Talk of the Town - Going Green July 14 2005

Environmentally conscious Glenwood Park home to Southern Living Idea House

Long at home exclusively in suburban neighborhoods overlooking sprawling golf courses, the Southern Living Idea House made the move to the city this year. Located in environmentally conscious Glenwood Park, this Idea House is the first to incorporate green building techniques and features into its construction. It serves as both an educational tool and a blueprint for high-tech environmental design for the home.

The traditional, two-story house retains a genteel Southern charm with its colonnaded wraparound porch, pale yellow brick and white-trimmed facade.

But closer inspection reveals recycled wood floors made from Kentucky bourbon warehouses and deck materials constructed from wood waste, recycled plastic bags and milk jugs. Photovoltaics (that's fancy talk for solar panels) on the roof catch solar power to produce electricity that Georgia Power then buys.

Because the house is currently unoccupied, Walter Brown, vice president of Green Street Properties - the developing force behind the Idea House - stepped in to enlighten CL on everything environmental in the home.

Creative Loafing: Why develop in Glenwood Park?

Brown: The first point of trying to locate here was the proximity to downtown Atlanta and existing infrastructure and neighborhoods. We will be saving 1.6 million miles a year of driving just from Glenwood's location and because it is a mixed-use development. We're trying to create a walkable atmosphere to encourage people to dump the car and get out and move around.

So what's the idea behind the Idea House?

This house takes the model of EarthCraft (a program promoting environmentally friendly home building) to another level. The house has all the beautiful accoutrements that everybody looks for in a Southern Living house, but it also uses 50 percent less energy than a typical house.

What are the most important things to take care of when you're trying to build a green home like this?

The first thing to do is reduce the energy load. The environmental impact of energy use is huge. Try everything you can for the efficiency of the walls, windows and so forth. Then add on a very efficient heating and cooling system, and after you've taken care of water efficiency, maybe add on photovoltaics.

How does the house's construction reduce energy?

The most important way is insulation. The walls are thicker than usual, and they're filled with foam insulation. The windows are high quality, and there's no air leaking around them.

How else does the house save energy?

Eighty percent of the lighting in the house comes from compact fluorescent lights that use a quarter of the energy of a typical light bulb and put out almost no heat. We also selected Energy Star appliances that use 30 percent less energy than the industry standard.