Tuesday, May 26, 2009

building "green" can mean not building at all

You're reading Just Up The Pike's 702nd post. It's hard to keep count after nearly three years of writing about the east side, but I thank you for reading and putting up with me all this time!

The "Eco-Estate" (right) and a newish, traditional house on Briggs Chaney Road in Cloverly.

The other day, I drove by the "Eco-Estate," a new house under construction on Briggs Chaney Road in Cloverly. Showcase Architects, the local firm which designed and built the house, sought to make it environmentally-friendly. Earlier this year, I wrote that a big, boxy house on a big lot in the suburbs isn't particularly "green" - but a house that ignores its context is even worse.

What context? Historically, this part of East County - Fairland, Cloverly, Burtonsville, Sandy Spring, so on and so forth - were small, rural communities. Homes sat on large parcels of land, but that land was being farmed. And the houses built were modest - no two-story great rooms here; just a living room, a kitchen, a couple of bedrooms, a porch for sitting. The only "green" features were an efficient use of materials and windows on all sides for cross-ventilation because air-conditioning wasn't cheap. These older houses you might see on Briggs Chaney Road might look dowdy and run-down, but they represented an awareness of conservation and sustainability we're still trying to find today.

This cottage across the street is being rehabbed.

The "greenest" - and often cheapest - thing you can really do is take an old house and renovate it. Showcase Architects should be applauded for moving and eventually renovating the house that formerly occupied the site where the Eco-Estate is now. Across the street, another old farmhouse is being renovated. Built in 1937, it predates the Silver Theatre in Downtown Silver Spring, but as recently as last year there was a "For Sale" sign outside advertising a tear-down. By fixing the house up, we're preserving East County's history while providing a new, environmentally-friendly place for a family to live in.

1 comment:

Cyndy said...

It's nice to see that other people are beginning use structural insulated panels. The energy they are capable of saving is HUGE. We are renting a place right around the corner from that house while we finish building our own SIP house so I'll have to stop by there and check it out.

We are incorporating a lot of additional green features into as well, including a double layer "cold" roof, a heat recovery ventilator, and a device that allows the warm waste water to preheat the incoming cold water. There are other things too, but the biggest energy saver is the structural/foam core panels. We don't have our heating system installed yet, but we were able to keep the entire house relatively comfortable for working last winter with only two electric space heaters.