Photography: James Ray Spahn

Architecture + Custom Building: Case Study

Renewable Energy: Jim Rill designs a LEED Gold-certified home in true Arts & Crafts style

Architecture + Custom Building: Case Study A developer living in the historic area of Kensington, Maryland, called on Rill Architects to design a green home on the lot beside hers. She wished it to reflect an historic precedent—specifically the Prairie-style architecture that harkened back to her native Chicago.

Principal Jim Rill’s design met the challenge of creating a sustainable home full of Craftsman-style features that make it warm and inviting. The wrap-around porch “creates a flow that brings the outdoors in,” says Rill. He added a Prairie-style fieldstone fireplace in the family room flanked by built-ins and installed stained-oak millwork throughout. Details include Craftsman-style windows and light fixtures by Hubbardton Forge.

The 3,100-square-foot home boasts geothermal heat and air conditioning; Icynene spray foam insulation that creates an airtight envelope in the walls, basement, ceiling and roof; and Structural Insulated Sheathing panels that add a layer of rigid foam insulation. HardiePlank fiber-cement siding clads the exterior, with a roof of architectural composite shingles.

Inside, Rill and his team sourced eco-friendly building materials. The millwork is made from replenishable, FSC-certified oak; the floors are reclaimed oak salvaged from a warehouse about to be demolished. Rill selected IceStone recycled-glass countertops, bamboo kitchen cabinets and renewable cork for the basement floors. Energy Star appliances, LED and fluorescent lighting and high-performance, low-E Jeld-Wen windows complete the picture. This custom home that marries sustainability and period style was sold soon after completion.

ARCHITECTURE: James F. Rill, AIA, Rill Architects, Bethesda, Maryland. CONTRACTOR: West Wing Builders, Inc., Warrenton, Virginia. PHOTOGRAPHY: James Ray Spahn


  • When building a sustainable home, examine how the house is oriented on the lot. The way the wind and sun impact your home is very important—pay attention to roof overhangs and passive solar gain.
  • Utilize indoor air-circulation techniques. Air in the house should not be recycled; there should be ways to take in fresh air throughout. In this home, emphasis was placed on indoor air quality with a highly efficient HVAC system, VOC-free finishes and surfaces and sealed, direct-vent gas fireplaces.
  • Have fun with your project. Don’t spend just to be green; be sure to choose your building materials because they’re aesthetically pleasing and economically efficient. Being green should never preclude being beautiful.