Eco Home Tour – A Wealth of Inspiration
After Amanda and I enjoyed a thick pocket of spinach and feta and a Sunnyside breakfast sandwich, both from Little Bread Co, I walked briskly over to St. Paul’s Episcopal church. There, grouped, were the 8+ volunteers tasked with welcoming and orienting home tourists, a group in which we both belonged.
Interfaith Power and Light’s Eco Home Tour
The local chapter of IFPL organized a 4-hour, $10/person tour to seven eco-clever/unique residences around Fayetteville. For volunteering for 2 hours, we received free passes to the rest of the locations, not to mention the chance to guide and encourage others.
The house at which we volunteered nestled between College and School just south of Martin Luther King Blvd, on Church street. This house was meant to be one of the first homes built to meet Energy Star guidelines in Fayetteville, so it included such features as dual-flush toilets; bamboo flooring; low- or no-VOC paints, resins, and glues; all Energy Star appliances; a tight, smart construction; all-electric design; slow-soak landscaping features to prevent rain runoff and erosion; and various measures for controlling indoor air quality.
We had the chance to hang out and discuss our future plans with a local independent energy auditor, Gary Kahanak, who is doing the verification process to qualify this house for an energy star rating. He feels that our Earthbag house design idea will require particular attention to moisture control, especially if the thick walls “sweat” once the humid, warm season kicks back in. He recommends a “mini-split” heat pump, inspired by Japanese design, which requires no duct work and is installed in the wall (which frees up floor space).
Free to Journey!
Our two hours given, we were free to see the other six locations. The primary organizer gave us a ride over to Hill street, where three different sites sat practically next door to each other. Two of the three were nothing short of amazing.
First, we saw Mikel Lolley’s Victorian restoration, a 6,600 sq. ft. house he “dug out of a trash can” and used as an ongoing experiment in cutting-edge eco design. This gargantuan house, a size which the Lolley’s admit they’d never build if it came to it, feels like a relic from a lost age. It is absolutely fascinating to see a house of this size converted into an energy model. A couple new things we learned about:
- Induction Stove Tops
- Heating/cooling that relies primarily on regularly circulated air
And second, the Eco Modern Flats. Though steeply priced, this LEED Platinum (the highest designation) community is nothing short of revolutionary. They have living purple bean plants extending from ground to third floor, real rainwater showers, a green roof, and many other eco-amazing amenities. We walked around wide-eyed, entranced. The apartment design is a bit odd for our tastes, but this type of community, especially if it could be done for a price comparable to business as usual, is exactly what we love.
Our Real Journey Begins
The last highly relevant house we visited is that of former Fayetteville mayor Dan Coody. The house is not yet finished, but, when it is, he claims that it will be the “most energy efficient house in the country.” This 880 sq. ft. residence will actually regenerate half again as much power as it consumes, which can be fed back to the power grid, thanks to a massive solar array and energy-efficient design.
And what’s more remarkable? According to Dan, after factoring in extensive rebates on solar energy, recent price drops on photovoltaic cells, and advancing technology, it is possible to install a more efficient, similarly sized solar array for $0!
However, at least for us, the most remarkable opportunity is Dan’s willingness to meet with and mentor us. He maintained an off-the-grid cabin for 20 years, and thus has a wealth of knowledge whose value to us is hard to overestimate.
The moment we send that email, make that visit, and learn the deep details of off-grid living, I believe this journey will become more real than ever before. I think the word “excited” covers about 1/4th of it for me.
I can’t believe how many amazing, knowledgeable, committed people this town has! Between Gary, Mikel, Dan, and many others not featured here, we feel absolutely assured our dreams can become a reality. Thank you, Fayetteville!