When Laura and Rutherford Seydel were building their new house in Atlanta, they wanted more than a nice place to live. They dreamed of a green home, one that would be environmentally friendly and energy efficient.
Now that it's complete, their EcoManor has been recognized with certification from the United States Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the Earthcraft House program and the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Wildlife Habitat program. Though the Seydels will live in the Peachtree Battle neighborhood home, the house will also be used to educate builders, architects, designers, landscapers and teachers about environmentally friendly building methods.
During construction, the Seydels wanted to find the best eco-sensitive products for everything from their electrical and plumbing systems to their cabinetry and appliances, said interior designer Jillian Pritchard Cooke of Des-Syn. She worked with the Seydels on EcoManor.
"If we couldn't find it, we had to be extra creative and make it," Pritchard Cooke said.
For example, they decided that traditional counters weren't the best option. "We felt that concrete counters were much more sustainable than big slabs of stone," Pritchard Cooke said.
The family's three kids helped make a counter of concrete that features embedded antique marbles in the craft room on the first level of the home. A stained concrete counter was used in the recreation room, which is also on the first level.
Throughout the house, new uses were found for old items. In the guest bedroom on the first level, part of a vintage organ was used as artwork. In another room, Chinese calligraphy stones were used to make a coffee table. Tablecloths and bedding were used to make window treatments.
This idea of recycling stuff can be applied to any home. "I would suggest looking at what you own and seeing if it can be reclaimed or refurbished," Pritchard Cooke said.
The materials found inside EcoManor are environmentally friendly. The insulation is soy-based, while the cabinets are made of pressed hay straw. The wood floors came from an environmentally certified plantation. Natural fiber fabric covers the furniture and was used to make the rugs and drapery.
Another important element of the EcoManor is energy and water efficiency. A touch panel in the kitchen monitors how much energy the home is using.
Solar tubes and skylights provide natural lighting, while solar panels convert sunlight into energy. The house is heated and cooled with ground source heat pumps. Tankless hot water heaters and compact fluorescent lights help save energy.
In the bathrooms, dual-flush, low-flow toilets manufactured by Toto were installed. "The toilet is the main water consumer in the house," said Lenora Campos, public relations manager for Toto.
On average, a toilet uses 1.6 gallons of water per flush. The Aquia Dual Flush toilets at the EcoManor use .9 gallons for its low-power flush and 1.6 gallons for its higher powered flush.
The EcoManor reflects the growing green trend, Campos said. "People are interested in demonstrating their personal commitment to their environment," she said.
Not everyone can build a green house from the ground up, but all homeowners can take steps to make their dwellings more environmentally friendly. Here are some tips:
•Avoid products that are made with chemicals that escape into the air and add to pollution. Choose products that are water-based or that have low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
•Use water-based paints, which have labels that say zero-VOC. Paint with a brush and not a sprayer.
•Reduce your home's energy consumption, which helps diminish the air pollution created by the fossil fuels that are burned to generate electricity.
•Change your incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs.
•Replace light switches with occupancy sensors that will automatically turn off lights when rooms aren't being used.
•Install low-flow shower heads and toilets that use less water.
•Choose non-toxic cleaning products instead of harsh chemical cleansers.
•Recycle as much as possible, from newspaper and aluminum cans to egg cartons, leaves and yard clippings.
•Buy products that use recycled materials and less packaging.