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Green in Benton Park

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 24, 2008 - When developer-contractor Patty Maher was picking out the flooring for a historic home she was rehabbing in the Benton Park neighborhood, she opted for oak from Missouri over bamboo from Asia.

Her reason was practical as well as philosophical. Maher, president of Tiger Lily Development and Clover Leaf General Contracting, wanted to garner points that would help get her project certified as green. “I got a point for using Missouri oak wood floors and not shipping in bamboo from Asia,” she said.

“I love buying local products,” she said adding that she likes to support companies close to home. “I don’t even mind paying a little more to buy local. I love going through Home Eco, a store right here in St. Louis, and using Missouri oak which is a replenishable hard wood.

Bamboo gets a lot of hoopla but you’re still shipping it from Asia.”

Maher applauds the certification process that rewards buying local. “You get points for lessening your carbon footprint and using material close to your locale which I think is very visionary because homebuilders are notoriously wasteful,” she said.

Maher worked for years as a carpenter before becoming a developer/contractor and has been rehabbing historic buildings in St. Louis for 20 years. “The past few years I’ve been concentrating on green,” she said.

She put a geothermal system into a house she rehabbed across the street from the Benton Park home. “I’m a big believer in geothermal,” she said. She didn’t use geothermal in the LEED-certified house because the yard is small, she said.

Although houses she rehabbed earlier had many green features and she followed sustainable building practices, Maher did not seek certification, a process that must be initiated at the outset of construction, for them.

“Now there’s a big thing with third-party ratings,” she said. Maher received the first Green Building Initiative (GBI) certification (Silver Award) in the city of St. Louis for the gut-rehab she did on the house with the Missouri oak floors.

“I was able to show you can do both — do a historical rehab and incorporate the green,” she said.

Making the house a green building didn’t add much to the project — “maybe $5,000,” she said — because she usually uses some green building elements anyway, Maher said. “This house is small,” she said. “I was going to insulate anyhow so I just added more insulation. I use Energy Star appliances anyway. Since that’s my standard, I’m not paying that much more. But for someone who doesn’t use that standard, they would be paying more.”

Maher also gained points for recycling during construction, reusing materials, rehabbing an existing house, installing a high efficiency furnace/air conditioner and hot water heater as well as geothermal windows and building the house fairly airtight. She also gets a point for supplying the new homeowner with a book explaining the features of the house and telling them such things as where they can catch a bus or recycle.

The building, built in 1898, is the oldest house she’s ever rehabbed. “It’s the oldest house but the newest green technology,” she said.

The one story, one-bedroom will be on the Green House Tour Sunday. It is on the market with a price of $129,000.

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