Going green from top to bottom
February 7, 2008
One of the most stunning features of Scott Fitzmorris Tahoe City home is his wood floor.Made from White Oak reclaimed from barns in Ohio, each panel of the dark wood grips the bottom of your feet as you walk across the distinct knots, carvings and grains.Reusing wood to build the floor is one of countless environmentally friendly details in the simple and rustic Fitzmorris home.It was the overall green composition and principles of the home from the recycled-glass tiles that accentuate the kitchen walls and the blown-in soy insulation to reusing the wood from a torn-down structure that prompted the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to give the 2,600-square-foot residence the Best in the Basin award for green building.The reason that particular home won is that it is, literally, from top to bottom a green building showcase, said Dennis Oliver, agency spokesman. There isnt any one feature that jumps out at you. It is the whole package. Our judges were just very impressed with that.Vaulted ceilings open up the living area and sunlight streams in through a wall full of south-facing windows. Take a closer look and youll see that the homes rock features, such as its granite countertops, stone hearth and rock tiling, are absorbing the suns rays and then emitting the heat a building technique known as passive solar.Homeowner Fitzmorris and his team, Contractor John Doherty and Walton Design and Engineering, were committed to going completely green from the start. And it although it cost more to go green, Fitzmorris, who has been working with the outdoor clothing line Predator, said the end result is quality.It was really just a product of a lot of conversation, Fitzmorris said, reflecting on how the idea to remodel an environmentally conscious home came about. [Engineer Steve Waltons] first draft was using all the what ifs, and we really ended up using a lot of them.Even during the homes construction, the project maintained its core environmental values. Its been my goal for as long as Ive been a builder to waste less, Doherty said. Its important for us to innovate every day that were on the job.Doherty took every opportunity to reuse materials and scraps. More than half of the materials from the former structure were recycled into the final project, and the construction crew separated waste into recycling piles and then hauled them off the job site. All of the framing lumber and the cabinet wood are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which ensures the wood came from a well managed forest and was not clear cut. A concrete staircase banister with a shiny finish, and Trex-decking are examples of how the home strived to cut down on its consumption of wood.The siding is made of rusty corrugated metal that produces iron-oxide when it rusts a chemical not harmful to the environment, as opposed to the copper-chromium that is produced when Cor-Ten siding rusts.Three water collectors are mounted on the roof so the water could be heated using solar energy. The system is used in conjunction with a natural gas-fired water heater.And the list goes on.The project took a lot of commitment, Doherty said. From the contractors standpoint, it took patience and a will to learn new methods.I definitely had to have an open mind in researching materials and using materials were not used to using, Doherty said. I went into this knowing that it would take a little bit longer.As for Fitzmorris, he said the project reflects his ideals. He strives to live a life that will that does not contribute to deforestation, global warming and the threat of oil peaking out. You just have to be aware of where things are coming from, Fitzmorris said.Fitzmorris said his next project is landscaping.[Fitzmorris] is a principle person, Oliver said. He is a person who appears to be living his life by these principles, instead of just having the house … You cant put solar panels on a giant house and say, hey, Im living green. Part of it is living simply and just having a smaller footprint all around.