Pickering family’s house model for sustainability

WILLIAMSTOWN – In an effort to let residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley understand the importance of and ease of creating a more ecologically friendly home, a local engineer has been living in the only LEED certified house in the state for more than a year.

“We built our house as a prototype, so we could use it as a demonstration model for new, available technologies,” said homeowner Chip Pickering, CEO of Pickering and Associates. “A whole part of this is to let people know it is possible to do and I hope our home helps people learn they can use these technologies themselves.”

Pickering and his wife, Jan, built their home at 12 Faith Meadows in late 2011 and moved in shortly after it was certified as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) by the United States Green Building Council.

The LEED movement is an internationally recognized green building initiative designed to promote the change of the mainstream home building into more sustainable practices. The building or community must be aimed at improving energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

Pickering said that location is very important to the LEED process because the closer the home is to schools, stores and restaurants the more points it will get.

“Since we moved in, we have given tours to students from nearly every high school and college in the area as well as architecture students,” Pickering said. “We want to show it off and, hopefully, get others interested in the green movement to make some sustainable improvements to their homes.”

The house not only has energy-efficient fixtures, but also about 40 solar panels, which are connected to the electric grid to feed extra energy created to other homes with solar panels and the power company.

“It isn’t so much about creating more, as it is offsetting what is used,” Pickering said. “That means electric, heat, water, everything should be offset to live with as small a carbon footprint as possible.”

Along with the solar panels and low-energy use lighting and appliances, the home is made of materials that are either made from ecologically friendly or recycled materials that are sustainable and even locally produced.

“We used items that took less time and energy to get to us, which offset their impact on the environment as well as those that are high-performing,” Pickering said.

High performing materials include what the walls are made of, which are solidly constructed, one-piece panels that include an insulation pressed between an interior and exterior walls. These wall panels fit together to create a tight seal to allow the least amount of air and energy to leak out of the home.

Recycled materials include landscape pavers made from recycled rubber, carpet created from recycled items and roofing tiles made from the industrial waste of diapers.

Because LEED certification not only looks at the finished product, but the entire process of the house from inception to building and as a home, Pickering used as much available material as possible. This includes using about 30 percent local fly ash from energy plants in the concrete.

“This is taking a waste material and using it in a finished product,” Pickering said.

Along with the materials used, the roughly 3,000-square-foot house is also designed to minimize waste through dimensions.

“The bottom line was to build what is called a very tight envelope,” Pickering said. “Everything works together to be as efficient as it can be.

“This is really me being honest with myself,” he said. “I want people to know I stand by and believe in what this project represents.”