From the February/March 2015 Issue:

Committed to Sustainability

    Writer: Robin Amster | Photographer: Wing Wong | Interior Designer: Laurie Finn | Architect: Concord Architects |

The new headmaster’s residence at the Pingry School is “green” for generations to come

The new headmaster’s residence at the Pingry School is more than just a home. It’s the culmination of one distinguished alumni’s vision for the future. It’s both a private home and a public space for alumni, faculty and student gatherings. And it’s the embodiment of the school’s commitment to sustainability.

The five-bedroom home, which sits on six acres of actively farmed land at Pingry’s Basking Ridge campus, is LEED certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. Previously, Headmaster Nathaniel Conard had been living with his wife in a 1950s colonial on a separate lot connected to Pingry’s other campus in Short Hills.

The decision to make the new residence a green building was made before the launch of the year-and-a-half long project. But the home’s roots go back some 30 years, when honorary trustee William Beinecke, class of 1931, purchased and later donated land for Pingry’s move from its former Hillside campus to the spacious new one in Basking Ridge. Beinecke later established a trust to fund construction of a residence so the school’s headmaster would always have a permanent home onsite and be close to school events and the Pingry community. The residence is called The Beinecke House in his honor.

Green Living Room
• All lighting is dimmable LED.
• The home has a radiant-floor heating system.A highly efficient delivery system allows the home’s geothermal system to operate at lower temperatures.
• All air systems are commercial quality “variable air volume,” a type of HVAC that conditions the air to a constant temperature and varies the outside airflow to ensure thermal comfort. It’s controlled by a central management system. The operational costs are about 70 percent less than traditional heating for a home this size.
• Oversized doors and transom windows provide the greatest natural light and best views.

Green Dining Room
• Wood flooring is reclaimed American chestnut milled from an old barn in Pennsylvania.
• Wood flooring is finished with a coating composed of recycled whey protein for a durable seal that does not emit volatile organic compounds.
• Framing around trim, casework, cabinetry and doors is from reclaimed wood or wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
• Non-toxic, ultralow-odor, non-VOC paint is used throughout the home.
• Furnishings here and throughout the residence were designed to be timeless, warm and welcoming, not “ostentatious,” interior designer Laurie Finn says. “Every room had to say, ‘Come in, you’re welcome here,’” she says.

Green Library
• Custom casework here and throughout the house was milled from white oak. No exotic woods were used. All lumber used for the project — including flooring, trim, framing, casework and doors — is FSC-certified.
• Reclaimed doors and transom windows from Pingry’s former Hillside campus were installed and also used as the model for replications throughout the house.
• The fireplaces in the library and living room are Rumford fireplaces, sized to each room. Invented in 1796 by Benjamin Thompson, later Count Rumford, they were popular in the late-18th and early-19th centuries and are now enjoying a resurgence for their energy-saving design. The fireplace is tall and shallow to reflect more heat, and it has a streamlined throat — the formation from the top of the fireplace into the flue — to eliminate turbulence and carry away the smoke with little loss of the heated room air. The fireplace mantel is 3½-by-6-inch-thick chestnut milled from reclaimed barn timber.
• Built-ins are crafted from reclaimed natural oak.

Green Kitchen
• Appliances are EnergyStar rated, which means they consume 10 to 15 percent less energy than appliances without this designation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
• Countertops are Caesarstone, chosen for its durability and a natural look. The non-porous surface—made with 93 percent blended quartz aggregates—is lightweight, requires very little maintenance and is a non-VOC-emitting product.
• Backsplash tiles were chosen for their regional or recycled characteristics.
• Cabinets are custom made using FSC-certified white oak.
•  All drywall has recycled content.
• The kitchen exhaust fan removes odor and dust particles to the outside to keep air quality high.

Green Guest Rooms
• Each room has its own zone for air and heat control. Separate room controls allow for individual preferences without heating and cooling the entire house.
• The doors are replicas of those from Pingry’s former Hillside campus. Some of the original doors were reclaimed and used elsewhere in the home.
• All bedrooms are “generous but not oversized,” says Mike Virzi, Pingry’s director of facilities.
• Laurie Finn designed this guest room with a bit of a formal feel with its four-poster bed. “But nothing is overdone or ostentatious,” she says.

• Living spaces like this guest room were positioned facing east, south and west to provide for maximum natural light and warmth during the day.
• Finn designed this guest room in farmhouse style, appropriate to the home.

Ongoing Commitment
Sustainability and stewardship are a joint theme consistent with the 154-year-old school’s mission and history. “We want to ensure that future generations of students have the opportunity that today’s students have,” Conard says. “Whatever we do, we have to preserve and enhance those resources. When we had the opportunity to build a new headmaster’s residence, we were all on the same page that it had to be a model of that theme.”

