From the February/March 2012 Issue:

Green Living: Going for the Platinum

    Writer: Nena Donovan Levine, Allied Member ASID, CAPS | Photographer: Weaver Lilley | Architect: Ian Nilsen | Building Designer: Leith Nilsen | Designer: Jennifer Nilsen, IEI Group | Leed Consultant: J-P. Brokken | Builder: Ted Fluehr Jr. Custom Builder |

A new home on Long Beach Island tops even the gold standard


Article Photo
enlarge | • The LBI residence is sited on a previously developed infill site. It uses no prime agricultural or naturally significant land. • The concrete foundation is faced with reclaimed stone. • The metal standing-seam roof has a coating warranted for 30 years; the metal itself can endure years beyond that; the roof facilitates rainwater capture, directing it into a 6,000-gallon system located in a lower-level crawl space. The light color reduces heat gain. • Stained cedar shakes are long-lived and low-maintenance. The shakes and all framing lumber are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. • Exterior trim is HardiePlank, a cementitious fiberboard that is rot- and maintenance-free and will not need replacement. The curved cornices are Azak, a PVC product. While not an environmental contributor, its durability and shape made it the best alternative.
Nowadays the acronym LEED often pops up when sustainable design, architecture and construction are discussed. LEED stands in for the ungainly phrase Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It’s a comprehensive road map developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to guide builders and owners toward high levels of performance and sustainability in new and renovated buildings. LEED for Homes criteria apply specifically to residential building. Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels comprise increasingly rigorous standards.

Loveladies, the Long Beach Island community with the fanciful name, boasts the only Platinum LEED house on the island and one of only three detached, single-family Platinum houses in New Jersey (one of the other two is Paterson’s “Zero-Energy House,” featured on our August/September 2007 issue.)

Any building garnering a LEED designation boasts statistics and data galore, because LEED credentialing requires myriad measurements in eight defined categories, such as Water Efficiency, Materials & Resources and Indoor Environmental Quality. The builder earns points based on those measurements; achieving Platinum LEED requires 86 points minimum. The Loveladies house needed 1011/2 points according to the LEED formula based on the number of bedrooms (eight) to overall square footage (5,667.)


Article Photo
enlarge | • Entryway floor tiles are reclaimed, as are other tiles throughout the home. These are antique terra cotta from the Loire Region of France. The tile adhesive is free of volatile organic compounds. • All recessed lighting uses LED technology. Benefits include no heat buildup (reducing air conditioning demand), efficiency (using 2 to 20 watts of power per bulb) and reduced power consumption due to greater efficiency. • All paints and stains on interior millwork are low-VOC products.
Beauty and Brains
More than 300 visitors toured the house during the 45th Annual Seashore Open House Tour last summer and saw that sustainability can be every bit as lovely as not-so-green homes. The accompanying images demonstrate to all who couldn’t take the tour.

“You’ve got a clean palette—go for it!” the homeowners told designer/project manager Jennifer Nilsen, principal of the IEI Group, Interior Designers and Architects in Philadelphia. The homeowners, whose main residence is in Maryland, knew they wanted interior and exterior furnishings and finishes to be durable and simple to maintain. Nilsen frequently asked, “How do you want the space to feel?” They asked for “a relaxed feeling, not a museum,” a house for vacations and family gatherings with three married children and their spouses. They wanted it to endure for generations, to be well built so it wouldn’t have to be rebuilt. The couple brought in art from their travels. Many are avian-themed pieces, as they are avowed bird-lovers.

Together Nilsen and the clients decorated using the blues, greens and sand colors they saw through the windows but muted them in the public rooms. Occasional reds and burnished or aged metal finishes add contrast. Some bedrooms, like the upstairs master, sport stronger colors (a golden curry.) Texture predominates over pattern, although an upbeat checked rug anchors the family room, where patterned throw pillows accent the solids.

Nilsen uses “open,” “fresh,” “clean” and “comfortable” to characterize the residence, words that hardly capture the research and thought behind every aspect of the project. “Patience and a willingness to experiment” are must-have attitudes for anyone contemplating a similar undertaking, the homeowner says. He adds, “Some things will work, some won’t.”

