Athens, Georgia has its first LEED certified home setting a new standard for modern green home designs in the traditional, Southern college town. The U.S. Green Building Council awarded its highest designation – Platinum – to the custom green home owned and designed by Lori Bork Newcomer, principal of Bork Architectural Design, Inc.
The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building standard is quickly becoming the norm for new and renovated public buildings across the U.S., as commercial and government building owners recognize green building designs are more marketable and result in happier and healthier occupants. Newcomer’s project is significant in that it is among the first to bring the same high level of environmentally responsible design to green home designs. Her home is only the seventh in the state to receive LEED Platinum certification.
Newcomer already is known for some of Athens’ most distinctive modern home designs, with the kind of clean lines and gracious living spaces regularly featured in publications like Dwell or Atomic Ranch. For her own home, she wanted to incorporate that contemporary appeal but remain sensitive to the architectural context of her historic, in-town neighborhood. To do this, she designed a deceptively compact front façade for the 2,632-square-foot custom green home, blending strong horizontal and vertical modern lines with the traditional gabled form and large front porch indicative of the neighborhood’s cottages.
The side elevation reveals shotgun-style length – another Southern tradition (and green home designs) that also allows natural passive ventilation. Tennessee fieldstone, stucco and white clapboard siding echo the native and traditional materials used in many of Athens’ oldest homes.
Inside, the sculptural vault of the glass-clad front gable provides 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. Large windows provide natural lighting as well as passive-solar heating in winter months.
The ingenuity with which she references the traditional craftsmanship of the early 20th Century while creating a custom green home for today earned Newcomer the 2011 award for Outstanding New Construction in a Historical Neighborhood from the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation.
Energy efficiency is just part of the draw of green home designs. Low-flow fixtures conserve water inside the house, and a 1,100-gallon cistern captures rainwater for irrigation outside. With drought-tolerant landscaping, Newcomer’s yard looked vibrant even through the worst of Georgia’s drought in the summer of 2011. Interior finishes, adhesives and cabinetry all have low or zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds), meaning healthier air for Newcomer’s young family.
“The advantage of LEED for Homes over other energy savings centered programs, like Energy Star, is that it looks at green building from a more holistic viewpoint, tackling not only energy reduction, but also responsible site selection, water conservation and the reduction of construction waste while also promoting recycled materials and healthy indoor air quality,” says Leesa Carter, Executive Director of the U.S. Green Building Council – Georgia. “A Platinum-certified home like Newcomer’s represents the pinnacle of what is possible with green-building practices.”
Other energy-saving and environmentally friendly elements in Newcomer’s LEED platinum home design include:
• EPA-certified low-emissions wood burning stove
• Mineral paints by San Marco, USA on interior walls
• Polished concrete floors with 20 percent fly ash (recycled waste from coal-fired power plants)
• Recycled FLOR carpet tiles by Interface
• Formaldehyde-free EccoDoors with 100 percent recycled content
• Cellulose and ecobatt recycled wall insulation
• High-efficiency heat pump with an ERV (energy recovery ventilator)
• Infrastructure for future solar power installation
• Spray-foam icynene insulation in the roofline
• LED and CFL light bulbs in more than 50 percent of light fixtures
• Pervious paving systems
Although the perception is that custom green homes of this caliber come at a cost premium, Newcomer says people are shocked to learn the home only cost around $125 per square foot.
About Bork Architectural Design, Inc.
Founded in 2005, Bork Architectural Design (www.BorkArch.com) creates regional-based designs in response to site, climate conditions, historical context, and local materials for both residential and small-scale commercial projects. Principal Lori Bork Newcomer received her professional degree in Architecture from Rice University before going to work for world-renowned architect and former Yale Architecture School Dean, Cesar Pelli, in New Haven, CT. Newcomer was made an Associate of the firm at the young age of 25.