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The waterfront home is constructed from lightweight concrete. By Michelle Thomas

It might be a bit chilly and more than a bit rainy outside, but that won’t keep us from daydreaming about seaside getaways. Helping things along on this dreary afternoon? This energy-efficient waterfront home on the Chesapeake Bay, which puts a sleek, modern spin on the traditional beach house. Architecture firm Meditch Murphey used autoclaved concrete to construct the home, a lightweight material that allows for mold and heat resistance, absorbs sound, and protects against water damage. The place was built with an eco-friendly design, incorporating geothermal heating and cross-ventilation cooling, solar-power roofing, and a planted green roof that’s meant to help with on-site storm drainage. All that—and it’s a pretty cool-looking, too. Click though the slideshow to take a virtual tour of this modern design.

Posted at 12:35 PM/ET, 04/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The District is the second US city to require privately owned buildings to report their energy use. See how efficient—or not—they are. By Benjamin Freed
The National Academy of Sciences, one of DC's most energy efficient buildings. Photograph by Flickr user NCinDC.

An Embassy Suites hotel in the West End and a National Academy of Sciences building are DC’s most energy-efficient privately owned buildings, according to statsitics published today by the District Department of the Environment. The data also find that the District’s building stock has one of the top energy-use ratings of any major US city, based on the federal government’s Energy Star benchmark. On average, private buildings in DC have a score of 77, meaning they use energy more efficiently than 77 percent of buildings that use the reporting standard.

The Embassy Suites, at 1250 22nd St., NW, and the National Academy of Sciences, at 2101 Constitution Ave., NW (with the Albert Einstein statue out front), both reported perfect scores of 100. Office buildings at 425 I St., NW, and 2000 M St., NW, also came in with scores of at least 98. The energy report also shows that the Embassy Suites is an industry outlier, with most hotels scoring below 50. In fact, a Courtyard hotel in NoMa and the Ritz-Carlton in West End both scored Energy Star ratings of 1.

Also reporting at the bottom are Washington Hospital Center and a medical research building at Georgetown University, with the former also earning the distinction of producing the most greenhouse gas emissions of any privately owned building in the city. The George Washington University dorm Ross Hall used the most energy per square foot.

Today’s report marks the first time DC has released energy-efficiency ratings of privately owned buildings, making it the second US city after New York to require private buildings to report their energy use.

BenchmarkDC Disclosure 2012 Final 022014

Posted at 11:18 AM/ET, 02/24/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Maximize your green with a garden that grows up instead of out.
By Rebecca Orlov

One of our favorite small-space tips is to “go vertical,” using wall space to add style and dimension to a room. Now that it’s officially summer, we thought we’d take this idea outside and freshen up a small balcony or patio with a dose of DIY. Vertical gardens, which started popping up in the design world a few years ago, allow you to add some color and natural texture to your space without sacrificing valuable patio real estate.

Here are three easy, affordable projects that will allow you to create a vertical garden with your own personal design stamp.

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Posted at 03:30 PM/ET, 06/21/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
Local designers explain their favorite trends from 2011 and how you can incorporate them into your own home in 2012. By Laura Wainman

High-gloss paint makes art and textiles pop. Photograph by Angie Seckinger, courtesy Sally Steponkus Interiors.

Tangerine Tango and haute herringbone and classic chevron, oh my! In the world of interior design, where what was hot yesterday is out today, trying to keep your home in style can be overwhelming—which is why more and more customers are turning to interior designers to discover the hottest trends. They are the experts after all, and can help determine when to follow trends and when to stick with classic, timeless designs.

We recently talked with five local designers to find out their picks for the most popular design trends of 2011 and how you can incorporate them into your own home for 2012. Here are their decorating dos and don’ts for the new year.

 

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Posted at 01:36 PM/ET, 01/03/2012 | Permalink | Comments ()
An environmentally-friendly builder misses with a party invitation By Emily Leaman

We get our fair share of confetti-laden invitations here at Washingtonian HQ, but here’s something we don’t see everyday: An invitation made of plastic. Clear plastic.

But that’s what just arrived in the mail from Sandy Spring Builders, a Bethesda-based homebuilder founded in 1982. The flashy six-by-six-inch plastic invite is lettered with blue writing and has an opaque green border. The postage: a cool $1.61.

So just what event entails this caliber of crafty PR genius? A Hollywood movie premiere, you ask? No. The opening of a fancy new restaurant by a Michelin-star-studded chef? Wrong again. It’s for the launch of the Bradley Green Home, Sandy Spring’s LEED-certified model home which, according to the invitation, offers “sustainable luxury in half the time”—a 6,300-square-foot ecofriendly home constructed in under 16 weeks.

Now correct us if we’re wrong, but last time we checked plastic wasn’t particularly biodegradable. So unless we recycle this (which we plan to), or unless it’s secretly made of the same magical material as Sweetgreen’s biodegradable “plastic” spoons, this tiny invitation would sit in a landfill for, oh, the next 100 years.

In the words of the wise sage Alanis Morissette: “Isn’t it . . . a little too ironic?”

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Posted at 01:47 PM/ET, 09/13/2010 | Permalink | Comments ()
How to make a dent in your energy costs and cut bills by as much as a third.

