Carbon-Neutral Home Ups Green Ante

McLean, VA — In today’s environmentally conscious climate, many homeowners are making changes to their daily lives that have a positive impact on the earth – or at least a less detrimental effect.

Those interested in creating a new, greener kitchen or bath are turning to designers for ideas that will provide benefits for both their families and the environment.

Kitchen and bath designers can, in turn, look to showcase homes such as the CharityWorks GreenHouse for eco-friendly design inspiration. The 3,800-sq.-ft. home, located in McClean, VA just outside the Washington, DC area, is so green, in fact, that it has been reported to be the East Coast’s first carbon-neutral showhouse.

Custom built by West-Group in collaboration with GreenSpur, Inc., and sponsored by Traditional Home magazine, the home was designed to qualify for LEED Platinum Certification. Architectural firm Cunningham Quill chose the Craftsman style as inspiration for the eco-friendly house.

Lead designer Barry Dixon, principal, Barry Dixon, Inc. in Warrenton, VA, headed a team of 19 different interior designers in creating the looks for the rooms of the home.

“The home is transitional – more contemporary with traditional accents,” he comments. “This mix makes this interior special.”

The result of this collaborative effort is a house that is filled with eco-friendly materials and innovative ideas. In fact, the home is projected to use 70-80% less energy per square foot than similar new homes because of its carefully chosen amenities.

Eco-Friendly Roots

Before the GreenHouse could be built, the one standing on the grounds first had to be removed. However, the demolition process was not handled in an ordinary fashion. Instead, it was performed with painstaking precision.

The home was deconstructed by hand, with salvageable bricks separated and broken bricks crushed for reuse on the grounds as gravel. Windows were donated, and wood was removed and held for reuse. Though the goal was to recycle about half of the home, the builders were able to salvage and recycle 97% of the original house.

As with many green homes, placement on the land was critical, with positioning for optimal natural light a crucial element. Large windows are used throughout the home to maximize the sun’s bounty and provide a connection with the exterior gardens.

“We employed an upper clerestory that sheds light evenly around the space,” reports Dixon.

An open floor plan provides connection between the rooms and ease of movement.

Dixon designed the Great Room to have three separate and usable spaces for cooking, dining and studying, and living. The space includes the kitchen, private library and a retreat area that can be used as a gym, spa or getaway space.

To separate the kitchen space from the dining/living area, Dixon incorporated a 10' metal mesh scrim. “It lets the light, air and sound pass through,” while it defines the areas, he explains.

“This is truly a ‘living’ kitchen, made for interaction, not just meal preparation,” he remarks. “The kitchen has full ‘live-in’ capability, with books, shelving, a lounge and other elements.”

Green Elements

“Everything in the space was kept organic and neutral – connected to the natural world,” he continues.

According to Dixon, the kitchen serves as an adjunct to the comfortable everyday living area. Significant floor space allows for not only plenty of storage but an area for modern day conveniences and amenities.

SieMatic cabinets in Titan Walnut and Greige anchor the space. The cabinets are manufactured with sustainably harvested lumber under a zero-waste mandate, Dixon reports.

A Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer are hidden by cabinet panels, allowing them to blend seamlessly with the overall design. A Wolf cooktop, oven and microwave add high-end functionality, and the Asko dishwasher provides clean-up assistance with water and energy savings. The appliances in the kitchen are all Energy Star rated for efficiency.

Topping the SieMatic cabinets are ECO by Cosentino countertops in Riverbed. The heat-resistant surface is composed of 75% post-industrial and post-consumer recycled raw material, including salvaged mirrors, window and bottle glass, porcelain from recycled china, tiles, sinks, toilets and decorative items, and crystallized ashes. The material is Greenguard certified for low chemical emissions and LEED certified.

In his desire to bring the natural world indoors, ECO fit Dixon’s ideal. “It has the look and feel of stone, but is actually a lot more durable for everyday use,” he offers.

Against the mesh screen wall, the countertop/cabinet area includes an undermount sink and ProMaster high-arc, pull-down faucet, both from Kohler.

Storage is a primary concern in any kitchen, and this design does not disappoint. Undercounter space is ample, and a walk-in larder for home canned goods is concealed behind a sliding door along the oven wall.

Finishing the space are terrazzo floor tiles and organic mica-encrusted wallcoverings. A custom banquette situated against the screened wall is even covered in fabric fashioned from recycled plastic water bottles.

“Every aspect of the kitchen was carbon neutral – the SieMatic cabinetry, the LEED-certified appliances, the terrazzo floors, the recycled countertops – everything!” stresses Dixon.

Among the other elements that make the GreenHouse carbon neutral are its use of geothermal heating and cooling, low-flow water fixtures, incorporation of LED lighting, reuse and recycling of materials and Smart House technology.

The home features reclaimed wood floors, no- and low-VOC paints and non-toxic finishes. Other green elements include paneling made from 100% recycled wood fiber harvested from responsibly managed forests and Manila hemp wall covering made of natural fibers from rapidly renewable resources.