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New Florida

Posted by Matt Power, Editor-In-Chief

Apr 15, 2014 4:57:00 PM


Florida, one of the fastest growing states, is not known for its green housing. But this LEED Gold home in Winter Park, not far from Orlando, breaks that pattern. Its contemporary design contains many elements familiar in what you might call the “snowbird vernacular” of modern Florida architecture: large expanses of glass, an open floorplan, a back yard lanai, and an open interior with little trim. But unlike so many Florida homes--built to code but no better--nearly every aspect of this home has an energy- or water-saving purpose.  

“There was a house on the lot damaged by a hurricane,” notes architect and builder Phil Kean. “We salvaged parts of it and put it into the new house. We wanted lots of light and windows.” Kean designed a second-story turret ringed with transom windows to achieve that goal. At the same time, he saw the potential for a second-floor patio. “We had to do a lot of additional structural work to prepare that,” he says. “But it’s a beautiful space. That wood floor floats above a triple membrane, to provide a level walking area. And part of the area is a green roof.

“You never have to turn a light on during the day in this home—the daylighting is so good,” he adds. “We had all of the cabinets made and built locally. We used low-VOC paints, glues, and finishes.”
The home’s shell is especially tight, insulated with spray-in foam insulation. It has an unvented attic, careful caulking and sealing, and the essential ERV ventilation for a home this tight. A 16.3 SEER heat pump provides air cooling, but according to the builder, it’s often not needed. The home has a HERS score of 61.

The Evergreen is also miserly with water. The roof is fully guttered for rainwater harvesting and the landscape is planted with drought tolerant plants and a zoned drip irrigation system, which includes a leak detection device, essential—but often missing--for residential irrigation.

The home’s conditioned space is about 3,000 square feet, smaller than many homes in the area. But instead of adding more conditioned space to the footprint, the builder designed outdoor space on the lower level that feels like living space—a permanent lanai equipped with retractable screens.

The builder also tried to use as much as possible from the previous house, including cutting up the old slab and making it into pavers for the new driveway, salvaging cement blocks, and preserving existing trees. “Those large trees are all original,” he notes. “To protect them, we kept the original driveway layout. Everything else we planted was Florida native.”

The design payoff for this home is obvious—it provides exactly the living environment the client wanted. But what about the energy payoff? “If you look at the utilities, you see the results,” says Kean. “For a typical home of this size, people may pay $600 a month. But here the average bill is $150, and that includes a large flat fee, trash pickup, and all utilities.”

  • The builder carefully protected and worked around existing trees and the new driveway is cut from pieces of the slab from the old house with porous gravel between the blocks.

  • Along with the many water saving and energy smart features of the exterior, the kitchen features countertops made with recycled glass, low-flow faucets, and Energy Star appliances.

  • A central wall that runs through the home was protected with veneer made from crushed stone.

  • Baths include dual-flush toilts, and water-saving showerheads and faucets.

  • The second floor patio includes areas for year-round plants.

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