When Diane and Chris Murphy of Murphy Brothers Contracting set out to build their dream house, one that’s beautiful and traditional yet green, they turned to the dozens of design ideas they’ve gathered over the years. “The perception is that green homes are very contemporary, but I wanted a coastal colonial feel,” says Diane. The new house, with its clapboard-style siding, captain’s walk and cupola, fits perfectly in their Old Greenwich neighborhood, but its design is cutting-edge. Made from ICFs (insulated concrete foam blocks) instead of wood, the home won a national award for innovative building and features green materials and systems, including solar roof shingles, water-saving fixtures and appliances, a tank-less water heater for instant hot water and more. Though the Murphy home is exceptionally sustainable, “it doesn’t have to be all or nothing,” says Diane. “There are things you can do along the way” that will save money and protect the planet. Here, ideas for greening your next home project.
Before gutting a kitchen, consider giving cabinets a second life. You could install them in your basement for extra storage or donate to Green Demolitions and get a tax credit. If the cabinet box is in good shape, you may only need new doors to refresh the space. “Chris is the original Mr. Repurposer,” says Michael Murphy of his brother. He saved beams from an old Tudor that was being dismantled and reused the wormy chestnut as the countertop for their kitchen island. A 100-year-old oak tree that fell during Hurricane Sandy became a sliding door to the den. Talk to your builder about reclaimed and FSC-certified wood.
OPT FOR ENERGY SAVINGS
Appliances and fixtures in the Murphy home all have some degree of energy efficiency, including Energy Star-rated Sub-Zero fridge and GE washer and an ASKO dishwasher, sourced from Aitoro. The fact that these appliances and the whole house are powered by solar energy makes the setup even greener.
PICK THE RIGHT LIGHTS
LED lighting is used throughout the Murphy home, under the kitchen counters and in all of the outdoor fixtures. But you don’t need new fixtures to benefit, simply buy LED bulbs.
GET SMART ABOUT SQUARE FOOTAGE
Think carefully about the way you live and you can maximize space with less square footage. In the 2,700-square-foot Murphy home, that meant eliminating the traditional dining room and living room and dedicating more room to an open kitchen/family room with a smaller den toward the front of the house. Diane says, “I went through the first holiday season hosting thirty-five people for Thanksgiving and Christmas and didn’t miss having the formal dining room at all.”