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Green Living, Smart Living

December 22, 2009 By Dennis Burger



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Green Living, Smart Living
Green Living, Smart Living Guest Bedroom
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Green Living, Smart Living Master Bathroom
Green Living, Smart Living
Green Living, Smart Living
Energy Management Screen

Green in RI

As you cross the threshold of this gorgeous New England-style home overlooking Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, the first place your mind definitely doesn’t go is toward visions of high-tech gadgetry or green living.

But there’s something special that sets this home apart from the rest of the block.

Wide reclaimed wood planks the way from the lofty foyer into an open dining room and kitchen that any foodie would drop kick a kitten for. Hundred-year-old glass doorknobs grace the doors. It doesn’t take long to stumble across the massive Runco plasmas hanging on the walls here and there, or the touchscreen remotes that handle everything in the home from lighting, climate control, and distributed A/V to the eSommelier wine inventory system.

But these techy touches hardly tarnish the traditional charm of the home; in fact, they’re just the first (and most visible) clue that there is something more to this house.

Green Living, Smart LivingFor homeowners Kimberly and Joe Hageman, the goal was to build a home that reflected their green sensibilities without crimping their technology-driven lifestyle—to create a synergy between smart home tech and sustainability.

So in addition to the spray foam insulation throughout, which provides an airtight barrier between barrier between the elements and elegant interiors, and the five-zone Newport Geothermal heating and cooling system keeps the house comfy while boasting an energy efficiency rating of 400%, the home’s Control 4 energy management system allows the family to monitor energy usage on any touchscreen remote or TV in the house. The system also keeps tabs on appliances and automatically cuts power to them at preset times to conserve energy.

Outside, the rainwater harvesting system captures over 100,000 gallons of water a year, which is used to irrigate the carefully crafted landscape—a mix of native grasses, plants, and trees designed by local landscape architect John C. Carter to be naturally drought tolerate and disease resistant.

And in the event that the rainwater reservoir runs a little dry in the summer, the irrigation system draws from the home’s geothermal well instead of municipal water.

Green touches like that abound in the project—some subtle, some not so much.

The faucets are all high-efficiency, but you’d never know it unless you were told. The countertops are made of 50% recycled wood and paper and 50% bamboo, another fact you’d never glean from merely touching them. You’d also probably never know that the NuVo Essentia E6G is the world’s first Energy Star-compliant distributed audio system on the market unless you visited the equipment room in the basement.

Nor the fact that the local installer Robert Saglio Audio Video reduced wiring needs by more than 50 percent over a typical system of this size and scope and earned the Consumer Electronics Association’s Platinum TechHome Rating (and the association’s first Green Rating) thanks to his centralized wiring design.

That’s sort of the point, though: in contrast to the amount of publicity Kimberly and her company have done during every step of construction via the  greenlifesmartlife website and blog, the Hagemans' house doesn’t look or feel like an ostentatious show room. It may be a curious thing to say about a project with numerous corporate sponsors the likes of Paradigm, OmniMount, Niveus Media, Kohler, Accoya, and Eldorado Stone, but the home was undeniably built to be lived in, not shown off.Energy Management Screen

From a green point of view, the only thing that really stands out is the thing you might expect to see, but don’t: solar panels.

“We researched solar panels extensively, meeting with four different companies to get quotes and recommendations,” Kimberly says. “The largest array size we looked at would have cost us about $26,000 and only reduced our electric bill by about $120 each month. So in ten years I still wouldn’t have recouped half of the out-of-pocket upfront costs. Our projection was a 24-year payoff; the panel warranties are for 20 years. The math didn’t work.

“But in doing research, I saw two big things happening: technology is improving—the new Thin-film Photovoltaic arrays are performing better and collecting more, and some analysts think within five years there could be as much as a 40% improvement in performance. At the same time, costs are coming down and states are now offering tax incentives. So we pre-wired for solar and planned it into the roof installation, as well. We’ll likely install solar in three to five years, but I will keep my eye on the tax incentives in the meantime.”

When that day comes, this home—only the second LEED Certified residence in Rhode Island, and the first awarded Gold certification—could end up being net-zero in terms of energy consumption.

For an update on when that happens—and to read more about what you can do to live a greener, smarter life, keep an eye on greenlifesmartlifeblog.com.

Green Living, Smart Living

Comments

Oop! Forgot to mention that all of the photos were taken by Caster Communications' lovely and talented Ashley Daigneault.

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