In this year’s Home Design Guide, Katie Knorovsky writes about home energy costs and some easy ways to reduce high utility bills. First step: Have your home audited.

        The Alliance to Save Energy projects that the average American household will
        spend $2,160 on home energy costs in 2010.

        “The average house is about 40 years old,” says Doris Iklé of CMC Energy Services
        in Bethesda. “That house was built when codes were laxer and when energy was
        cheaper. They’re not as efficient as houses that are built today.”

DC’s Department of the Environment offers free energy audits to single-family home owners. Home owners who complete energy-efficient renovations—adding insulation, upgrading air conditioning and heating systems—this year (or did so last year) can benefit from tax credits. Homeowners in Montgomery County can also apply for up to $250 in tax credits.

Read the complete article to find out more about other incentives and ways to prevent energy loss. 

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Posted at 11:03 AM/ET, 04/13/2010 | Permalink | Comments ()
Our Monday picks for the best furniture finds of the week.

This card table and four matching chairs are $165 in Sterling. The seller says the set is vintage, made in the 1940s. The table top is covered in a dry-lacquered fabric and has a painted Chinese dragon. The Asian motif continues on the chairs, which are painted green and feature gold and blue Asian designs. The chairs and table fold up for easy storage.

Other good finds:

Dining table with seven newly reupholstered chairs for $300.
• Corner curio cabinet with shelf and cabinet space for $300.
• Brown leather couch for $950; matching club chair with ottoman for $850.
• A pair of black lacquered sidetables with two drawers and brass pulls for $225.

Thanks, Craig!

 
More>> Open House Blog | Homes | Real Estate

Posted at 11:36 AM/ET, 10/20/2008 | Permalink | Comments ()
Tour a cool, eco-friendly office in downtown DC. By Elizabeth Farrell

Employees gather 'round this TV to play Guitar Hero at work.
Real-estate marketing firm Delucchi Plus moved into a new office at 1828 L Street, NW, in DC—just down the hall from The Washingtonian—in February. The newly renovated, ultra-modern space received a silver LEED rating, proving it’s not just well-designed but also environmentally-friendly.

Green features include:
• Desks made from recycled materials
• Insulation made of recycled cotton
• Low mercury lighting with motion sensors that turn lights on and off
• Energy Star appliances
• Concrete floors with nontoxic sealants

But perhaps the coolest feature is the flat-screen TV in the lounge where employees play Guitar Hero.

“The staff is really excited,” says company president Christine Delucchi. “They take pride in their space, and it translates when they’re working with clients.” A future project on Delucchi’s wish list is a green rooftop garden, a clean and relaxing place away from the office. “It would be like a zen, meditation room—a quiet place for people to go.”

 What do you think? Would working in a beautiful office like this make you more productive?

Check out our full slideshow of Delucchi's office below.

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Posted at 09:47 AM/ET, 03/20/2008 | Permalink | Comments ()
Looking to hire a cleaning service? Here’s one that can straighten up your place—and help the environment. By Elizabeth Farrell

Four years ago Loren LaVoy founded Green Clean, an environmentally friendly home- and business-cleaning service. LaVoy, who grew up in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, loves spending time outdoors: “I’ve always been very green-oriented—it makes sense and it’s better for everyone’s health,” he says.

The company only uses cleaning products that are certified by the nonprofit Green Seal. “Most of our cleaning products are hydrogen peroxide-based and are hospital quality,” says LaVoy.  Many are also unscented, so don’t be alarmed if the “fresh and clean” smell is absent after the crew leaves.

A typical cleaning costs between $100 and $130 and takes a little more than an hour. Green Clean offers services in Maryland, DC, and Virginia and does a lot of business for new mothers: “We’ve had many people call us from the hospital and say they are having a baby today and would like us to clean their home.”

Green Clean’s office uses recycled paper, soy-based ink, and powers itself with solar and wind power. Crew members wear uniforms made of organic cotton and soy-based dies. The company also tracks the carbon emissions of its vehicles and offsets them by donating money to organizations like Planktose, which releases carbon-eating plankton into the ocean.

Want to clean green on your own? MOM’s (My Organic Market) and Whole Foods Market sell green cleaning products. LaVoy says most need time to work; spray several items, he says, then go back and wipe them down.

Posted at 08:29 AM/ET, 01/31/2008 | Permalink | Comments ()

Christmas trees have a predictable lifespan: After about five weeks, they kick the bucket (or the tree stand) . Often, the trees that inspire so much happiness end up in the trash. This year you may want to consider recycling. Ground into mulch and used as fertilizer, old trees help new ones grow.

Many local governments collect and recycle trees in early January. If you use a private trash service, call and ask to have your tree picked up. If you live in DC, set your tree out wherever your trash is usually collected between  January 2 and 19, and the Department of Public Works will recycle it for you. More details here.

If you miss the dates for local government pick up, you can buy a chipper from a hardware store and grind your own mulch. If that’s too pricey—chippers are priced as much as $500 at Home Depot—there are also commercial and government-run pickup sites. Plug your Zip code into the Earth911 Web site to find nearby tree-recycling services.

Posted at 09:12 AM/ET, 01/04/2008 | Permalink | Comments ()