It was red ink that made Peter Guida a green builder.
In 2004, Guida left his job at EuroMotorcars and cashed in his savings to start Bethesda Bungalows. His plan: to combat McMansion backlash by building upscale houses with less square-footage but more amenities. Then the bottom dropped out of the real-estate market.
Determined to reinvent himself, he found inspiration when he read about a tycoon who made his fortune on energy-saving windows. Guida approached his suppliers with a plan to build the first LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) platinum-certified house in Montgomery County. They were four months into the project when the homebuilding industry came out with its “emerald” standards for residential construction. Guida decided to go for that, too.
Now he not only is successfully constructing energy-saving houses for private clients; he also has broken ground on a demonstration “net zero energy” house on the National Institute of Standards and Technology campus in Gaithersburg. The house will look like others in the area but generate the same amount of energy from renewable sources, such as solar panels, as it uses over a year. NIST will replicate a family of four’s energy consumption.
Guida plans to partner with a California developer to build the first LEED platinum modular home here. Eventually he’d like to concentrate on retrofitting houses in the area.
What does it take to turn a house built decades ago into an energy saver? Focus on the “energy envelope,” Guida says. A green house has insulation and windows that keep heated or cooled air in: “In winter, our house was the one where the snow on the roof didn’t melt, because the heat wasn’t leaking out.”
Peter Guida thinks “green” will soon be a term of the past. In five or so years, he says, it will be the normal way to build: “Now the challenge is to build right-sized houses instead of super-sized houses.”
This article appears in the May 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.