Carol & Fred's Modern Eco Home

Green Tour

Name: Carol Richard and Fred Berg
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Size: 2,700 square feet
Years lived in: one

It was the first bright afternoon after a rainy, flash-flood kind of week when I stepped into Carol and Fred's light-filled home. Entering their living room was the equivalent of having the clouds part and finally seeing a patch of blue sky. Ahhh.

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Making the most out of every day’s rays was one of the couple's goals when they designed their home. Architect Carol and engineer Fred had the image of a box camera in mind; with tall south-facing windows and a roof that gently slopes from south to north, the home forms a controlled light box. During the fall and winter, sunlight can reach deep into the open floor plan. During the hot summer months, louvers form a brise soleil that shades the interior and diffuses the light. Modern furnishings and spare, Scandinavian-style influences add to the home’s clean, light feel.

Having a home that was sun-smart was only part of the plan. Carol and Fred wanted the house—in which they plan to retire—to be sustainable, sophisticated and affordable. They wanted to live in a friendly, walkable neighborhood with resources nearby. They wanted their house to maintain a scale that fit comfortably into a neighborhood of post-WWII Cape Cods and sixties moderns. Setting a goal early on to use green building strategies, they sought guidance from the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative and its Green Built Home program.

Even though Carol was already a LEED Accredited Professional, following the Green Built Home program was incredibly useful for husband and wife. "I'm a typical guy," says Fred, laughing. "I think I know a lot. I admit that. But this process makes you think—and learn." The final home is considerably different than what was originally planned, but both Carol and Fred agree the changes were positive ones.

The result: A fresh, environmentally friendly home that not only earned Platinum Level LEED certification but received the 2010 "Future Landmark Award for Innovative New Design" from the Madison Trust for Historic Preservation.

Re-Nest Survey:

My/Our style: modern

Inspiration: We have become increasingly interested in sustainability (maybe having grandchildren is part of that) and wanted to do our part. At the same time, the quality of space and light in a house is very important to both of us. We wanted to design and construct a home that was livable, had great natural light, and was sustainable.

Design Influences: Modern Scandinavian architecture. We like this design sensibility because of the importance of natural light. Wisconsin has conditions similar to those in Scandinavian regions: we have distinct differences between the sun angles in the winter and the summer. We long for the winter sun and want to capture it as best we can; the summer sun needs to be controlled. Also, the use of light colors throughout the home helps make the house feel more spacious and takes advantage of natural light reflecting off the walls.

Favorite Element: The quality of the natural light in the house.

Biggest Challenge: Meeting our aesthetic desires and maintaining some budget discipline.

What Friends Say: That the photographs don’t do the home justice. A lot of our friends are not modern design fans, but if the number of visitors is any indication, we would say they like our house.

Proudest DIY: Our landscape is all native plants (except for a few gift plants from friends) and we stuck every plant in the ground ourselves. We have learned a lot about native prairie, rain garden, and woodland plants over the past year.

Biggest Indulgence: Our kitchen. We wanted a space where we could cook together and entertain at the same time. Our kitchen is open to the living space so it needed to be compatible with the rest of the space and function well. We specified urea-formaldehyde-free cabinets and Silestone countertops. Our appliances are all Energy Star. Our favorite appliance is the induction cooktop; it is the most efficient cooking device on the market in terms of energy and it is great to cook on.

Best Advice: While it's not a sexy green element, from an energy perspective the sealing of the house envelope is very important. You have to pay attention to the details to assure a tightly sealed house.

Green Elements/Initiatives: Our house has achieved Platinum-level status from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes program. The undeveloped infill site was chosen because of its proximity to services, parks, and bike paths. The landscape design is comprised of all native perennials with no turf grass. All rainwater is collected in cisterns or directed via bioswales to a rain garden. Photovoltaic panels located on the detached garage generate almost 60% of the annual electric demand. Our home’s leak-tight envelope is conditioned via an energy-recovery ventilation (ERV) system working in sync with a high-efficiency HVAC system.

A large bank of south-facing windows allows sunlight to warm the house on cold winter days. A fixed exterior brise soleil designed in sync with the latitude shades the interior during the summer.

We developed a website that contains a lot of information on the design, construction and performance of the house. You can visit the website here.

Future Green Goals: We would like to add additional solar panels to our roof when the price of the panels drops. We provided conduit to the roof during construction so that when we do add them, it will be a simple hook up.

Resources:

Living Room:
1950's vintage sofa covered in Luna Textiles “Fluffy”
Red chair: Nuevo Diana
Black chairs: Nuevo Madrid
Table: Noguchi
Rug: DellaRobbia Sousei
Lighting: Tech Lighting Monorail and Monopoint
Fireplace: Montigo “L Series”

Dining Room:
Chairs: Metropolitan rubber chairs
Side Table: Skovby
Lighting: Louis Poulsen "PH 5"

Kitchen:
Wall oven, induction cooktop, and warming drawer: Wolf
Refrigerator: Subzero
Dishwasher: Bosch
Range Hood: Hafele
Sink: Kohler Poise
Faucet: Hansgrohe
Cabinets: Ovation
Countertops: Silestone
Stools: Calligaris "Icon"
Lighting: blue pendants from Tech Lighting, LED under-cabinet lights from Kichler Lighting
Tile backsplash: Artistic Glass "Opera Stilato"

Porch:
Round table: Cori
Kartell Dr. No chairs
Chaise: CB2 Bask sun lounger

Den:
Wall Unit: Mercury
Sectional: Contempo Harry
Cocktail table: Prairie

Office:
Desks: Blu Dot "Chicago"
Chairs: Knoll "Bulldog"
Wall Unit: Infinite Storage Solutions

Bedroom:
Furniture: family pieces
Lighting: Y Lighting
Closets: Elfa

Bathrooms:
Most of the plumbing and fixtures are from Duravit, Hansgrohe, and Kohler, with Toto dual flush toilets.

Ceiling fans: The Modern Fan Company

Paint: Benjamin Moore low-VOC "Aura"

Flooring: Polished concrete on lower level: Vexcon. Wood floors: locally sourced wood from Kersten Lumber Co.

Window treatments: Lutron motorized shades in living room. Kirsch cellular shades elsewhere

Systems:
Furnace and air conditioner: Carrier Infinity
ERV: Renewaire EV200
Air Filter: Aprilaire
Water Heater: Rinnai 53i Tankless

Other:
Wisconsin Environmental Initiative's Green Built Home program

(Thanks, Carol and Fred!)

Interested in sharing your home with Re-Nest? Contact our editors through our Green Tour Submission Form.

(Images: Therese Maring)

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