Building green should no longer be the exception but the rule, according to Yuri Sagatov of Sagatov Homes. “It is simply fundamental building science,” he says. “It’s not a fleeting new product with an unproven history or even something that is visible in the finished project. It’s more about maximizing the efficiency of the building and minimizing its building-waste stream.”
A case in point is the new custom home Sagatov recently designed and built for Carolyn Miller and Jim Allenchey on an infill lot in Arlington, Virginia. With an open floor plan and clean-lined, vaulted spaces, the property appears to pay homage to good modern design rather than green building. But from the moment the previous house on the lot was demolished, Sagatov embraced the latest energy-efficient technologies, air quality standards and eco-friendly construction practices in building the new home, which ultimately earned it a Five Star-plus Energy Star rating—the EPA’s highest rank.
Miller and Allenchey first met Sagatov on a tour of the builder’s own home. They were drawn to its clean, modern aesthetic as well as its eco-friendly footprint. “It probably never occurred to us not to build green,” says Miller, a principal at Marshfield Associates, a DC-based investment advisory firm. “It’s the responsible, right thing to do and we try to do it in other aspects of our lives so why not do that here?”
After his clients decided on a lot in Arlington, Sagatov embarked on a design program based on their request for an open floor plan with lots of natural light and views of the surrounding woods. “They basically gave me an idea of what they wanted, but free rein on how to design it,” he says.
Sagatov created a home with two large, rectangular masses connected by a center section that houses the foyer and a floating staircase. On the main level, one mass encompasses the living and dining rooms while the other houses a home office and a professional-grade kitchen for Allenchey, a chef and the owner of Dominion Deli in Falls Church. Voluminous windows blur the lines between indoors and out.
Every step of the way, Sagatov incorporated green features that are largely hidden behind the home’s sleek façade. “Most of the things we do for green aren’t really sexy,” he says. “They have to do with building science, trying to build as tight an energy efficient house as possible.”
Even before construction, Sagatov minimized the waste stream. During the demolition of the lot’s previous home, his team sorted and recycled 75 percent of the materials, including metals, concrete, bricks, windows and kitchen equipment. By using pre-fabricated wall panels for framing, they saved 20 percent in scrap material, he says.
Sagatov carefully sited the new house to take advantage of passive solar gain, positioning the living and dining rooms so that they receive maximum exposure throughout the day.
A comprehensive insulation program combines dense-packed cellulose throughout the structure with an air-sealing package focusing on key areas of energy loss. All windows and doors are low-emission, argon filled to eliminate air loss and energy exchange. Even the HVAC ducts are sealed with mastic, a gum-like substance, to prevent minute leaks in the system.
Clean air quality was a high priority for the homeowners, who have three dogs and two cats. The home’s dual HVAC systems employ top-of-the-line air filters and energy-recovery ventilators, which are needed to bring fresh air into homes that are so tightly sealed. Every three hours, they exchange all the air in the house.
Bathed in light with views of the surrounding canopy of trees, the living room enjoys a strong connection to nature. A high-efficiency, wood-burning stove with a custom concrete surround provides warmth on chilly nights. Oversized shaded pendants make a bold statement. Like all lighting in the house, they are on dimmers, which greatly reduce energy requirements.
In lieu of walls, only variations in ceiling height delineate the open living room, adjoining dining room and the kitchen on the other side of the floating staircase. Working closely with Allenchey, Sagatov designed the kitchen for serious cooking, with a professional Thermador cooktop and hood, a large granite-topped island and stainless-steel countertops. The kitchen opens to a large screened porch, where the homeowners enjoy morning coffee with their menagerie.
Upstairs, there are three bedrooms with their own baths, as well as a laundry room. Large, round windows in each of the vaulted bedrooms dapple the walls with sunlight. The master bathroom features a custom cherry vanity and a heated marble floor.
The lower level of the 5,000-square-foot home features a mud room, a guest room that doubles as a yoga studio, an 8,000-bottle wine cellar and what Miller calls her husband’s “man room” complete with a pool table.
Natural landscaping surrounding the house places an emphasis on minimizing runoff. Permeable paving materials were used on the driveway, walkways and patio.
Whether you’re indoors or out, this is a home that revolves around enjoying—and protecting—its environment. Intelligent design and sustainable building practices aside, it’s simply a serene, relaxing place to be. Says Miller, “We love the way our home invites nature into our daily lives. At the end of the day when we walk into our house, the world goes away.”
DESIGN/BUILD: Yuri Sagatov, CR, Sagatov Homes, Falls Church, Virginia.