Judy Whalley, a retired lawyer cum-real estate developer grew up in Oak Park, Illinois which is also the home of an historic neighborhood known as the “Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie School of Architecture Historic District.” Wright moved to Oak Park in 1889 and designed 25 structures in the area including his own home and studio. “My husband and I have always been a fan of Arts and Crafts houses,” says Whalley, “we fell in love with the aesthetic and we’ve also become very interested in green building.”
The Whalleys live within the charmed environs of Chevy Chase View, a neighborhood nestled within the confines of Kensington, Maryland. They became intrigued by the possibilities offered by a nearby vacant lot, bought the property and assembled a design team to build a totally green bungalow from the ground up.
Images by James Ray Spahn
Architect James Rill of Rill Architects, Bethesda had worked with the Whalleys on other home renovation projects and comes from a background that includes several vintage house styles. “We’ve been involved with Craftsmen projects before and we like lots of different kinds of architecture,” says Rill, “we’ve been building outside the box for twenty years.”
When it came time to tap a builder, Whalley followed a sign that she’d seen in an renovation project which led her to Brad Beeson of Bethesda Bungalows. “Judy came to us two years ago, we met an open house and she told us she was shopping around for a builder,” says Beeson. The value added in this case, was not only the builder’s and the architect’s experience with building green but also getting the house LEED certified.
Design by Rill Architects
“We’ve done a lot of green homes but we’ve never had a client say that they wanted to have it certified,” says Rill, “that made the project more interesting by ten-fold.” Getting it certified meant hiring a consultant to document all the items and tests required by the U.S. Green Building Council. Getting the house as green and healthy as possible meant a long list of sustainable materials and construction methods.
The green goodies start on the lot which holds two 450 feet deep wells that provide ground water for the geo-thermal heat pumps which cool and warm the house. To keep interior air comfortable and fresh the design called for the use of structurally insulated sheathing laid under the home’s siding with a blanket of blown-in foam insulation under that. The period-friendly, double-hung windows are protected against heat loss by argon gas held between the panes. The humidity in the interior air space is regulated by an energy recovery ventilation system which helps cut down on power consumption.
Builder: Bethesda Bungalows
People who build or remodel in a sustainable way often speak of a “green premium,” which consists of the extra costs need to finance all those earth- friendly features. Whalley says, “there is a green premium that we estimated at between five and ten percent of the construction costs. The good news is this summer, even with all the heat, our air conditioning bills averaged one hundred five dollars a month.”
Everybody on the design team is knocked-out by how the place looks and feels – besides the fact that it was certified as LEED Gold. “I really love the kitchen and the warmth of the interior spaces, says Beeson. For Rill, the trick was making a new house look old but also placing it into the neighborhood without it looking out of place. “It came out as a piece of art that’s respectful to the site which is in a very subtle neighborhood but still true to it’s school of design.” Whalley’s fondest wish is for the new home to be paired with just the right owner. “I hope it goes to somebody who really appreciates it,” she says.
This story originally appeared in the March 2011 edition of
Chesapeake Home and Living Magazine
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