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‘LEED’ing the Way

Solar House Joins School, Library in Glen Allen’s ‘Green’ Corridor
It's hard to miss the latest addition to the "LEED Row" that has sprung up along Staples Mill Road, just down from the new Glen Allen High School.

The newly-renovated 1939 cottage at the corner of Hungary Spring Road, across from Staples Mill Plaza, is nearly dwarfed by the 12-foot by 10-foot solar panel in its side yard.

Which is exactly the visibility Hugh Joyce had in mind when he first envisioned a test house incorporating the latest in energy-efficient innovations.

"I was looking for something to be a model," he told visitors at a Nov. 30 open house, part of a series of "Sustainable Richmond Tours" hosted by the Richmond chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

"This is perfect," said Joyce of the location. "It's so high-profile -- so in-your-face."

Enviable Bills
As president of James River Air Conditioning Company, Joyce had long been contemplating an experimental site that would showcase the company's different products and allow him to monitor energy usage and "test our theories."

Following extensive renovation, the home has acquired a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council – the highest rating possible.

That brings the number of LEED-certified buildings along the mile-long stretch of Staples Mill to three, and makes the home a fitting neighbor for the other LEED-rated structures: the gold-certified Glen Allen H.S. and silver-certified Glen Allen Library.

What's more, the home's innovative features – which include a Google power meter, solar sun tracking, LED lighting, rain water and gray water recovery for irrigation, Energy Star appliance package, and a special air filtration system – are having the desired energy-saving effects. Among the displays at the open house were copies of recent Dominion Virginia Power bills that averaged only slightly more than $20 a month.

A few days after the tour, the November bill came in at enviable $16.39.

"As we speak," Joyce told a recent visitor to the house, "we're selling back 1.5 kilowatts to the power company per hour."

Science Project
Around the corner from the Hungary Spring house, Joyce is using knowledge gained from building the model to construct another solar home -- this time, one to put on the market. "And once we sell that one," he said, "we will build another."

The newer home, which is not located on a commercial corner like the model, will require less visible solar panels; Joyce plans to install knee-high banks of panels and surround them with bushes.

"It's an industrial corner here," he said of the model home, indicating the shopping center across the street and several utility poles in the corner yard. "If there weren't already a lot of poles, we wouldn't have gotten away with [the large solar panel]."

Asked how the next door neighbor feels about living next to a giant solar panel, Joyce replied, "He loves it."

Not only is the exterior of the house much more cosmetically pleasing, said Joyce, but it also has been vacated by some less-than-desirable neighbors.

"There were pit bulls living in here," Joyce said, adding that the dogs' chewing habits forced him to reevaluate plans to reuse the original interior. "There was not a piece of trim that wasn't ripped to smithereens."

He was pleased to report, however, that one signature piece of the old house was salvaged: the front door. "It was beat-up," he said, "but we were able to rebuild it."

The home, which also boasts Earthcraft Virginia platinum certification and EPA Energy Star certification, will continue to serve as a "static science project," said Joyce. He plans to continue learning, and tweaking, from each new home.

While he noted that green-building costs still outweigh whatever energy savings are achieved, projects such as the model home help to demonstrate that green buildings and lifestyles are attainable.

And regardless of global trends toward greener buildings, and whether a worldwide energy crisis will force a shift to alternative energy, Joyce added, "Everyone should want to be green."

"Every new endeavor I do will be green," said Joyce.

"It just makes sense."


Community

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


There’s no excuse for kids and families to not get out of the house this weekend! The Armour House and Gardens has an “Egg-celent Egg-venture” planned and Reynolds Community College will host the Reynolds Family Palooza. If you’re looking to give back to your community, Dorey Park will host Walk Like MADD and coordinators2inc will present the annual Kids Walk for Kids. And a special event for children with special needs will be on Sunday – the Caring Bunny will be at Virginia Center Commons. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

A new meaning for fried chicken

Is it heresy to say – in this bastion-of-tradition capital of the Old South – that it's time for Southern fried chicken to take a step back and make way for a new fried chicken king?

Count me among the new believers bowing to Bonchon Chicken's delectable double-fried bliss. Hand-brushed with signature garlic soy or hot sauce, flash-fried once and then again, the decadent drums and wings take "crisp" to a new level. If you're eating with a crowd and everyone bites in at once, be warned: you might need ear plugs to handle the din. > Read more.

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