Resembling a traditional farmhouse — a design that fits perfectly with its surroundings — the house has “everything from soups to nuts; every possible high-quality sustainable system,” says Mike Virzi, Pingry’s director of facilities. “The Beinecke House looks simple, but there were a thousand decisions behind everything that happened in the house. It’s hard to imagine there’s a greener building in the mid-Atlantic region.”

Recycled and natural materials — including stone culled from the site, cedar and copper — were used in the home’s construction. The interiors feature recycled, reclaimed or sustainable stone and timber.

“Green” systems include solar technology for hot water and electricity, geothermal heating and cooling, high performance LED lighting, energy-efficient windows, low-VOC paint, low-flow toilets and fixtures, and a 6,000-gallon rain water collection system for water recycling and ground irrigation.

Green Exterior
• Stone for the facade, chimneys, columns and walls was culled from the property. Students from the Green Group, the school’s environmental club, participated in collecting the stones.
• Gutters and downspouts collect rainwater for a 6,000-gallon system used to flush the toilets so all the water is reused and recharged through the land.

• The architecture is designed to resemble a modern farmhouse that blends with the surrounding landscape.
• The driveway and all patios have a sub-base that’s composed of recycled material.
• The roof is made of 12-ounce copper with a standing seam. It’s estimated to last 100 years.
• Formal landscaping was limited to a small area around the house so the rest of the land remains working farmland.

• Sanitary waste from the residence is treated in a wetland constructed on-site.
• Buildings were oriented for maximum passive solar benefit, the most interior lighting during the day and the best outdoor views.
• There’s a solar thermal hot water system.
• The residence is heated and cooled by a geothermal ground loop.
• Exterior walls are constructed with 18- to 24-inch thick Durisol Block, which provides exceptional insulation for heating and cooling. It also has a lifespan of more than 100 years. Durisol Block is a cement-bonded wood fiber construction material that’s an alternative to timber frame and brick masonry. It’s made from 80 percent recycled wood, treated not to rot or burn. Durisol blocks stack together like Lego bricks. The interlocking blocks are then filled with concrete to form a solid, durable wall.
• Exterior trim is made of recycled material.
• Energy-efficient windows are triple-glazed with UV rating.
• Patios are built with stone from regional quarries and some is reclaimed from the Pingry School’s former Hillside campus.
• Plantings are drought-resistant native and non-invasive types. New plantings were kept to a minimum to retain the site’s natural beauty.

Green Bathrooms
• Showerheads and faucets are low-flow fixtures.
• All waste is directed to the on-site treatment system.
• All lighting is LED.
• Low-flow toilets use only 0.8 gallon of water per-flush, saving thousands of gallons of water per year.
• Overall bathroom design is well-appointed but not overdone, in keeping with the house and the property.
• The bathroom at top right features grab bars, wheelchair turn radius and a “leg” sink that allows for wheelchair access.

Green Utilities
• Insulation is made from recycled blue jeans, which is highly thermal-efficient and fire-retardant.
• An environmentally friendly piping system maximizes the use of potable and heating/cooling water systems. Colors identify the specific system each pipe serves so they are easy to locate for operational and inspection purposes.
• 14-inch thermal Durisol insulated concrete forms — the only insulated concrete forms that don’t use foam or polystyrene — make up 95 percent of the core of the structure’s exterior. These never rot or decay and are sound deadening and water- and fire-resistant.

Public & Private Spaces
As a headmaster’s residence, the home also needed to combine private and public spaces. “It’s not just a house where the headmaster lives,” Conard says. “It’s also a resource for the school. It needed the kinds of spaces that headmasters present and future would find appropriate for small to large gatherings, entertaining, donor meetings and other functions.”

The Beinecke House has succeeded on that score also, Conard says. “The house felt comfortable from the very beginning,” he says. “The distinction between public and private is clear when we need it to be clear but, unlike some public/private spaces, the public spaces are friendly when it’s just our family. It doesn’t feel institutional.”

Interior designer Laurie Finn, owner of La Jolie Maison in Summit, says she had to meet that challenge of combining public and private spaces in her design of the residence.

“You have to walk the line between making something feel like a home and making it utilitarian enough to entertain 100 people,” she says. The residence can accommodate more than 100 for a cocktail party and some 80 people for a sit-down dinner when the living room and dining room spaces are combined, she notes.

Another challenge that comes with a “green” structure is refuting the idea that “green is stark, cold or contemporary,” Finn says. “I think we’ve shown where green can be pretty.”

Finn went for a timeless look for the home in terms of furnishings and color. “This home is going to be for multiple headmasters and their families living here down the line. It has to stand the test of time.”

