Building a Green Home
Tips and advice for building an energy efficient home
Clean. Simple. Green. These words guided the design of Lorri Badolato’s serene home in Stratham, New Hampshire. As an attorney, Badolato previously led a busy corporate life in Boston; after moving to Newton, New Hampshire, with her husband, Michael, she was busy caring for her elderly in-laws and a large home, as well as managing work responsibilities. When obligations slowed down, Badolato and her husband began envisioning a different lifestyle—one that was calmer, was eco-conscious, and would work as they aged.
“I wanted a stand-alone home, not one that was part of a development,” Badolato explains. “It was important to feel close to nature and live more responsibly, which to me meant being energy efficient and having my home be as compatible as possible with the landscape. I also wanted a home that had everything on one floor so that as we got older, stairs were not an issue. However, I didn’t want a 1950s ranch, and those seemed to be the only single-floor homes on the market. I quickly realized that I would need to find the right lot and hire a custom builder to bring our vision to life.”
Badolato connected with Mighty Roots of Greenland, New Hampshire, a company known for working closely with clients and for designing green homes. She and her husband had fallen in love with mid-century modern design and felt that this style would compliment the wooded lot she had found. “I was tired of gabled roofs and Colonials,” she says. “I liked the clean lines and simplicity that extends from the roof line to the basic framing of the windows. It’s an uncluttered look.”
Before building began, Rye Beach Landscaping carefully shaped the landscape, leaving most of the mature trees and minimizing the clearing of the lot as much as possible. Badolato wanted the home to rest gently on the land, so that the wildlife in the surrounding woods and meadow felt little impact from the home now in their midst.
Creating the flow of the house required much careful thought, as Badolato and her husband had to consider how they lived, what they frequently used, and which items they really cared about. As they downsized, their lifestyle changed significantly. While some changes required adjustment, most improved their quality of life. “We opted for an open floor plan in the main part of the house, which lets kitchen, dining, and living areas flow together,” says Badolato. “I can still entertain, but now I’m not isolated from my guests. We also realized that we didn’t need home offices; if we work from home, we sit on the sofa with our laptops or at the dining room table. We don’t have a basement, but we added extra storage in the garage, and that works fine.”
Badolato admits that downsizing was hard and time-consuming, but she has no regrets. “For a year, I held tag sales and made countless trips to Goodwill. It was traumatic at first—I did have to let go of some nice things and some memories—but it was worth it. I now have the home that I want, and everything in it is something that matters.”
The home’s most striking features are the large windows and glass doors, which provide stunning views of the woods and fields. “Blurring the line between outdoors and in is part of the mid-century ethos but also allows us to take advantage of the sunlight,” says Badolato.
Pam Tiberia of Spruce Interiors in Hampton, New Hampshire, worked with Badolato to select a soothing color scheme of whites, beiges, and grays to compliment the surrounding natural beauty. The neutral palette works well with the rich walnut cabinetry of the kitchen and offsets the dramatic Vermont black granite countertop of the island. An eye-catching backsplash of white three-dimensional geometric tiles adds unexpected punch.
“We wake up every day loving our lives in this home. That feeling is irreplaceable.”
In the master bedroom and guest bath, the walls are a restful dark green. The bathroom tiles incorporate a playful element, as they are done in a bubble style and appear to “foam up” around the sink and tub. “Lorri was very careful in her choices,” says Tiberia. “A lot of thought went into paint colors, tile selection, and materials. In a small but open space, it’s important that things work well together and nothing becomes too overpowering. Your choices have to be very refined but should also reflect your personality.”
Badolato advises others seeking a smaller, eco-conscious home to choose a custom builder, be flexible, and initiate a downsizing plan well ahead of your move. “It will be worth it,” she says. “We wake up every day loving our lives in this home. That feeling is irreplaceable.”
Advice for a Clean, Green Home
Chris Redmond and Jeff Stacy, owners of Mighty Roots in Greenland, New Hampshire, offer the following advice for those who are planning an eco-conscious home like the Badolatos’.
1. Be sure the home is sited properly
Letting your home work with the natural landscape helps preserve wildlife habitat and can bring the benefit of mature trees, which will provide shade and cooling in the warm months. Good siting also allows your home to take advantage of the best sun exposure. “Most of the windows on Lorri’s home face south and west,” says Redmond. “We located only a few windows to the north, and have the garage facing north. While the house does not use solar power, there are solar benefits in the design. Lorri would have had to remove a lot of trees to accommodate a solar electric system, a move she felt would cause too much disruption of the natural landscape, so this is a great compromise.”
2. Insulate, insulate, insulate
Lorri’s home is Energy Star certified and insulated beyond standard building code requirements. An additional two inches of foam insulation wraps the home, keeping the inside climate separate from the outside. The home is also built on a cement slab that is set on four inches of foam insulation. The Badolatos have detected no drafts, have warm floors, and have been comfortable all winter. Two blower tests were performed to verify that the home’s envelope was tight. “Insulation is not seen, but it’s one of the most important aspects of your home,” says Redmond.
3. Choose your heat source carefully
“When a home is well insulated, you can be more creative with your heat source,” Redmond advises. “You can save some money here if the home is properly sealed. We used an air-source heat pump, which provides both heating and cooling, so there is no gas or oil needed. We also used energy-efficient windows, and Lorri selected Energy Star appliances, so the home’s total energy requirements are minimal.”
Produced by: Marsha Jusczak