I can vividly imagine Mark Turner as a fort-building child of his Wyoming wilderness youth after discovering what his favorite part of his latest project on Capitol Hill is: the “bird’s nest” loft addition on this 1850’s remarkable renovation. A captivating interior space, born from what was a dilapidated 1852 pre-Civil War era colonial home located at 19 4th Street, NE in the heart of Capitol Hill, Mark Turner’s GreenSpur, Inc. has brought the reward out of the risk in this historic DC neighborhood. I wondered what brought Mark to the concept of his company, being that he spent the bulk of his career with local super-developer, Abdo Development, whom specializes in large scale $80m commercial and multifamily projects. He wanted something more for his venture. He wanted the intimacy of working on single family homes, but to bring the “horsepower” of his commercial knowledge to life while bringing into play his commitment to environmentalism and his Western roots. It is interesting to note that for five generations, Mark’s family has worked a dude ranch in Wyoming; what this says to me is that Mark probably has good aim. I actually know that he has good aim because he hit the mark when he partnered with West*Group for the 1310 Calder Road carbon neutral show house in McLean, Virginia. This is another beautiful- sustainable GreenSpur project of a different breed: bricks’n’sticks new construction. With the completion of that project under their belt, Mark’s team sought out their next big challenge, the historical renovation. They set their sights high: they wanted to find a historical home to renovate with the kicker that it had to be a carbon neutral project. What does this mean? Bureaucracy. Yes, sweet permitting nirvana. Once they found the “diamond in the rough” on 4th Street, it took GreenSpur nearly 10 months to get through the historical review process and 4-6 months of DC permitting and planning meetings with the neighborhood associations to get started on this renovation! If a builder is going through this much to get the job done right- this should speak volumes to their due diligence. This brings up something else very interesting about the Capitol Hill project; GreenSpur used an incredibly sophisticated energy modeling system to aid in creating a home based on the most efficient performance possible for the home! The home was renovated based on precise calculations from the modeling to take the guess work out of the efficiency and functionality of the home before the building process commenced.
Right off the bat, they were miles ahead of themselves. A key item in any building project is formulating a team of professionals who all have the same vision from the outset. Mark’s director of construction, Nick Cioffi, who was the project manager of the Capitol Hill site helped to select their architect, who had a great vision and had the creativity to model this home around its historical roots, while allowing for the much needed facelift, inside and out. The idea is simple, to provide a home that is energy and space efficient in the city while maintaining the historical integrity of the home and neighborhood. No one wanted for this home to look like a spacecraft about to take off, not the neighbors and certainly not GreenSpur! New green design does not have to be funky; it can be traditional and beautiful while implementing sustainable building practices. You will notice that the home does not have solar panels (which can be expensive and don’t always make much of an impact on energy usage in a home), there are no wind mills jutting from the roof line. From the street level, when you look at the home, it is appears as an unassuming gem amidst the other surrounding properties. An interesting fact that the street level viewer doesn’t know is that there is a fantastic addition with a modestly updated curved roof on the back side of the home, complete with floor to ceiling windows to allow for ample light, yet their industrial strength alleviates noise.
