Date: June 3, 2019 | Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Rett Peek | Styling: Tiffany Adams |
A Little Rock couple creates the energy-efficient home of their dreams with the help of Herron Horton Architects and River Rock Builders
For Ann and Rick Owen, being environmentalists means always looking for ways to do more. Recycling and limiting waste are part of their everyday efforts, but recently they felt a growing desire to take a larger step—like building a more energy-efficient home.
“We had done efficiency improvements, and those helped. But our former house was old, and it was hard to get good insulation,” Rick says, recalling finding much of the home’s insulation falling out under the house on one visit to the crawl space. “It was one of those things where if you lift the hood and see what’s underneath, it really had some issues,” Ann adds.
They started by researching solar panels as a solution for reduced energy consumption. Unfortunately, their chimney would be blocking some of the sunlight, so they considered reconfiguring the roof. One idea led to another, and the couple began to imagine all of the possibilities building fresh would present. They decided to tear down their former house—at one time a one-bedroom bungalow that had seen small renovations over the years—and build new. “We were so in love with what it could be, and we had fallen out of love with what it was,” Ann says of the house.
To get started, Ann and Rick met with Jennifer Herron and Jeff Horton of Herron Horton Architects to talk design. “We wanted to get LEED certification and the highest level, Platinum, if possible, and they helped us think through those different aspects of the house,” Rick says, adding that the architects also encouraged the couple to be forward thinking in how they might use the home for decades to come. Deciding on a contractor was easy—everyone they talked to, including other builders, recommended Keith Wingfield with River Rock Builders, whose name has become synonymous with green design
In the end, the Owens surpassed their original intent for a sustainable home; not only is the home energy efficient, it’s energy independent, meaning it generates all the energy the homeowners need, plus a surplus—some of which is used to power their electric and hybrid cars, the rest of which goes back into the grid. The result is a structure the homeowners not only love to live in, but can be proud of as a model for others who might be interested in following a greener path.
Color and Light
When it came to the style of the home, the Owens were drawn to a contemporary farmhouse design that would be consistent with other homes in the neighborhood. “We wanted it to feel integrated, and we also wanted to send a message that you can build green and look a little more traditional,” Ann says. “I think a lot of times, people associate green building with stark modern, but green building can be in any design.”
For their home’s interiors, Ann chose paint colors, furniture, and fixtures that suit her and Rick’s style. She loves to decorate with vintage pieces, such as the extensive collection of colorful Harlequin ceramics on display through glass-front cabinets in the kitchen.
The Owens’ floor plan is open to accommodate large groups for house concerts, which the couple likes to host quarterly. “Some parts of the design, like the sliding doors out to the porch, were put in place with the idea that people could spill out here during performances and still see and hear the music,” Ann says, noting that they can fit more than 75 people in the space, compared to the 40 they could host in their old house.
The home’s landscaping includes eight rain barrels that collect runoff from the roof. Even in a yard like this, which uses no fertilizer or chemicals, rainwater runoff can carry soil and other debris into the sewer system, which travels untreated into nearby streams. After rainfall, the Owens can attach a hose to the rain barrel’s spigot to water plants.
The US Green Building Council developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification in the 1990s to recognize buildings with environmentally responsible methods of design, construction, operation, and management. Ann and Rick’s home was the very first single-family residential space to claim the LEED v4 Platinum certification in the state.
MAKE THE GRADE
Points toward LEED certification are awarded based on decisions made during design and construction. Ann and Rick’s home scored 89, nine points more than the 80-point minimum required for Platinum certification. Below are some of the design elements that contributed to their high rating.
Building Materials: The homeowners worked with their builder to use as many recycled materials in construction as possible. For example, bricks sourced through Antique Brick & Block had been salvaged from a historic hardware store in Prescott.
Insulation: As the Owens found with their previous home, insulation is one of the biggest contributors (or detractors) of energy efficiency. River Rock Builders used spray foam insulation in the home’s attic, walls, and crawl space.
Solar Panels: Forty-two solar panels are the biggest contributing factor in the home’s LEED certification.
Landscaping: The lack of lawn means less water usage, no chemicals, and no energy expended cutting grass.
Driveway: A permeable driveway allows rainwater to seep into the water table rather than contributing to runoff.
Repurposed Materials: During demolition of their former house, the Owens donated or repurposed as much as possible.
For example, Habitat for Humanity took the water heater, cabinets, and stairs to sell at its ReStore shops.
Architect Jennifer Herron, AIA, and Jeff Horton, AIA, LEED AP, Herron Horton Architects Contractor Keith Wingfield, River Rock Builders Landscape design Little Rock Land Design Appliances Metro Appliances & More Brick Antique Brick & Block Cabinets Moody’s Custom Cabinets Countertops Counter Stones, Advanced Bath & Kitchen, and Distinctive Kitchen & Baths Doors, millwork, siding, and windows Lumber One Home Center Fabrics Designer Effects Fixtures The Plumbing Warehouse Flooring and tile ProSource of Little Rock Glass, shower enclosure, and mirrors Ace Glass Hardware Inside Effects Lighting TEC Lighting Paint Sherwin-Williams Painting E&E Painting Company Solar panels (installation) Stellar Sun Upholstery Howard’s Upholstery Shop