NARRAGANSET, R.I.--Homeowner Kim Hageman wanted to "go green" at home without giving up any digital comforts.
Three weeks ago, the public relations and marketing executive, her husband, and their two children moved into a house built from the ground up to be both low energy and high tech. It is the first home to get the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Homes certification in the state of Rhode Island.
It's far more energy efficient than most because the building is tightly insulated and uses a ground-source heat pump, also called geothermal, for heating and cooling. The builders and homeowners followed a number of other environmentally sensitive guidelines to get the LEED certification, including using recycled materials from local sources and a large cistern for most outdoor watering. Through recycling, the entire construction project, which included tearing down an existing building, only sent one dumpster to the landfill.
The building is cutting edge when it comes to high tech, too. It has a home-automation system from Control4 to access movies and music from the TV and touch-screen displays around the house. That system also doubles as the energy management console, giving teh family a way to control temperature and lighting, as well as get real-time data on electricity use.
Since the family has just moved in, Hageman can't say yet whether the energy monitoring system has helped conserve electricity. But at the very least, Hageman knows how much she is spending on average per day. In theory, that information will allow the Hagemans to notice a high consumption rate and turn off unused electronics and lights.
Hageman said she decided to create an LEED-certified green home because she wanted to do something to help the environment and because she thought it would be good for her public relations and marketing business.
One of the biggest challenges of the entire 14-month project was finding qualified contractors versed in green-building design and products. Now, she hopes the house will serve as a resource for other homeowners looking to incorporate some of its features, such as using sustainably forested wood, water-efficient appliances, and a rainwater harvesting system.
The contractors followed the Consumer Electronics Association's guidelines for a "green" audiovisual installation, where wiring is minimized and the technology upgradeable. Hageman estimates that the system uses about half as much wiring as another comparably high-tech home.
The house still has a significant environmental footprint simply by its size--more than 4,500 square feet. But the Hagemans have made a number of energy efficient choices up front, such as using foam insulation throughout and EnergyStar-rated appliances. They are also considering a sizable solar electric array, which could make it a net zero energy home.