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The Green Team - Local Building Pros Provide Holistic Approach

Posted 05/26/10

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May 26, 2010 - The Wheeling News Register - By Betsy Bethel Life Associate Editor

Four local businesses involved in the housing design industry have joined forces to help "greenify" every step of the home-building process, from conception to everyday use.

The Online Green Design team offers consumers a one-stop shop for environmentally friendly design solutions in architecture, provided by Kayafas, Breisch and Crowley Architects of Wheeling; landscape, by Hays Landscape Architecture Studio Ltd. in St. Clairsville; interiors by Kellie M. Clark of SMG Architects, Interiors Division, in Wheeling; alternative energy solutions by Ohio Valley-based GreenEnergyWise; and mechanical systems by Integrated Green Solutions in Cleveland.

Three of the team members -KBC, Hays and Integrated Green Solutions - recently worked together to design the new Olney School activities center in Barnesville, a project that Olney officials requested go beyond the requirements of LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the internationally recognized green building certification system.

The three businesses decided to form a cooperative, adding two more "spokes" to the wheel - interior design and alternative energy. They are hoping to roll with Online Green Design locally as well as nationally, through the Web site,

Tim Crowley - LEED AP said some people looking to build a home might not want to incorporate all aspects of green design, but the team offers a "green, greener, greenest" continuum to meet their needs. He encourages people, though, to consider that "going green" can mean a lot more than catching storm water in a rain barrel or using compact fluorescent light bulbs.

"If you want to go green, you have to look at it from a holistic point of view, and we have a team that can address that for you," Crowley said.

The Green Row

People might not think of modular homes as environmentally friendly, but they are at the heart of this new "green team." The team developed The Green Row concept, which is urban infill housing using modular construction. Crowley was inspired to devise The Green Row while staring out his office window on Chapline Street at the row houses across the street.

"I thought, 'Those could so easily be modular,'" he said, noting the long, narrow spaces. Because modular homes are manufactured in a factory, then transported and lifted by crane and set into place, urban centers would not be torn up for months during construction, and homeowners or renters could move in a fraction of the time it would take to build a wooden frame home.

"There is a trend nationwide of people moving back to the cities," Crowley said. City living can be considered green because the infrastructure already is in place, utility lines are in place, and homes and yards are smaller meaning they require less maintenance and energy.

In Wheeling, the city is in the process of demolishing dilapidated homes and at the same time there is a need for affordable housing. The Green Row could be the answer, although the homes are not necessarily low-cost housing.

"I always say it may be cheap, but at what cost?" said Clark, the interior designer. Green homes are healthier homes, not only for the environment but for the occupants, she said.

Crowley said he pitched The Green Row concept to Haven Homes, a Maryland-based modular manufacturer with a factory in State College, Pa., and the company has partnered with Online Green Design to offer The Green Row in cities across the country. Haven and the team have come up with a variety of facades for the homes in order to fit in with the neighborhood, and there are several interior layout options, including one-, two- and three-bedroom plans. Commercial structures and apartment buildings also will be available.

Modular homes are "green" in many ways, Crowley said, starting with the fact they are constructed indoors by skilled craftsmen who, like the Eskimos who use every part of the whale they slaughter, use every scrap of material.

"They are saving every scrap of 2-by-4 to use as blocking on the next home," Crowley said. The homes are inherently durable and tight, he added, and once completed can be put up on site in a day, so there is no worry about weather damage or time wasted on waiting for the weather to change.

Haven Homes is known for its architectural detail and quality control, according to an article in Builder magazine, "10 Companies to Watch in 2010." Its homes are usually at the pricier end of the modular market. Crowley said The Green Row homes are mid- to high-range, but that "they definitely compare with custom-built stick homes."

What's inside?

Interior designer Kellie M. Clark has experience working on green interiors, but she has never designed a 100% green home and is looking forward to working with the onlineGreendesign team.

The first component of a green interior is indoor air quality, Clark said. She recommends paint and floor coverings that are free of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs; as well as quality constructed furniture and sealants that contain no formaldehyde. She has used jute, a highly sustainable natural product, for flooring. Gus Kayafas also mentioned hardwood floors available from regional managed forests are sustainable, durable and support the local economy.

Clark added she uses as many locally made or secondhand items as possible in her interior design work, thereby cutting down on manufacturing and transportation costs.

Natural lighting is optimized in a green home, she said, and fireplaces are located in the middle of the home to make best use of the heat they provide. LEDs and compact fluorescent bulbs are used to save energy, along with energy-efficient appliances and low-flow plumbing fixtures. These also are part of the mechanical design elements provided by Integrated Green Solutions.

"The key component to energy efficiency is geothermal energy," said Gus Kayafas. This involves energy recovery ventilation, which uses the heated air that is expelled from the home to help heat the air that is being brought in. Green homes also are highly insulated, he said.

Another component is the use of wind and solar energy. All of these elements can be incorporated into custom-built homes, whether frame or modular. Occupancy sensors that turn the lights on and off based on movement in the room, and programmable thermostats are additional green systems that are available if desired.

What's outside?

The nice thing about a Green Row home is it usually has minimal yard space so maintenance costs also are low, said Gabe Hays of Hays Landscape Architecture Studio. A 15-foot by 9-inch facade offers little in the way of front yard, but can be nicely accented with a potted rhododendron or evergreen.

While the nature of his business is green, Hays said landscape architecture can be made greener by using drought-tolerant plants that require little or no watering; installing rain barrels or more attractive water features to provide water for the plants that do need it; recycling as much brick, rock and other materials as possible by incorporating them into the landscape; and even integrating gardens that provide food - an edible landscape, Hays said.

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