Plasma cutting steel staircase Tung oil applied on trim woodwwork Floors milled from site grown trees Septic field restoration Reflecting afternoon sun Birth of a barn on Bragg Hill Radiant floors Solar panel installation Capping off the chimney Proud shape emerges on the hilltop Pumping concrete into the three gables Forming 12x12 Gables Delivering concrete from the sky Parallam beam positioning Flying flitch beam ICF window framing Precision concrete placement Lower level ICF fabrication Newly excavated driveway Finishing garage deck concrete Pouring concrete footers Rebar safety caps Surveying the construction site Checking out the excavation equipment Rapid soil stabilization Testing the soils for drainage Taking Solar Pathfinder measurements Milling downed trees onsite View to the Southeast over the Benzel Family Trust Future meadow to be cultivated Taking a stroll on Bragg Hill Road

Building A Green Home From Scratch

by Pete Danko,
September 25th, 2010

Barney Leonard and his wife are building a green house. Really green. So green, his architect camped out at the raw site to get a better sense of how a house might best fit into the surrounding Chester County countryside west of Philadelphia.

You can follow the progress of 60 Bragg Hill on a detailed, highly professional website Leonard has created. The site provides insight into the process of building a house—involving engineers, contractors, environmental consultants, botanists, foresters and landscape architects—that’s a world apart from the admirable but cookie-cutter energy-efficient homes popped up by big developers. The fact of the website’s existence tells you a lot about how challenging constructing such an environmentally conscious home can be.

“It’s partly about helping pay for the project,” Leonard said about the website, which is populated with the logos of companies involved in 60 Bragg Hill. “Sponsorships are a way to bring down the added costs of this sort of construction.” Leonard didn’t want to get too specific but said there was a second reason for the website: to help cut through red tape. “Sometimes simply making something public can motivate people to do the right thing,” he said.

When it’s completed—a day Leonard can scarcely imagine, given the complexity of the project—60 Bragg Hill will feature a 43-panel 9.7 kilowatt photovoltaic solar array, geothermal heating and cooling, and a rainwater collection system used for toilet flushing and plant irrigation, according to a press release Leonard issued. The design also includes plenty of passive systems, including a solar tower, high thermal mass, integrated sun shades and highly efficient Marvin windows.