Hartford couple sees value in green building

Hartford couple sees value in green building

by Katie Mastin

When John and Karen Dugan decided to build their retirement home in Glastonbury, having the house LEED certified wasn't on the agenda. In fact, the only green aspect the Dugans planned on incorporating was a geothermal heating and cooling system. "We had a basic interest in a 'green house' because it's a good thing to do," John says. "It saves money and it's good for the environment."

But after speaking with architect Russell Campaigne of CK Architects in Guilford, the Dugans decided to take the home one step further. In fact, CK Architects agreed to pay $5,000 to LEED certify the home because they saw value in experiencing the process, Campaigne says.

Although this was the first LEED home CK Architects has been involved with - the Dugans' home earned a gold rating last year - he adds that the firm has built other homes that would meet the standards. "This is a great example of an extremely well-designed green home," says Maureen Mahle, LEED for Homes program manager for Steven Winter Associates, which conducted the certification. "The project achieved LEED gold in part because the team made the decision to design and build an extremely low-impact home well before they started looking at rating systems."

One of the most significant features of the Dugan's 2,350-square-foot home are the solar panels on the rear dormer. The state of Connecticut provided the couple with a 50-percent rebate for the system. In addition, the Dugans produce enough energy that at times they can sell some of it back to the electric company. The couple also sells "energy attributes" - extra renewable energy credits (RECs) generated from the solar panels - to the Energy Consumers Alliance of New England for three cents per kilowatt-hour. ECARE then sells those credits to consumers as part of their renewable energy option.

The couple's geothermal heating and cooling system also helps save on energy costs as the system has underground pipes that detect consistent ground temperatures at a certain depth. Water is then circulated through the pipes and goes into a furnace with a heat pump and compressor that circulates either warm or cool air throughout the home.

More builders in the Hartford area are building sustainably, according to Bob Dykins, the owner of Glastonbury Housesmith LLC and the Dugans' builder. Although the couple's house was the first in Connecticut to be LEED certified, 19 other projects have since registered to go through the process.

Dykins says he expects LEED homes to become a trend. "We need more resources that don't have to be replaced constantly and that are more energy efficient and durable," he says. "LEED provides a balanced system in an integrated way and gives you the assurance that your house is put together to the best of today's knowledge and standards."

The Dugans were pleased with the results of their LEED experience. "I would definitely recommend considering the value of LEED," John says. "It's a great tool for helping to make decisions that benefit your own comfort, cost and the environment. You can feel good about what you've done at the end of the whole process."

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