‘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."
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."
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."
Citizen Staff Reports 04/25/2016
The sign up period for the Richmond Community Solar Co-op will close on April 30. Nearly 150 homeowners and businesses have joined the group to save money and make going solar easier. The group has started installations and is working with VA SUN to learn about solar technology and the process of going solar.
“If you’ve ever thought about going solar, this is a great opportunity to do so,” said Sekar Veerappan Co-op member and the group’s first installation. “Working with the group helps members learn about going solar and make an informed decision.” > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 04/22/2016
The YMCA of Greater Richmond will host its "Healthy Kids Day" April 29-30 at all local branches.
The event is part of the Y's national initiative to improve families' health and well-being.
Each event features games, healthy snacks, arts and crafts and physical activities, among other events. Its goal is to motivate and teach families how to develop healthy routines at home. > Read more.
For our Top 10 calendar events this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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CalendarLavender Fields Herb Farm, 11300 Winfrey Rd. in Glen Allen, will offer a free farm tour from 12 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. This walking tour includes farm history, a stop… Full text