You never hear the saying, “The first time’s a charm.” That’s because doing something new invites all sorts of unwelcome obstacles and surprises. But when you’re building a house—or more specifically, a very green and energy-efficient house, you have to get it right the first time—despite the many hurdles.
That’s what developer Anthony Lauto encountered in the five years he took to plan and build his family’s vacation home in Montauk, N.Y., on the southeastern tip of Long Island. Lauto proceeded methodically, as this was his first foray into green home design. The now-finished summer haven is constructed to the highest green home standards, utilizes cutting-edge home technologies to help boost its energy efficiency—and thanks to Lauto’s careful planning represents very few regrets for the homeowner/builder.
“I wanted to build a home that gives back to the land and is environmentally conscious,” says Lauto. “I also wanted to make sure it was affordable to maintain and low-maintenance.”
The 7,800-square-foot home is built to Energy Star for Home energy-efficiency standards and uses just 25 percent of the electricity of a comparably sized home. It is projected to achieve an annual energy cost savings of more than $7,200 per year, or more than $600 per month. The home is also the ninth in the state of New York to achieve Gold Certification through the National Association of Home Builders’ Green Building Program, and it is being considered for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification through the U.S. Green Building Council.
Electronics play a significant role in the home’s energy savings, with a whole-house control and lighting system, high-end energy monitoring, energy-efficient LEDs (light emitting diodes) and CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps), as well as automated heating, cooling, ventilation and humidity control. And along with all that energy efficiency, the homeowners are still able to have fun. A Crestron distribution system pipes audio to 22 zones and Full HD 1080p video to nine rooms. A home theater is also in the works.
Helping power all the electronics is a 10-kilowatt solar system, while three separate geothermal heat pumps take care of the heating and cooling. (Geothermal systems use the heat from below ground.) But this home’s high efficiency really starts with the use of green building materials, specifically the home’s ICF (insulated concrete forms) construction, in which concrete is poured between two insulating forms, and Marvin’s Integrity thermal windows. Recycled steel, mold-resistant drywall, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)-certified woods, 300-year-old reclaimed timbers, an anthrax-rated air filtering system and a carbon filtration and reverse osmosis water system are just a few of the green and healthy add-ons.
Wouldn’t it be Great If …
The property on which the home sits had been owned off and on by Lauto’s extended family since the 1950s. Even back then, the Lauto family was green, having built a 1,900-square-foot bungalow from leftovers from other construction sites. It was only fitting that new, bigger house planned for the property would carry through the green tradition. Before the old structure was removed, Lauto and his building team took a closer look at the land, which included shadow studies to track the movement of the sun. Lauto wanted to make sure that his planned location for the new house would allow it to take advantage of the available sunlight for supplementary lighting and heating.
“Planning started in 2005 and got a little more aggressive in 2006. It was a different world then in green building. People thought it meant having a bamboo floor,” Lauto says.
“One of the biggest challenges was waiting for technology to catch up,” the builder adds. “We started a lot of sentences with ‘Wouldn’t it be great if …’ and while looking for a solution we would discover the ‘if’ finally came true.” That sometimes required redesigns.
“All along we knew what we wanted to do and planned accordingly, even though the technology was not always available,” echoes Joe Calise of electronics installation firm Sights-N-Sounds in Seaford, N.Y., which played a critical role in the home’s energy-efficient design.
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Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates