Text by Amy Elbert
Photographs by Gordon Beall
Growing up in wide-open Wyoming is bound to have an effect on a boy. In the cases of developer Mark Lowham and builder Mark Turner, that upbringing gave them a respect for the outdoors and a desire to protect our precious resources. The two Wyoming transplants connected in Washington, D.C., where they collaborated to build a Craftsman-inspired house that offers luxury living while safeguarding the environment. Turner, president of GreenSpur builders, has been focused on sustainable building practices for several years; he found a willing partner in Lowham, a senior vice president of West Group, a largely commercial developer in McLean, Virginia. "As a resident and member of the development community for more than 20 years, I want to pass along to my own children that how and where we build has a direct impact on our planet," Lowham says.
The house's interiors have an equally compelling green story. Lowham recruited friend and designer Barry Dixon to lead a group of interior designers in beautifully appointing the house, using sustainable and environmentally responsible materials.
"We wanted to show that there is such a thing as luxurious sustainable living," Barry says. "There is much more to a green house than unbleached linen and drab, neutral color schemes."
Nineteen designers outfitted 18 rooms with sumptuous and richly colored fabrics, plush rugs, graceful tables, inviting chairs, and glamorous mica-encrusted wall coverings-all eco-kind materials.
The 3,800-square-foot house served as a fund-raiser for CharityWorks, an organization helping children and families in the Washington, D.C., area. Traditional Home was the national media sponsor of the GreenHouse showhouse and will feature it in the GreenSpace section of this and future issues.
The minimal environmental impact of the project started with the site in an established neighborhood in McLean, within walking distance of retail shops and mass transit. An existing brick rambler on the site was demolished, but that, too, was environmentally responsible. A crew dismantled the house "shingle by shingle and board by board," and 97 percent of the old house was salvaged and recycled, Turner says.
Architects at Cunningham/Quill Architects in Washington, D.C., designed and sited the new U-shaped house to take advantage of the sun, taking into account shading properties of old-growth trees. Trellises and wide roof overhangs shield the house from the high summer sun while allowing for heat gain from the winter sun, which is lower in the sky.
The house has a geothermal heating and cooling system and in-floor radiant heat. Solar photovoltaic panels generate electricity to heat water for the home.
Turner sided the house with durable wood-look-alike fiber cement boards, which are made with recycled post-industrial waste material.
Low-flow water fixtures and energy-efficient appliances were installed. The house's energy consumption is projected to be 70 to 80 percent less per square foot than for a comparable new home, Turner says. "The project showcases how energy-efficient design and renewable energy systems come together in a home that is not only seriously environmentally friendly but also a beautiful place to live," says Turner.
Landscaping is also designed to conserve energy and water. Native plants are drought tolerant, disease resistant, and require little maintenance. To prevent storm water runoff, Belgard permeable paving stones were laid on the drive and walkways. The pavers are installed with spaces between them and over layers of porous materials to allow water to gradually soak into the soil.
While Turner and his team focused on construction, the interior designers searched Web sites and showrooms and talked to manufacturers to track down sustainable furnishings.
"We wanted to take the scare factor out of going green and show that green interiors can be just as nostalgic, comfortable, and warm as your grandmother's home," Barry says.
For many of the designers, using sustainable materials was a new experience, so they collaborated to find viable sources. The result is a showhouse furnished with sustainable components-one that shares common design sensibilities and a common palette.
"There is a wonderful harmony and flow you don't always see in a showhouse," Barry says.
Consistency in design is also environmentally friendly, he adds. "We wanted a design that could be left the way it is when a homeowner moves in, without repainting or redoing spaces."