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Green architecture – Newcomer Residence

By Damir Beciri
15 January 2012

newcomer-1Athens, Georgia, has its first LEED Platinum certified home setting a new standard for modern green home designs in the traditional, Southern college town. As the first such residence in Athens, GA, the project represents a strong commitment to sustainability in both the use of traditional passive climate strategies as well as the incorporation of many new technologies.

Owned and designed by Lori Bork Newcomer, principal of Bork Architectural Design, the 245 square-meter (2,632 square-foot) two-story home represents a mix of contemporary design and features with the architectural context of the neighborhood. The geometry of the neighborhood’s vernacular cottages is explored and abstracted in the front façade. The horizontal lines of the porch roof and masonry planter boxes, generous glazing, and the piercing vertical of the chimney pipe generate a modern aesthetic overlaid upon the more traditional gabled form indicative of the neighborhood.

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The side elevation reveals a narrow shotgun-like approach to the home, a different reinterpretation of Southern cottages, which also provides for natural passive ventilation. The exploration is carried further through the creative incorporation of native and traditional materials such as Tennessee fieldstone and white clapboard siding. Reclaimed heart pine floors and salvaged wood from an old shed on the lot further connect the building to local site and culture. Polished concrete floors were made in combination with 20 percent fly ash which was recycled from coal-fired power plants.

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The glass-clad front gable provides abundance of natural light to the open floor plan’s kitchen, living, and dining areas. Newcomer’s architectural studio is located at the back of the house, below a traditional sleeping porch connected to the master bedroom. Locally-sourced reclaimed heart pine floors and salvaged wood from an old shed further connect the house to the local site and culture.

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Large windows provide natural lighting as well as passive-solar heating in winter months. Cellulose and ecobatt recycled wall insulation and spray-foam icynene insulation in the roofline ensure minimal needs for climate control, which is achieved by high-efficiency heat pump with an ERV (energy recovery ventilator) and EPA-certified low-emissions wood burning stove.

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Energy efficiency is just part of the draw of green home designs. LED and CFL light bulbs in more than 50 percent of light fixtures and Energy Star appliances ensure lower energy consumption. Low-flow fixtures conserve water inside the house, and a 4,160-litre (1,100-gallon) cistern captures rainwater for irrigation outside. Hot water needs are met by the solar hot water heating system, and the house has infrastructure for future solar power installation.

Interior finishes, adhesives and cabinetry all have low or zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds), formaldehyde-free EccoDoors with 100 percent recycled content, amd recycled FLOR carpet tiles by Interface ensure healthier air for Newcomer’s young family. Although it may seem that such a custom green home is a luxury, Newcomer claims that the home costs around $125 per square foot.

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