Green Team

by Marimar McNaughton
Thursday, July 23, 2009

Photo by Joshua Curry

Consensus surrounds the 3404 Talon Court design team assembled by architect Jay DeChesere for a LEED certified gut rehab. From left Jennifer France, interior designer; Skye Dunning, energy rater; Lara Berkley, landscape architect and Bill Christopher contractor are members of the Cape Fear Green Building Alliance


Architect Jay DeChesere said the process of hiring a green design team is like hiring a doctor to keep you healthy.

"Iíd rather pay a doctor to keep me healthy than pay for the repercussions of not being healthy," DeChesere said.

With guidelines from LEED (Leadership in Energy Efficiency) and Healthy Built Homes, DeChesere has recruited a team of green building specialists, culled from the membership of the Cape Fear Green Building Alliance to participate in a completely green renovation that he expects will garner a coveted LEED accolade for the first gut (down to the studs) rehab in the Cape Fear region, maybe even the southeast.

On a quiet suburban cul de sac near Greenville Loop at 3404 Talon Court, DeChesere and his green pioneers have rallied to rescue a modest 1,400 square foot, three bedroom, two bath residence, circa 1983 dwelling, that is quickly approaching its obsolescence.

The property still has some value, about $185,000 worth for tax assessment purposes, and more than a little sentimental attachment for DeChesere whose parents, John and Nora DeChesere, ages 98 and 95 respectively, once occupied the home before they downsized.

The extensive redesign calls for expansion of the parking area to include a car port with a green rooftop garden. The poured concrete driveway will be segmented to create a more pervious pavement and the small pieces, once removed, will be reused as pavers around the landscape.

Inside, the removal of an existing closet and the rehabilitation of the one-car garage as a recreation room will open the living area sightlines improved by the removal of a partition wall in the kitchen. The fireplace chimney will be reworked with a skylight that will bring available light into the living area and the hearth itself will be rewired for a television. At the rear of the house, two bedrooms will acquire sliding glass doors that open to a deck.

Beginning the first of August, building contractor Bill Christopher, ILM Design Build, will harvest the interior drywall that along with any unused wood scrapes will be mulched. After the drywall is removed, Skye Dunning, Building Design Specialists, will remove the plastic moisture barrier from walls, an archaic routine building practice found to actually encourages mold and mildew formation.

Dunning who conducted a diagnostic test of the entire structure will also insulate the attic with a radiant barrier up to the rafters, install a solar hot water heater on the roof and bury a geothermal heat pump, to heat and cool the home efficiently. With the addition of a 12-panel solar array positioned at a southeast angle, Dunning said the home could exceed a net-zero energy cost and possibly come out $30 a month in the green.

Landscape architect, Lara Berkley, B+O Design Studio, plans to minimize the existing dependency on a lawn through the introduction of native plants harmonious with the neighboring long leaf pine, turkey oak and wire grass ecology and the placement of several rain gardens, a common name for bio retention areas.

"I donít want to dig up anything we donít have to," she said, so existing holly and osmanthus foundation plants will stay in place while other plants are harvested and replanted elsewhere on the property, reserving some greenspace for a home agriculture area.

Berkley noted that collected rainwater would be reused for toilet flushing, and irrigating her ground-level landscape as well as the proposed roof garden to be designed by Steve Mott.

She praised interior designer, Jennifer France, Big Sky Design, for being the first in her field to ask Berkley about her landscape plan. France believes in allowing exterior colors, textures and lighting to become part of the interior palette.

Selecting only those materials manufactured within a 500-mile radius of the project, some finishes like low VOC paints and renewable bamboo flooring, have become a symbol of the green building movement. However, rapidly evolving new technologies available to design professionals like France are also available to consumers through outlets like Sapona Green Building Supply on 17th Street.

"Weíre going to be able to identify every product in the building and what it is and where it came from and how it benefits the environment to use this and what is recycled or rapidly renewable," DeChesere said.

Some new finishes to look for include a pressed sorghum straw wall panel and a composite sunflower hull that when installed on counter tops resembles granite.

And look you may. As the process evolves DeChesere and his team expect to host demonstration workshops during the extensive demolition and renovation process.

"Synergy is a key word," France said. "Interconnectedness is a key word for the whole process."

To stay abreast of the project, visit:

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