The CO2 FreeLiving House

by Editorial

Architect Ernesto Santalla reflects on the new way to live green and McLean’s CO2 FreeLiving House

Architectural rendering of the CO2 Freeliving House, currently under construction in McLean, Va. (David Walker)

Architectural rendering of the CO2 Freeliving House, currently under construction in McLean, Va. (David Walker)

Green. For centuries the color has connoted money, growth, hope, nature, and most recently, the next generation of building. As we usher in a new age of sustainability, eco-friendly structures have become synonomous with modern building practices. Due to the damage we’ve inflicted on our planet, it’s a global necessity. Think of the environment as the U.S. economy: it has been falling apart recently, but we’re eagerly trying to put it back together.

Earth-friendly building practices like landscaping, the inclusion of daylight, and natural ventilation are only common sense. Other green practices – reusing materials, conserving water and electricity – are simple to implement.

Carbon-neutral living – which is not a color scheme, as I recently overheard at a cocktail party – is slowly becoming a reality. Currently under construction in McLean, Va., is the CO2 FreeLiving House, being built to achieve LEED Platinum Certification and use 80 percent less energy-per-square-foot than a comparable new home. Designed by Cunningham + Quill Architects, and built by West*Group in partnership with Green Spur, Inc., the carbon-neutral house demonstrates how energy efficient design and renewable energy systems are easily integrated. Modern sustainable projects can be done using more traditional design. Cunningham+Quill’s Michael Day explains that the home was built with sensitivity to the color palette and the materials of the surrounding area.

The green team purchased an existing red brick rambler and, rather than demolishing it, took it apart piece-by-piece, explains Mark Lowham of West*Group. This allowed 97 percent of the original house to be recycled at only $5,000 more than the cost of demolition. Building upon the theme of reintegration, its walls are being built with SIPS (structural insulation panel system) technology, meaning they are assembled on-site from prefabricated composite wood panels and insulation. This translates into a quicker, more efficient construction process. The Craftsman-style house also integrates a geothermal heating and cooling system, a solar hot water system, and photovoltaic panels and wind turbines to generate on-site electricity.

Green Spur Inc. founder and president Mark Turner has seen the best and the worst of the building industry. The CO2 FreeLiving House, he assures us, is the latter. “[Green building] is as economical as traditional building and provides returns during the structure’s lifecycle,” Turner explains. “Buildings produce 43 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world. You can really make quick changes with buildings – they are the low-hanging fruit,”.

Green with envy yet? There’s more. This fall, the CO2 FreeLiving House will become the CharityWorks GreenHouse and will open to the public from Oct. 11-Nov. 8. The revolutionary structure will feature 18 prominent local interior designers to style the house following green standards. All proceeds benefit The Friendship Charter School and the McLean Project for the Arts.

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