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What's Up Magazine

Nautical in Nature

Apr 08, 2013 06:16PM ● By Anonymous

Being within Critical Area waterfront boundaries by law dictates responsible planning and sensitivity to the surrounding environment when building or renovating a home. The Bardwells, however, took their project a step further. In fact, it was a giant leap…with revolutionary technology at its heart— home energy technology never before utilized in the world, yes world. Their dream house would be the very first.

A Concept Born

Backtrack to 2011 to an Annapolis tavern, where a trio of longtime colleagues—architect James Wright and engineers Skip Bennett and Klas Haglid—gathered for a pint to toast the culmination of years-long research and development of an entirely new home energy system with the potential to revolutionize several industries. After carefully planning its structural integrity, patenting its design (more than 300 patents in all), and fine-tuning computer algorithms, the state-of-the-art “net-zero” system was ready for a home install, and the trio had found its first—the Bardwell property, located in Edgewater’s Loch Haven community overlooking the South River. Hearty “cheers” were had fi reside in the tavern.

“Net-zero” is a concept that dates back several decades to Germany, where the “passive house” movement was born. Simply put, a “passive house” is a home built or retrofitted to achieve the highest possible energy efficiency while simultaneously reducing its ecological (or carbon) footprint to the lowest level possible; the goal is to achieve a “net zero” impact on energy consumption/output. In our region, there are several progressive developers building homes with “net-zero” specs—most notably, the recently-completed Osprey Pointe community just east of Kent Narrows.

But our trio’s “net-zero” system is groundbreaking. They developed the world’s first Earth or Geo- Ventilation “Basement Energy System.” Basically, it’s a marriage of geothermal applications to home encasement and ventilation systems that utilize the basement slab and foundation walls for energy transfer and storage. According to Wright et al, “When a ‘Basement Energy System’ is placed in series with a passive house energy recovery ventilation system, it requires no additional power to operate. Passive houses consume 90 percent less energy than typical homes. With this ‘home as a system,’ we predict performance to be close to 95 percent annual energy reduction. The biggest bump for this system is a super air-tight enclosure with fortified insulation. Our combined system is approaching ‘netzero,’ which can simply be accomplished with a small photo voltaic array [solar panels] of 5 kilowatts or less.”

But to prove it, they needed a guinea pig. How they happened upon the Bardwells and convinced the couple to install an unproven system in their expensive property renovation is a story in and of itself.

“My wife and I purchased the home—originally built in 1950—in July of 2011 with the intentions to remodel the existing home and add an addition to suit our family’s needs,”

Troy says. “We came in contact with Skip Bennett when we found his South River marina to dock our boat. Skip had heard about our recent purchase and came by to see it shortly after we applied for our building permits. He also mentioned that he was working on a prototype ‘basement energy system’ with a close friend, architect James Wright.”

After several lunch meetings and a prototype demonstration, the Bardwells were convinced that this new system would be a win-win for all involved. “From the prototype, I saw the opportunities that solved my almost-impossible-to-fix ‘wet’ basement issues, while contributing passive energy benefi ts to lower our utility bills,” Troy says.

Renovations Inside and Out

Work began almost immediately that fall and by summer 2012, the new energy system was installed, basement floor encapsulated, and the ventilation system’s unique ductwork put into place. Attention then turned to sealing the house (zero air leakage) and, finally, the aesthetics of the property. Being footsteps from the river, the Bardwells decided upon a nautical theme for both exterior design and interior décor. “We relocated to the Annapolis area to be part of the maritime culture of boating and living on the water,”

Troy explains. “We directed all of our design and hoped to engage a character that respected the downtown history of Annapolis, with metal roofing and the original ship-building architecture—like the remodeled Chart House restaurant— that were part of the Eastport-Annapolis harbor.”

The couple integrated many details to accomplish this vision. Exterior finishes include standing seam metal roofing, a rooftop cupola, board n’ batten vertical siding combined with traditional clapboard siding, and stainless steel cable railing with hardwood hand rails and tops.

The rear deck facing the South River is constructed of PVC decking, trim, and siding, making it nearly maintenance free. It boasts a view of the rooftops of downtown Annapolis and the State House. An outdoor cabana shower and dog wash stall ensures the Bardwells and their yellow Labrador Klondike can easily clean off after frolicking in the water. The lower level walkout transitions to a vanishing paver patio and outdoor kitchen with sound system.

Other major additions include a handicap ramp, wheelchair accessibility, and and ADA compliant kitchen and bathroom on the main level, with direct access to the waterfront deck. Interior touches include quartz countertops throughout the kitchen and bathrooms. Custom-milled five-inch white oak hardwood floor planking gives the main level a bright, natural look that almost appears as an extension of shoreline when paired with the broad view of the riverfront. Two gas fireplaces with slate stone hearths appear snugly surrounded by beadboard knee walls, while beach cottage-style V-groove knotty pine walls and ceilings, custom fans, and a waterfront board n’ batten design on the lower level fully complement the maritime feel throughout the home. High efficiency LED lighting is present throughout the house, as is stainless-steel door hardware, handles, and cabinetry hardware.

The top floor plan includes a sitting room, office, gym, and a master bedroom/bathroom suite with walk-in closet, custom wet bar, separate washer/dryer area, spa jet tub, and custom glass enclosed steam shower.

All of this is powered by a revolutionary energy system. By Thanksgiving 2012, the Bardwells had fully moved into a home that was truly their own. But one question remained.

Would the home function—electric, HVAC, appliances, etc.—as designed?

To date, the Bardwells couldn’t be happier with the results. “We celebrated the holidays with our family, and have enjoyed a consistent 69- to 70-degree temperature,” Troy says. “We are still in the process of fine-tuning the system, and hope to share the yearly/annual energy use data after one year of occupying our home.”