The couple selected Jennifer Nilsen and building designer Leith Nilsen for their sustainability creds, and the Nilsens deepened their talent pool with the addition of J-P. Brokken, LEED consultant. No contractor on LBI had ever built this kind of house, but general contractor Ted Fluehr Jr., and his subs committed enthusiastically to learning new techniques and installing new products.

Brokken puts it this way, “A new synchronization of knowledge [among all the team members] has to be established.” For example, because the roof serves not only as shelter but also as a rainwater-collection vehicle, downspouts carrying the flow terminate in underground storage tanks in the crawl space. (There are four 1,500-gallon tanks.) When the decision was made to run these pipes inside the walls for aesthetic reasons, it impacted other interwall systems—such as insulation, wiring and plumbing—as well as the construction sequence. But you see no exterior downspouts.

Then there is systems technology, which is evolving so rapidly that in lighting, for instance, even Lightolier couldn’t say for certain the LEDs would be dimmable. (Turns out they are.) And “how much technology do you want to use?” asks the homeowner. “You have to commit at some point,” even knowing it will be better, faster, cheaper and different in a year. Brokken cites an astonishing lighting statistic: the entire 5,667-square-foot residence uses only 2,000 watts, the equivalent of just 20 100-watt incandescent bulbs.


Article Photo
enlarge | • Ceiling fans in this first-floor living room and throughout the home circulate air to minimize the use of air conditioning. • Clerestory windows flood rooms with natural light. Abundant natural light reduces artificial light needs. • Custom ironwork features a sea-grass motif. References to nature are prominent and ubiquitous throughout the house.
A Teachable Moment?
How About a Teachable Monument?

While the owners are too modest to call their Platinum house a “monument,” they know it makes a significant statement about how a sustainable residence can look. The LEED Platinum plaque commemorating the achievement is mounted on the east façade. “It’s the right way to go,” the homeowner says when asked why they went that route. “I’m proud of what we’ve done.” His philanthropic work has effected social change internationally. “This is a project where I can make environmental change. Someone has to be out front. I’m hoping I can set the tone.”


Sources

SOURCES interior design/project manager, Jennifer Nilsen of IEI Group in Philadelphia; architect, Ian Nilsen of Surf City; building designer, Leith Nilsen of Island City Builders in Beach Haven; LEED consultant, J-P. Brokken, then of Re:Vision Architecture in Philadelphia and now of IEI Group; builder, Ted Fluehr Jr. Custom Builder in Surf City; LEED provider, MaGrann Associates in Moores­town; landscaping, Andersen Design Group of Media, Pennsylvania, Applied Ecological Services in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, and Kline Bros. Landscaping in Manahawkin; smart home systems, MCC Smart Homes in Point Pleasant; exterior railings, Acme Manufacturing & Coating in Port Reading; stone veneer siding, A&S Meredith Stone in Lanoka Harbor; insulation, Coastal Insulation in East Windsor; plumbing, Haack Plumbing & Heating in Pine Beach; garage doors, Jammer Doors in Lawrence­ville; shingle siding, O’Donnell’s Custom Siding in Toms River; geothermal drilling, Robbins Water Service in Shamong; elevator, Accredited Home Elevators of Barnegat; cabinetry, Architectural Cabinet Technologies in Farmingdale; window blinds and shutters, ASAP Blinds in Manasquan; storage and furniture installation, Bayshore Transportation in Newark, Delaware; shower enclosures, Causeway Glass Co. in Ship Bottom; custom furniture, Kinloch Woodworking in Unionville, Pennsylvania; window treatments, Window Treatments by Michele in Havertown, Pennsylvania; decorative molding, Moulding Concepts in West Creek; interior railing, Newman Ironworks in Brielle; electrician, Muzyka Electric Co. in Long Beach Township; painting, Principato Painting in Manahawkin; HVAC, Shamrock Heating & Air Conditioning in Vincentown; rain water harvesting, Stark Environmental in Columbia, Pennsylvania; lighting, Suburban Wholesale Lighting in Paoli, Pennsylvania; roofing, Charles Roth Roofing in Manahawkin; sheet rocker, Joseph Gagliardi Drywall LLC in Manahawkin.

Download the complete resource guide with contact information (pdf)