‘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 threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.
Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.
The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.
Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.
The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.
‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.
But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.
That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.
An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Charlottesville's Bella’s Restaurant recently opened a location in Short Pump Village, at 11408 West Broad Street. The restaurant is owned by Valeria Biesnti, a native of Rome who arrived in the U.S. at age 21 and later became a U.S. citizen. With her restaurants, Bisenti has sought to create an ambiance that welcomes diners in a casual setting, like her favorites from her hometown. > Read more.
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