4800 Square Foot House in the Hamptons Wins LEED Platinum

Last week, guest author Susan Brautovich raised the
question of whether green mega-homes are truly green or if small and beautiful is the greenest of them all. She pointed out that larger homes will have more embedded energy than comparably constructed smaller homes and will also require more resources to maintain. On the other hand, she also pointed out that early adaptors are often found among the upscale set and these folks can do a great deal to legitimize new techniques and technologies that are trying to nudge their way into the market at the most fragile stage of a company’s existence. This participation will “drive green building in the direction of economies of scale, lower prices, innovation, and wider adoption of greener building materials, systems, and methods.”

Just a few days later, an item crossed my desk describing a large (4800 sq. ft.) home in Southampton, NY that recently received a LEED Platinum rating with 104 LEED points.

The house, which is known as the HGA house (which stands for Hamptons Green Alliance, an association of building and related-service professionals in the Long Island Hamptons, organized to promote green building and maintenance practices that collaborated with architects Ric Stott and Craig Lee on this project.)

The house is also net zero energy and embodied carbon negative, having earned a Phase I Embodied Carbon Negative certification which means the construction of the home reduced more carbon emissions than the amount of carbon emitted. The home’s embodied carbon footprint was measured using the ICEMAN Carbon Factor index developed by HGA co-founder Frank Dalene.

In addition to the usual energy-saving features like southern orientation, passive solar design, super-insulation and advanced windows, sealed ductwork, dual flush toilets, low flow fixtures, rainwater harvesting, and Energy Star appliances, the home utilizes LED lighting, solar thin film on the south-facing windows, building integrated solar PV and solar thermal with dual seasons operation, a geothermal loop, a high efficiency wood-burning fireplace and a whole building smart energy monitoring system.

The house, which is owned by David and Saundra Dubin, is actually a reconstruction of their previous house which burned to the ground in late 2009.

It’s hard to argue with a carbon negative dwelling from a global warming perspective, though Susan’s article does raise some philosophical questions about the ethos of consumption and its current role in our unsustainable society and how much space is a reasonable amount for a person to live in.

No information on pricing is provided, but it’s a safe bet that a house like this won’t soon be coming to a neighborhood near you. But hopefully someday, many of these features will be commonplace.

That being said, it’s hard not to get excited about the application of technologies and construction techniques that have been combined here to produce results like this today in a spacious and lovely home.

My sense is that as we progress down the road to sustainable living, we will continue to readdress some of the basic questions of how we meet our needs for shelter, comfort and security in fundamental ways. But a house like this, while it may be somewhat traditional in that regard, is anything but traditional in the way that is has leveraged technology to create a highly efficient, low impact residence despite its prodigious size.

RP Siegel is the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor TrailsLike airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.

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RP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 52 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP recently returned from Abu Dhabi where he traveled as the winner of the 2015 Sustainability Week blogging competition.Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com

3 responses

  1. Thanks for the follow-on piece, Bob. I think the social implications of this issue are as interesting (and maybe thornier) than the question of whether a 4,800 sf house should be green-rated.

    The LEED rating aside, carbon offset/impact measurements always spur debate, and should, in my mind. I’d point out that in addition to being the developer of the ICEMAN Carbon Factor Index and HGA founder, Mr. Dalene is also the project’s builder. That’s not to say the ICEMAN “rating” isn’t of value, just that the obvious conflict of interest is hard to ignore.

    At the other end of the scale, http://www.newavenuehomes.com is getting some good press with their mini green urban infill homes designed for backyards and small lots. (OK, it IS Berkeley.)

  2. Bob, the issues related to the question of whether green mega-homes are truly green (much less sustainable) are complex, as you describe so well in this article. Back in 2006, Sustainable Land Development International profiled the Florida real estate “artist” offering the world’s ultra wealthy the first triple-green-certified, luxury home (http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/sldt/0809/#/8).

    As described in the SLDT article, Mega-mansion builder Frank McKinney’s latest work-of-art is Acqua Liana—Tahitian for “water flower”—a multi-million luxury home in Palm Beach County, Florida. It lies on a 1.6-acre parcel of land that is bracketed by a private stretch of Manalapan Beach on the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Intracoastal Waterway to the west. Filled with lavish features in a South Pacific -influenced décor—highlighted by water walls, a double-helix staircase, a one-of-a-kind glass “water floor,” coupled with copious ocean views, waterfalls and pools—the home has attained triple-green certification from the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the Florida Green Building Coalition and Energy Star for Homes.

    The opulent property sets the standard for environmentally responsible, luxury construction, according to McKinney, a niche that has not drawn a lot of attention from high-end developers. He estimates that there are only 50,000 people in the world who can afford the estate homes he creates.

    “I think the wealthy—and in our case the ultra wealthy—are concerned and conscious about the appearance of usurping more of the carbon footprint than the rest of us,” he said. “If you can combine beauty and artistry with sustainability and ‘green,’ then it gives them a bit of cover.”

    I think Susan’s point that early adaptors are often found among the upscale set and these folks can do a great deal to legitimize new techniques and technologies is valid. In establishing new trends, it is very important to enlist the support of the rich and famous because the masses will follow.

    And as an inventor yourself, you well know that prototypes rarely, if ever, make any economic sense on their own so it is important to find creative ways to finance this kind of ongoing research and development.

    1. This article states, “The house is also net zero energy and embodied carbon negative, having earned a Phase I Embodied Carbon Negative certification which means the construction of the home reduced more carbon emissions than the amount of carbon emitted.”

      The merits of Iceman Carbon Factor Index aside, I find myself wondering how a home can be “embodied carbon negative”? I expect that when considering total life-cycle costs the house may save more energy than it took to build it, but saving energy is not the same as not using energy.

      Based on what the article states, I would think that we could solve and reverse climate change by simply building enough of these 4200 sqft houses. Since that concept is ridiculous not even considering the economics I wonder where the breakdown occurs.

      Regardless of how much power the house generates and sends to the grid, I have to assume it would take years to return enough energy just to cover the embodied energy of the range and hood shown in the picture. Hard for me to believe that wood cabinets should count as stored carbon…

      Call me perplexed. I have much to learn.

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