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Efficient Abode

(Photography by Robert Wray.)
March 23, 2009 - By Terri Gordon, Shore Magazine

When Vicki and Greg Powell of St. Joseph set out to build their new home, they had three dominant concerns: the waterfront view, a Japanese kimono, and building "green."

A professional builder, Greg knew just what to do. He called residential home designer Marla Bruemmer, of Design Evolutions in South Haven. Working together, the three of them created a home that suits the Powells' lifestyle and minimizes their impact on the environment.

With five outdoor decks, fifty-seven windows, and his-and-her views from their respective bathroom sinks, in fact, from every room but the home theatre, the first mission has been accomplished.

The kimono hangs in the front entry. The color scheme-creamy yellows, sea-foam green and red-comes from the kimono, as do other Asian influences in the décor. "I've always liked Asian," Vicki says, "and I've always liked contemporary. My favorite color is red, so I put them all together. I know you can't do a whole house in red, so I just did splashes."

A Japanese wedding gown hangs in the entry.
(Photography by Robert Wray.)
And the "green" part? Ironically, much of green building cannot be seen in the finished home. Much of it is in the mechanics, in the appliances, and inside the walls.

"People want to talk about bamboo floors," says Greg, who owns Powell Construction Services in St. Joseph, and has used green principles in his projects for many years, "but the most important thing about green is energy efficiency.

"In the long-term, you are using less gas and electricity. It cuts down on carbon dioxide, those things [that negatively affect the environment]."

Bruemmer can't agree more. "Efficiency starts when the house is conceived on paper," she says. "True green is the big picture well thought through-good planning with all the lifestyle criteria included. It's a balancing of everything. What's good green for you is different from what's good green for me because we have different lifestyles." So, Bruemmer took the Powells' list of wishes and hit the drawing board. The end result is the beautiful, efficient, two-level home with panoramic views of the St. Joseph River. All the home's appliances are Energy Star. The cook top is electric induction. Water heaters are tankless, heating water only as needed. The high-efficiency gas furnace has programmable thermostats for two zones, upper and lower, and a low-speed fan that runs continually to "destratify" the air.

In the kitchen, clerestory windows let in natural light,
and red halogen lights add task lighting and a splash of color.
(Photography by Robert Wray.)
Lighting throughout the house is either fluorescent or halogen, and the windows are all high-efficiency, double-paned for insulation.

Insulation and air-sealing are another important component. The Powells have taken this seriously, caulking all windows and walls as they were installed and insulating thoroughly-even under the cement slab that is the home's foundation. To ensure good indoor air quality, cabinetry in the house is North Carolina maple and is all VOC-free, with no formaldehyde, or other volatile organic compounds. The home's furniture is all made of VOC-free certified hardwood. The fireplace is all

Green tiles evoke the sea in the master bath.
(Photography by Robert Wray.)
sealed combustion, so there are no indoor air issues. A whole-house, or central, vacuum empties to the outside, as do the stove vent and all bathroom vents. Greg has even installed a vent in the garage to remove exhaust fumes.

Being green also has to do with conserving resources, minimizing waste, and recycling. To that end, the Powells have recycled their unused building materials, and have incorporated recycled products into the home. Trims are made of recycled wood. Countertops are concrete inlaid with recycled glass. To conserve water, sinks and showers feature low-flow faucets. Toilets are dual-flush. The floors are sustainable quick-growth eucalyptus.

Both the Powells and Bruemmer are pleased with the final outcome, and they insist that going "green" doesn't have to be difficult, or ugly, or expensive. "Green can be simple," Bruemmer says. "Green can be inexpensive." And green can be extremely comfortable.

(Photography by Robert Wray.)
The Powells admit to being homebodies. They like to entertain. They love music. They like to read. They both like watching movies. They don't like watching television. They enjoy each other's company. "I figure if you have a nice home and good friends, what more do you need?" Greg says.

Greg's favorite part of the house is the garage. He has motorcycles and likes to putter. "It's got a nice sink to clean up in," he says. "It's heated if I want to work, and it's got room for four cars."

Vicki likes the windows and, when the seasons allow, the outdoor living spaces. "You just always feel like you are a part of outside," she says. "We have a lot of wildlife. There are always deer, and fox." Indeed, what more could you need?

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