Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Play fair with nature

County’s first LEED-certified residence sits easily on the land

Express Staff Writer

Courtesy photo by Tim Brown The first LEED-certified house in Blaine County coordinates tradition with cutting-edge technology.

The concept of playing fair is an apt one as it pertains to the environment in which we live and the footprint we make on a daily basis. The idea is that no one person or country should use more than its fair share. When it came time for Cindy and Kenny Ward of Hailey to build a home for themselves and their four children on a piece of property they bought south of Bellevue, there was only one way to proceed.

"We were accepted as part of a LEED residential pilot program and then when it became a regular program we were converted into that," Cindy said.

Designed to be a contemporary ranch house by Ketchum architect Tobin Dougherty, the home is open, bright and livable.

"There is an underlying quilt theme," she said. "I love quilts, and it can be seen in many ways. It really dictated the style for me. Everything started when I fell in love with the hand-cast bronze tiles from Rocky Mountain Hardware," which are arranged quilt-like over the stove.

"Tobin said he could make the foyer look like it is flowing in from the outside, like a quilt," Cindy said. "He's brilliant with design."

Kenny Ward is a prime mover behind the development of Wood River Youth Football and Cindy is the broker/owner of Cornerstone Realty in Hailey. After much consideration, they chose to name their dream house Playfair.

"It's something we live by—we built green—so we try to play fair with the environment," Kenny said. "We're that kind of people anyway."

Indeed, after going through with the construction of what is now the only Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified private home in the Wood River Valley, Cindy became a member of the Idaho chapter of the U.S. Building Green Council. The council oversees the LEED for Homes certification process. She will participate in the Idaho Green Expo in Boise on May 17 and 18.

LEED is a rating system that promotes design and construction of high-performance green homes, which use less energy, water and natural resources; create less waste and are healthier and more comfortable for the occupants. Benefits of a LEED home include lower energy and water bills; reduced greenhouse gas emissions; and less exposure to mold, mildew and other indoor toxins.

All LEED homes are third-party inspected, performance tested and certified to be higher performing than conventional homes. In the Ward's case, LEED-certified rater Tad Duby of Boise-based OnPoint did the inspection.

Kenny Ward acted as general contractor. A host of Wood River Valley sub-contractors completed various aspects of the home. Those included framer Thane Hendrix of Uhrig Construction.

Playfair sits next to a 30-acre grass-and-alfalfa field, and the property includes the 1890s-era original farmhouse the Wards lived in while building. A portion of the farmhouse, from the 1970s, will be removed to suit the county's zoning regulations. Old trees of plum, apricot, cherry and apple cover the property. Two rescued wild horses, Jewel and Sagen, flit about happily in a pasture.

"We call them moveable yard art," Cindy said.

The back porch, which faces a pond, is a composite of recycled materials made by Evergrain. The scene is bucolic, serene and very green even on a mid-winter day. Sun streams through large windows of the home.

"Passive solar was one of the best and most effective things we did," Kenny said. "We are 16 degrees variation to the east of south."

Dougherty very consciously sited it to take advantage of passive solar heat and light.

"The sense of (it being) an indoor-outdoor home is very prominent," Dougherty said. "The functionality of the house and its placement with the existing structures was also important in just planning the house. Cindy and Kenny were very instrumental in implementing the green aspects."

The Ward's Silver Certification was contingent on other aspects as well. To be LEED certified, homeowners must earn points in several categories: location, sustainable sites, energy and atmosphere, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality, materials and resources, homeowner awareness, and innovation and design. A silver certification means the owner received 50 to 69 points total. The most points that can be earned are 108.

In beginning the process, they consulted with Morgan Brown and Marty Flannes, former partners of Developing Green in Ketchum.

"We probably wouldn't have done this without them," she said.

Cindy mentioned local businesses such as Sun Valley Bronze, Rocky Mountain Hardware, View Point Windows & Doors, Red Door Design, Sun Valley Rug & Tile, Alpine Aquatics, Trestlewood in Blackfoot and Idaho Lumber as being particularly helpful in her research and in procuring items.

She plans on creating a resource book to share and make available to the Idaho U.S. Green Building Council.

"The basement is the brain of the house," Cindy said while leading a tour through the pristine under-workings of her home. "This mitigates radon, Here are the back-up water heaters—we are on the grid. But we're on well water, not city."

The Wards earned most of their points in indoor air quality. They have a complex air filtration, exhaustion and distribution system that was tested three times during the building process, Kenny said.

The wood floors in the great room are one of the standouts of the interior design. The planks came from reclaimed railroad boxcars. All stonework is either native or regional. The floors emit solar--heated radiant heat with a four-star gas system for back-up. Paints and finishes are either low- or non-VOC. The mudroom is equipped with a recycling center. The ceiling beams are reclaimed posts that came from IGL in Carey. Of particular interest is the "heat sink" granite floor in the living and mud rooms that absorbs heat from the sun and releases it later.

"Our utility bills are less than the farmhouse, which is four times the size," Cindy said. "We did get hit hard for our square footage, which is 4,370. LEED encourages between 2,500 to 2,800 square foot maximum. So we sacrificed points."

The doors were all locally made. The majority of the light bulbs are compact florescents. The handmade fiber wallpaper in the powder room Cindy found through a women's cooperative in Nepal.

"The Duet washer and dryer set uses only as much water as needed," Cindy said. "It has a brain."

Faucets are all low flow and toilets are double flush.

"You get used to it," Cindy said. "Though with LEED you're allowed one exception so we chose the master bath shower."

The roof made by InSpire Roofing is a 100-percent recycled blend of virgin resins and natural limestone that has been compression molded and looks like slate.

"Durability," Cindy pointed out, "is a big thing with LEED."

The use of "sustainable and reused products is one of our major concerns," Kenny said. "We grow our own organic beef. We have four head of cattle that we take to Jerome to butcher and then live off that."

The Wards were insistent that the typical construction waste not be overlooked.

"Every piece of wood was cut up kindling or used," Kenny said. "We made berms from (biodegradable) waste material."

By moving trees rather than cutting them and using sustainable products, the Wards have found a way to live with style, in harmony with the land and while playing fair. The home came together in cooperation with the busy hands of some of the valley's best builders and craftsmen, like a perfectly designed quilt.

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