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December 06, 2016
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Sustainability house

This two-story house with many sustainable building features is clad in recycled barn boards and galvanized steel.
Photo by Jeff McMahon

But the river house was designed primarily for people living comfortably inside. Lenny says the all-electric boiler that McMahon specified for the house keeps it comfortably warm in the winter. “When we leave the house in winter for a few days, it’s at 72 degrees,” and using a remotely monitored thermostat, the Eco-Bee, he can see it takes three days for the house to cool down to 60. The floors are radiant-heated polished concrete. The structure’s high insulation value also makes the house quiet, even in a rainstorm.

McMahon specified a type of polyiso foam insulation that is recycled, has a high thermal resistance value, is cost-effective and environmentally responsible with zero Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) and virtually no Global Warming Potential (GWP).

The homeowners are happy with the energy availability of the house too. “I turn on the hot water upstairs and, boom, it’s there,” says Friedland. Soon, solar roof panels will add to the efficiency. A town resolution recently gave the go-ahead on installation of a 7 kilowatt panel system designed by Gordon Smith that will cover the south side roof.

Inside, the living space is open, with views all around—the river in front and the fields and mountain beyond. The couple is “committed to furnishing via yard sale,” says Rebekah. She is delighted with the choices McMahon made in the building process, like using old recycled porcelain sinks and furniture in the bathrooms and designing his own light fixtures made of barn-board and recycled galvanized metal. “Letting Jeff make those choices hastened the building process” and was in tune with their sensibilities, she says. In the master bathroom shower, an old exterior four-light door serves as a wall adding to the inside/outside aesthetic.

The original house design called for an all barn-board exterior, but when raw materials were expended, Jeff turned to galvanized steel. The result is a home that is a study in light and dark, yin and yang, with the rough brown wood juxtaposing smooth ribbed steel that is the color of a cloudy day. The deeply-pitched roof seems to be built at an angle perfectly aligned with the tree line behind it. The look is spare and not for everyone, the couple admits, but it seems to suit these New York City transplants. Rebekah took an early retirement recently from her job as a writer at a financial services company. Lenny still commutes to the city two days a week.