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Green in Kimmswick

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 24, 2008 - Jill Crary has only praise for the green home at the edge of Kimmswick she’s living in. “It’s wonderful. I love it,” she said.

But it’s not hers to keep. Crary and her husband, Don, are guinea pigs of sorts. They are the first people to live in the Energy Star 5 Plus, LEED-Platinum certified house her father Jordan Heiman and his partner built to educate people about green homes.

The Crarys moved to the area from California last spring just as the house was being finished so they were enlisted to move in and help shake out any bugs.

The problems they found have been minimal such as a problem with an energy recovery system (turns out a pipe had been dented in installation).

Crary said she finds the single-car garage doors with a section of outer wall between them a bit small. But the two smaller doors lose less energy than one large one. She also wishes the garage were temperature controlled and the basement were a walk-out.

“You know there isn’t a house that I as a woman would walk into that I wouldn’t want to do something a little different with,” she said.

“That’s true even here but it’s mostly cosmetic stuff.”

Overall, Crary is thrilled with the house. “It’s spacious and open with lots of windows,” she said. Utility bills have averaged $76 a month. “We expect that (to continue) in the wintertime,” she said.

The house has red oak floors from the Ozarks, a renewable wood source, Crary said. And the first floor was built with principles of universal design, a barrier-free approach in which people in wheelchairs or with other disabilities can function without assistance.

“We have … an extra wide walk-in shower,” she said. “They did it all in stone and it’s just gorgeous and we love it.”

Gutters drain rain into three barrels. When it’s dry, water in the barrels can be used to water the yard.

Many of the green features of the home aren’t visible to the eye. Walls reaching from the basement through the second floor have an average of six inches of concrete reinforced with steel with two inches of foam on each side. They are so strong, you could stay on the first floor during a tornado as long as you kept away from the windows, she added.

“There’s no air conditioning — it’s all done with geothermal heat pumps,” Crary said.

The rear roof is at “an optimum angle” for photovoltaic cells to be mounted and the house is pre-wired for an upgrade to solar power, which would further cut utility bills. Crary said, “I’m so proud of my father. I really appreciate what he has done here at the age of 82.”

Building the house was her father’s long-time dream, Crary said. After he retired from heading a heating and air conditioning company, Heiman became an insulation expert and was on the board of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers, which set energy code standards for new nationally.

Now he has partnered with architect Tim Michels to create Applied Energy Solutions.

Both Heiman and Crary say the somewhat higher cost of constructing a green house is worth it.“When you take into consideration your energy costs, this house in the long run is going to save you so much on energy that it’s going to make up for the extra you have pay in the initial mortgage,” Crary said.

“You have a better return on your investment when you build for performance than if you build for lowest cost,” Heiman said. You have more customer satisfaction and the one thing we’re certain about is the cost of energy is not going to go down.”

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