When you walk into the house, you notice three things immediately: it is quiet, there is no overpowering “new house” smell, and there is a great glowing light throughout the home. This is thanks to the light colored low VOC paints, tight insulation and properly fitted windows in this now 2100 square foot home. The uber-functional layout pulls you straight through the house, the kitchen, punctuated with beautiful, Energy Star rated Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances, sits centrally open to the front living area and perfectly sized dining area. Your vision is lured downward to the warm 150 year old reclaimed heart pine floors: true to the vibe of the house and straight from an old textile mill in Danville, Virginia. In a word, the floors are majestic, pairing well to the story of heart pine which is also referred to as “king’s wood” since British kings loved the tight core of the wood’s grain and glowing beauty. Straight out the back on the main level, is a private (and quite sexy) backyard. Important to note is the permeable ground covering, stylishly placed stoned with mondo grass and native plants for ease in maintenance and a central ethanol fire pit, which creates a sumptuous outdoor space for all seasons. Many people don’t realize that great use of outdoor space is a very sustainable element of design and GreenSpur nailed it with this al-fresco space. Upstairs, you’ll find two bedrooms with innovative use of vertical storage space and two bathrooms decorated in sultry, yet masculine stone and glass tile. The master bathroom’s crème marfil stonework is absolutely stunning, and practical. Simply put, clean, hard surfaces throughout a home create an environment which is free of allergens as opposed to a home with many “soft” or permeable surfaces such as carpeting, wallpaper and the like. Homeowners will enjoy that GreenSpur partnered with Kohler for the dual flush toilets and low flow showerheads and other plumbing fixtures. Mark blushed- but he did mention the “sexy design and beautiful functionality” of the Kohler products and went on to claim the 6,000 gallons of water a year- per toilet- could be saved by using these dual flush toilets. As Americans we “often don’t realize how much water we use, because it is cheap, but there is soon to be a water shortage.” Recall Mark’s favorite space in the house, the bird’s nest. This 10×10 three story addition to the back of the home takes the subtly curved nuance of the updated roof line and hugs you in quite comfortably. This urban escape space gives the feeling of sitting in the treetops. It is almost easy to forget you’re in the heart of Capitol Hill and in a sustainably built home, no less, until you peak out the window towards the east and have a full on view of the Nation’s Capitol in all of its shiny glory. In the basement, anti-microbial cork floors flatter the open bonus room and it is here that the core of the house is situated.
The mechanical room is probably the most valuable space in this home as it houses the geothermal heating and cooling system. GreenSpur drilled down 200 feet to achieve this spectacular system which is top of the line; this system allows for the home to run on geothermal heat as opposed to traditional electric or gas heat, thereby reducing the home’s carbon footprint. The Blueline energy management system allows for the home’s energy consumption to be monitored by the homeowner; this product shows in essence, the “mpg of the home at any time” which is a wonderful thing if the homeowner is interested in making sure that they are truly cutting down on their energy consumption. A gas powered Tekagi tankless water heater sits on the wall and is ready to heat water in a flash. Installing one of these tankless water heater units is the equivalent of planting 50 eucalyptus trees. Then the piece de resistance is the Owens Corning soy based spray foam- which isn’t just in the walls in the mechanics room, but throughout the whole entire house, creating a super-tight thermal envelope. This means that the homeowner is heating and cooling their home in the most energy efficient way possible- not over heating in the winter time and over cooling in the summer, which is something that does happen quite often, even when expensive HVAC systems are in place along with programmable thermostats. Having a home properly sealed and insulated provides the best protection for energy leakage and that is what GreenSpur has accomplished with the insulation of this home. This spray foam is in all of the walls, the ceiling and you can get a look at it in the crawl space on your way upstairs. The product is impressive: it offers “twice the performance of traditional building code insulation.” The house is also wrapped in an Owens Corning water vapor barrier which allows for the home to be breathable.
What makes this GreenSpur project so impressive is not only the fact that it is an entirely carbon-neutral home, but that it is an urban project located within a historical district. Remember, this was a pre-Civil War home that had formerly been 900 square feet and is now an ample 2100 square feet, close to shops, major roadways and public transportation. This is a home that allows for someone to “live well in less space” while maintaining the modern conveniences and creature comforts that we have all become accustomed to. The trend is this: “people want a well designed smart space that is proportionate to their lifestyle.” A renovation such as GreenSpur’s update to a 157 year old home can be done in the city, country or suburbs and to live in the luxury such as that created by GreenSpur’s concept can be done. Something that Mark said to me resonated – “You buy our product, because you love it. You love good design and functionality with the added bonus that our homes reflect your environmentally conscious lifestyle.” If GreenSpur can complete a successful historical renovation that is sustainable and beautiful on DC’s Capitol Hill, we can do it anywhere.
Do you want updates on what Mark and his GreenSpur team are up to? I’d be happy to get you in touch with the team and see what we can do to get something in the works for you.