding, roofing, and trim; and added solar panels for supplemental electricity and hot water.
To address indoor air quality issues, Pippin masked all of the HVAC registers and return vents during construction and cleaned them out prior to occupancy to keep dust and debris out of the system, installed HEPA-rated filters and clean-source ventilators to refresh the air, and exhausted a trio of fireplaces to the exterior, also fitting them with fresh air intakes. The new garden room, located immediately adjacent to the garage, is conditioned, sealed, and ventilated to exhaust any nasty emissions before they make their way into the main living areas.
Those specs added up to a whole-house system that qualified for federal Energy Star certification and is likely to pass the state’s independent HealthyBuilt Homes program standards. Pippin also followed the NAHB’s model green building guidelines, but completed the house before the association implemented its rating system.
Many of the ideas and applications of green building contained in the project have already dispersed beyond the home’s borders, thanks mainly to the personal tours and promotional events Pippin has hosted since finishing the project in January. “When we started [in mid-2006], there weren’t a lot of local resources for green building products,” she says. “Now, we’re flooded with green products in this market.”
She also nurtured a stable of trade contractors to respond to green housing demand that’s sure to crop up as a result of the project and ongoing promotional efforts. “We had to educate every contractor about our goals and definition of green standards,” she recalls. “We needed to point out what was important for them to do to achieve the overall goal.”
One key example was the HVAC sub. Pippin insisted that he run calculations for the amount of glass, room sizes, and the home’s orientation to the sun, among other considerations, to properly size the heating and cooling equipment instead of simply relying on a per-foot formula. “It makes the house more comfortable and costs far less for the [typically downsized] equipment and its energy use,” she says.
Aesthetically, the new house resembles the farm buildings Pippin grew up in and around, but at the same time it addresses other, often neglected aspects of green building she chose to incorporate, including universal design. “It is a home that is sustainable because it is durable, flexible, efficient, accessible, and rejuvenates us and everyone who visits it,” she says. “Each person must define for themselves what is green to them and how far they want to take it.”
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Charlotte, NC.