‘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."
The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.
Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.
Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.
At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.
Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.
The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.
Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.
The Community College Workforce Alliance (CCWA), in partnership with the Virginia Film Office, will offer "Get Your Start in the Film Industry," a two-day seminar designed to prepare workers for film, television and commercial projects in Virginia. The course will be held Oct. 4-5 at the Workforce Development and Conference Center, 1651 Parham Road in Henrico, on the campus of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.
The training will be taught by Gary Romolo Fiorelli, an accomplished assistant director for film and television projects, which include the television series Sons of Anarchy and ABC’s current drama Mistresses. > Read more.
The Boathouse restaurant will open at Short Pump Town Center in the spring, its third location in the region.
“People have asked us to come to the West End for years,” said owner Kevin Healy. “When the opportunity arose, we knew had to jump on it.”
The new restaurant will be located in a 5,800-square-foot space under the Hyatt House Hotel at the town center and will include a large outdoor patio. > Read more.
Boka Kantina exceeds its strong food truck reputation
Already a fan of Boka fare from outdoor events with the Tako Truck, I was delighted to learn of the new restaurant, and eager to see if its reputation held up after putting down brick-and-mortar roots.
Would the food lose its zest if I wasn’t enjoying it in the great outdoors? Would it seem pedestrian served from an ordinary kitchen instead of a truck?
Would the tacos be less satisfying as an antidote to normal lunch hunger – instead of being ingested to stave off desperate hunger after a long afternoon of crowds, sun, and tedious lines? > Read more.
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Sep. 18, 2014Click here to read the print edition.
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