Determined to push the limits of green building, architect Marcie Meditch decided to design a home that would generate as much energy as it consumes. The fact that there was no client on board didn’t stop her from going forward with the project as a spec home. Meditch approached Nash Construction, which has a proven track record in green practices, to build her zero-energy home on a lot in Bethesda that backs to a community center and park.
First, the outdated house on the property had to come down; neighbors were invited to salvage building materials during demolition. “People took windows, flooring, plantings and sliding glass doors,” Meditch recalls, “so we were able to recycle the house back to the neighborhood.”
Another lucky turn came a few months after construction had commenced. Ann Luskey, an ocean conservationist, heard about the project and decided to buy the home before it was finished. “Ann was very committed to the idea and was a perfect buyer as far as I was concerned,” says Meditch. Also an interior designer, Luskey got to work with Meditch selecting surfaces, finishes and materials that were not only stylish and modern, but eco-friendly.
A year later, the completed five-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot house embraces all of the tenets of green building. It is designed to keep energy needs—and consumption—as low as possible with its ultra-insulated skin and high-performance windows. Solar panels fuel most of the electricity and hot water—and cycle surplus energy back into the power grid. A geothermal system efficiently keeps the house warm in winter and cool in summer, while zoned heating and cooling can shut down in certain rooms when not in use. Energy Star-rated appliances and lighting help reduce energy needs.
Landscaping also plays an integral role in the plan. A green roof and rain garden help minimize storm water runoff while strategically planted trees as well as solar window shades and a large trellis screen out the summer sun.
The home’s LEED certification is pending and hopes are high that it will receive the highest rating, Platinum. But what makes Meditch most proud is the fact that there are no clues—aside from solar panels on the roof—that distinguish the zero-energy house from any other stylish new home in the area. “Most people were surprised that it is as inviting and comfortable as it is,” she says. “There’s a lot of behind-the-wall things that we did, but it looks just like a regular house. There’s no reason why any house can’t be this way with a little bit of thoughtfulness up front.”
ARCHITECTURE: MARCIE MEDITCH, AIA, and JOHN MURPHEY, AIA,
Meditch Murphey Architects, Inc., Chevy Chase, Maryland.
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTuRE: JOAN HONEYMAN, Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture, LLC, Washington, DC. CONSTRUCTION: Nash Construction, Marshall, Virginia. STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: ROBERT SILLMAN & ASSOCIATES, Washington, DC. Photography: ANICE HOACHLANDER, Hoachlander Davis Photography, Washington, DC.