Bork Architectural Awarded Platinum Certification for Green Home Designs

Custom green home is first to receive LEED Platinum certification in Athens, Georgia.
By: Bork Architectural Design
Jan. 10, 2012 - PRLog -- Athens, Georgia has its first LEED certified home setting a new standard for modern green home designs in the traditional, Southern college town. The U.S. Green Building Council awarded its highest designation – Platinum – to the custom green home owned and designed by Lori Bork Newcomer, principal of Bork Architectural Design, Inc. ( )

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building standard is quickly becoming the norm for new and renovated public buildings across the U.S., as commercial and government building owners recognize green building designs are more marketable and result in happier and healthier occupants. Newcomer’s project is significant in that it is among the first to bring the same high level of environmentally responsible design to green home designs. Her home is only the seventh in the state to receive LEED Platinum certification.

Newcomer already is known for some of Athens’ most distinctive modern home designs, with the kind of clean lines and gracious living spaces regularly featured in publications like Dwell or Atomic Ranch. For her own home, she wanted to incorporate that contemporary appeal but remain sensitive to the architectural context of her historic, in-town neighborhood. To do this, she designed a deceptively compact front façade for the 2,632-square-foot custom green home, blending strong horizontal and vertical modern lines with the traditional gabled form and large front porch indicative of the neighborhood’s cottages.

The side elevation reveals shotgun-style length – another Southern tradition (and green home designs) that also allows natural passive ventilation. Tennessee fieldstone, stucco and white clapboard siding echo the native and traditional materials used in many of Athens’ oldest homes. “As much as I love modern aesthetics, we didn’t want to build something alien to the neighborhood,” says Newcomer. “So I borrowed signature characteristics of the cottage vernacular to envelope a contemporary living space that fits our lifestyle.”

Inside, the sculptural vault of the glass-clad front gable provides natural light to the open floor plan’s kitchen, living, and dining areas. Newcomer’s architectural studio is located at the back of the house, below a traditional sleeping porch connected to the master bedroom. Locally-sourced reclaimed heart pine floors and salvaged wood from an old shed on the lot further connect the house to the local site and culture. Large windows provide natural lighting as well as passive-solar heating in winter months (a standard feature in green home designs).

The ingenuity with which she references the traditional craftsmanship of the early 20th Century while creating a custom green home for today earned Newcomer the 2011 award for Outstanding New Construction in a Historical Neighborhood from the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation.

Responding to rising energy costs is one of the growing concerns of 21st Century homeowners, and it’s why green home designs like Newcomer’s are beginning to draw more attention industry-wide. Thanks to air tightness, superior insulation, reflective roofing, Energy Star windows, solar hot water and a host of other energy-efficient features, Newcomer and her husband’s utility bills are roughly the same as they were in a previous house that was a third the size of their custom green home.

Energy efficiency is just part of the draw of green home designs. Low-flow fixtures conserve water inside the house, and a 1,100-gallon cistern captures rainwater for irrigation outside. With drought-tolerant landscaping, Newcomer’s yard looked vibrant even through the worst of Georgia’s drought in the summer of 2011. Interior finishes, adhesives and cabinetry all have low or zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds), meaning healthier air for Newcomer’s young family.

“The advantage of LEED for Homes over other energy savings centered programs, like Energy Star, is that it looks at green building from a more holistic viewpoint, tackling not only energy reduction, but also responsible site selection, water conservation and the reduction of construction waste while also promoting recycled materials and healthy indoor air quality,” says Leesa Carter, Executive Director of the U.S. Green Building Council - Georgia. “A Platinum-certified home like Newcomer’s represents the pinnacle of what is possible with green-building practices.”

Other energy-saving and environmentally friendly elements included in Newcomer’s LEED platinum home design include:

• EPA-certified low-emissions wood burning stove
• Mineral paints by San Marco, USA on interior walls
• Polished concrete floors with 20 percent fly ash (recycled waste from coal-fired power plants)
• Recycled FLOR carpet tiles by Interface
• Formaldehyde-free EccoDoors with 100 percent recycled content
• Cellulose and ecobatt recycled wall insulation
• High-efficiency heat pump with an ERV (energy recovery ventilator)
• Infrastructure for future solar power installation
• Spray-foam icynene insulation in the roofline
• LED and CFL light bulbs in more than 50 percent of light fixtures
• Pervious paving systems

Although the perception is that custom green homes of this caliber come at a cost premium, Newcomer says people are shocked to learn the home only cost around $125 per square foot. In some parts of the country standard home construction costs far eclipse that amount, which is one reason Newcomer suspects the housing industry will emerge from its current slump with greener practices in the Southeast. Newcomer notes that while initial construction costs are higher for some green elements such as windows, insulation and heating-cooling systems, savings in monthly utility bills offset the slight increase in monthly mortgage payments.

Newcomer’s designs for two EarthCraft-certified custom green homes built by the nonprofit Athens Land Trust (ALT) in 2010 further dispel the stigma of a “green premium.” Those homes incorporated clerestory windows to allow for natural lighting, sustainable hardwood floors, Energy Star appliances, low-VOC paints, and numerous other features for less than $100 per square foot. However the most remarkable thing about the ALT houses is the open, expansive feel that Newcomer was able to achieve with a minimal footprint.

“We couldn’t have built the same quality of home if we had used off-the-shelf green home designs,” says ALT Director of Operations Heather Benham. “So much of what makes a house livable and efficient is designing it for the site, and that's why it's so valuable to work with someone like Lori."

See how Newcomer’s green home designs progressed on Facebook ( , or watch a video slideshow ( ).

About Bork Architectural Design, Inc.

Founded in 2005, Bork Architectural Design ( creates regional-based designs in response to site, climate conditions, historical context, and local materials for both residential and small-scale commercial projects. Principal Lori Bork Newcomer received her professional degree in Architecture from Rice University before going to work for world-renowned architect and former Yale Architecture School Dean, Cesar Pelli, in New Haven, CT. Newcomer was made an Associate of the firm at the young age of 25. In addition to having worked on professional baseball stadiums, skyscrapers, and academic campuses, she was one of the senior designers and Project Manager on the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Orange County, CA. Lori teaches studio courses in Interior Design at The University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art and is a founding member of the Athens branch of the US Green Building Council.
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Tags:Green Home Designs, Custom Green Home, Athens Georgia, Bork Architectural Design, LEED Platinum homes
Industry:Architecture, Construction, Environment
Location:Athens - Georgia - United States
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