I sure had a full morning with Chris Conway of Conway Construction and Blaine McLaughlin, the Winner of the DIYer Dream Giveaway – meeting a new friend and discovering that his home is more energy efficient than he thought!
When Blaine and his family moved from San Diego, California to Arlington, Virginia more than twelve years ago to be near family and close to their new jobs, they didn’t know that they would fall in love with this community so much that they would ultimately want to build their dream house here. But why wouldn’t they? With the lush landscaping of mature, towering trees, the prime location of being inside the beltway near I-66, and the ability to easily zip in and out of DC to get to their high-powered jobs, Blaine and his wife, Ann had the ideal place to begin their family and start to plant their roots.
Their first house was built in the 1960’s and although it had its charms and mystic, it also had its leaks and inefficiencies. When the McLaughlin family began to grow, their first home in Northern Virginia just off of Military Road was bursting at the seams. The McLaughlins needed something larger that would more closely fit their lifestyle and personality. In their original search, Blaine and Ann thought that they wanted a resale home in Arlington; however, after much searching, and even putting in some offers and things not panning out the way they ultimately wanted them to, they thought… hey, why don’t we build our dream house?
Blaine is a numbers man. He gets statistics and he understands how to crunch the numbers. When I first walked in to his home, he let me know that he’d input all of his utility bills into a spreadsheet so that he could track his energy consumption, which is awesome! This means that he’d really done his research to see if building their dream home was going to be cost effective- and it ultimately would be. They found a wonderful vacant lot in the heart of North Arlington that had been a tear down waiting for a build… it was perfect for them as it backed to a dense, park-like setting on a cul-de-sac. The neighbors were open to a new home being constructed, especially of the caliber of what was ultimately to be built: an impressive, luxurious, 7 bedroom, 7 bath 8500 square foot craftsman style family home with a detached garage and paver drive. The numbers game played out well for the McLaughlins, as building their dream home was more cost effective than buying and remodeling a resale home.
The home was designed and constructed by Winter-Coronado a luxury builder based out of Northern Virginia who specializes in Arts and Crafts or Craftsman style homes. Built in standard sticks and bricks, the home exhibits old-world style craftsman touches quite nicely with the Winter-Coronado signature element of the over-sized front door. The exterior is as impeccable as the interior with special attention to the column details, the welcoming paver drive and masculine, yet homey wooden casement windows which were low-e and argon filled. The interior selections were handpicked by the McLaughlin’s and give a lovely, rich and warm feel to the home, especially the Tiffany style pendant lights in the recreation room bar area and the sultry mahogany and eucalyptus panels which give the home the ultimate in the Craftsman styling. A “U” shaped butler’s pantry off of the kitchen has a sexy Vulga Blue granite accented with labradorite throughout- yes, it’s like jewelry for your house. Speaking of sexy, in the master suite, a glorious hand hewn copper tub calls your name for a perfect bubble bath while you look out the windows at the tip-top of the towering trees… When it comes to family time, you can just throw all of the kiddos in the shower and hose them off all at once since the master shower was probably 10×10- but no, I didn’t measure!
When it came time to start the “big tape measure for air” or the blower door test, Chris Conway of Conway Construction was a bit nervous, as was Blaine. We all thought that in a home this large, that wasn’t built with a certification standard in mind, there was probably going to be a lot of air leakage. Conversely, the answer was that there really wasn’t. We were quite pleasantly surprised! One of the biggest issues that we found in this expansive home was that there needed to be a few more air sealing measures taken and that maybe at this point of air-tightness we needed to think about incorporating a system of introducing fresh air, i.e. an Energy Recovery Ventilator or ERV system. This system could easily be installed in the current mechanical closet and even be hard ducted into the current duct system. We also discovered that there were some places that this family of six had started to compartmentalize and even close off vents, creating areas which were colder or warmer than other areas of the home. By opening the vents and making sure that the HVAC and thermostats were working in harmony in their variable speed bliss, we hope that the comfort levels will increase for the McLaughlins.
When I first stood on their porch, I asked Blaine what he was looking for out of the audit that he won, and he said that he was hoping to “work towards something that was more comfortable and more energy efficient” for his family. I think that we were able to help him pinpoint the key issues and create an actionable plan for him to move forward with solutions. I don’t want to bore you with all of the other details of the audit, because we were there for like four hours, but it was fun! I think Blaine learned some things about the systems of his home, and now he can discover how he wants to proceed. He may even have a new found respect for an EcoBroker Realtor from Arlington, Virginia who showed up in pigtails, cowboy boots, and dug around in his attic. Yep, that’d be me….