Minneapolis sustainable projects move forward

Minneapolis sustainable projects move forward

by Eric Hartz

When Jeff and Salena Gallo began looking for a new home in 2006, going green wasn't high on their list of priorities. "We just needed to find a new place," Jeff says.

Around the same time, the Gallos also went shopping for a new car - and ended up with a Toyota Prius, which got Jeff thinking green.

"I took the technology that applied to cars like the Prius and thought, 'Why not apply it to homes?'" he says. "It's better to support new technology that's looking forward and isn't based on fossil fuels that will eventually be phased out."

The more the Gallos learned about green building, the more it seemed like a no-brainer. The couple teamed up with Minneapolis-based architect John Dwyer and his company, Shelter Architecture, to begin work on their new efficient, ultra-modern home in Minneapolis.

The Gallos, who began construction in May 2007 and moved in in August, are seeking LEED platinum status. It will be just the sixth LEED-certified home in the Twin Cities, although eight more projects registered for LEED status are underway. "Our goal was to be as energy-, water- and space-efficient as possible and also have a house that's healthy," Jeff says.

The 1,800-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bathroom home was built with concrete and foam walls that measure 9 inches thick, making the house not only tremendously insulated - with an R-value of more than 30 - but extremely durable as well. Inside, the wood flooring is either from sustainable forests, or, on the second floor, recycled from an old gym floor in Wisconsin. The appliances all meet or exceed Energy Star standards, and the bathrooms have low-flow showerheads and dual-flush toilets.

"I suffer from allergies and Salena suffers from some, too, as well as asthma, so we wanted a place that was healthy," Jeff says. With that in mind, the Gallos used low-VOC paints and stains in the house, and the air quality is such that Jeff Gallo says he went from taking allergy medication every day to not bothering to refill his prescriptions when they ran out.

In Minnetonka, another LEED platinum project exists - the first remodeled home in the country to achieve platinum certification.

"The Sustainable House" is a 2,300-square-foot, four-bedroom home that was originally built in 1948. Live Green, Live Smart, a local environmental group founded by Peter Lytle, spearheaded the gut-rehab, which was certified platinum on Dec. 17, 2007.

"It was about as unhealthy a house as you could find," Lytle says. "Everyone we talked to said it wasn't possible to achieve much more than just certified [level]."

The list of technology in The Sustainable House reads like an encyclopedia of green building: Energy Star appliances and compact fluorescent light bulbs; dual-flush toilets with a graywater system; natural quartz countertops, fly ash cement, Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood and Richlite table tops; photovoltaic panels and a solar hot water system; a geothermal heating system; and radiant in-floor heating, to name a few.

"It has an anticipated life span of another 200 years," Lytle says. "There's never been a house like this, new or remodeled, anywhere."

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Green building for new homes

The LEED for Homes rating system, which officially launched in November, promotes the design and construction of new houses that use less energy, water and natural resources, create less waste and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

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