The designer and her associate, Mary Divino, first selected the rugs for the home. “The rug is the artwork in a room,” Finn says. From there they chose a color palette based on the rugs: burnt orange, navy, red and beige. She calls the furnishings “eclectic but cohesive.”

Finn also incorporated a collection of very special “recycled” features, including school founder Dr. John Francis Pingry’s 100-year-old mahogany desk, which sits in the living room, as well as trophies, vintage photographs and other memorabilia throughout the home.

A Vision Realized
The Pingry School has a long and distinguished history from its founding 154 years ago to its existence today as a nationally recognized college-preparatory country day school.

The coeducational school also has traveled a long way from its original campus in Elizabeth to its current home in Basking Ridge, the newest campus for its Middle and Upper schools. It also has a Short Hills campus for its Lower School.

The Reverend John Francis Pingry, a Presbyterian minister and educator, founded the school in 1861 to provide scholastic training and “moral” education for boys. Pingry’s legacy continues today through his motto, Maxima reverentia pueris debetur (paraphrased “The greatest respect is due students”).

The school remained at its Elizabeth campus until 1953, when it moved to Hillside. Twenty years later, there were two major developments for the school: The transition to a coeducational school and a merger with the Short Hills Country Day School.

In 1983, Pingry relocated yet again — from Hillside to the new campus in Basking Ridge. The move was made possible by honorary trustee William Beinecke, who purchased and later donated the land for the new campus. Beinecke, class of 1931, also established a trust to fund construction of a headmaster’s residence for the Basking Ridge campus.

“Looking to the future of Pingry, I felt it was very important to have the headmaster, and those who came after him, housed on the Basking Ridge Campus where so many of the events and activities occur,” Beinecke says. “At my age I have a great appreciation for the history and changes that have made Pingry a long-standing institution, and I am glad my vision has resulted in this wonderful new house.”

Jack Brescher, chairman of the Board of Trustees, calls the project for the new headmaster’s residence “a very big undertaking; just the kind of challenge that Pingry likes.”

“After six years of planning, we worked together to determine the actual location of the home, select the right architect, review dozens of renderings, consider sustainable and innovative options, oversee numerous construction hurdles, details and finishing touches,” he says. Among those involved in the project were Vicki Brooks, former chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Allison Rooke. As trustee chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, Rooke oversaw the headmaster’s residence project. “This was a tremendously rewarding endeavor,” Rooke says. “The new Beinecke House is the perfect balance of scale and function and a tribute to Mr. Beinecke’s vision for the Pingry School. Most satisfying, it achieves Pingry’s goal of a long-term sustainable residence and affords opportunities for students to learn outside the classroom.”

Students have already begun gardens, an arboretum and active beehives, while the home’s new technologies are enabling them to study the advantages of green options.

Robin Amster, a frequent contributor to Design NJ, is a Madison-based writer and editor.


Overall: architect, Concord Architects in Concord, Massachusetts; builder, The Leegis Group in Union; interior design, La Jolie Maison in Summit; LEED consultant, The Stone House Group in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; landscaping, Coviello Bros. in Madison; plumbing, Stashluk Mechanical Contractors in Pittstown; HVAC, Victors Air Conditioning Co. in Middlesex. Living Room: sofa and sofa fabric, chairs, stools, Hickory Chair in Hickory, North Carolina; coffee table, Century in Hickory, North Carolina; window treatments, Custom Creations in Mountainside; lamps, Visual Comfort in New York City; rug, Bokara Rug Co. in Secaucus. Dining Room: table and buffet, Guy Chaddock in Milford, Pennsylvania; side chair and arm chairs, Hickory Chair; chandelier and sconces, Hudson Valley Lighting; wallpaper, Thibaut in Newark. Library: desk, Harden Furniture in McConnellsville, New York; side chairs and club chairs, Hickory Chair; window treatments, Custom Creations; rug, Bokara Rug Co. Guest Room with Dark-Stained Furniture: bed, nightstands and dresser, Stanley Furniture; lamps, Robert Abbey in High Point, North Carolina; rug, Webster Carpets & Rugs in Cherry Hill; accessories, La Jolie Maison. Guest Room with Medium-Stained Furniture: bed and nightstands, Stanley Furniture; lamps, Robert Abbey; rug, Webster Carpets & Rugs; accessories, La Jolie Maison. Bathroom with Fern at Window: vanity, custom; tile, Wayne Tile in Ramsey; sconces, Hudson Valley Lighting; mirror, Murray Feiss. Wheelchair-Accessible Bathroom: vanity, Kohler; tile, Wayne Tile, light fixture, Murray Feiss. Bathroom with Wood-Stained Vanity: cabinet, custom; tile, Wayne Tile; mirror, Utter­most; sconces, Murray Feiss.

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