Sarasota Homes and Lifestyles

Florida Homes and Lifestyle Magazine – The Goldenrod Project

Steve Ellis Press Leave a Comment

Florida’s first certified “green” remodel is a prototype for sustainable design.

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Mexican Saltillo tile floors and a beamed ceiling give the spacious great room its rustic charm. Sectional from Uptown/Downtown; bench and chairs from East Indies Home; mirror, dining table and lamp from Box Furniture Boutique.

When business partners Grant Castilow and Steve Ellis began to remodel the house on Goldenrod Street, they did not anticipate the attention the project would bring. Nor did they realize their newly formed company, MyGreenBuildings, would set a benchmark for “green” remodeling. And not just in Sarasota—in the entire state.

But that’s what can happen when two like-minded visionaries collaborate on a new business venture, particularly when environmental issues are at the forefront of people’sminds, and the residential construction market is pressed to appeal to budgetconscious buyers seeking homes that will havelower operating and maintenance costs.

Their focus: to rebuild existing homes in accordance with established Florida Green Building Standards, concentrating on infill sites bearing homes with smaller footprints. Byselecting projects in neighborhoods with existing infrastructure, the opportunity for conservation is even greater.

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Sliding doors off the living room, hallway and master bedroom open to a rear courtyard that offers a private space for relaxing. Reclaimed pavers, overruns from other jobs, saved about $1,200. The exterior is painted Anjou Pear by Sherwin Williams.

Mexican Saltillo tile floors and a beamed ceiling give the spacious great room its rustic charm. Sectional from Uptown/Downtown; bench and chairs from East Indies Home; mirror, dining table and lamp from Box Furniture Boutique.

“There’s a terrific inventory of postwar houses made out of block wall that are getting scraped,” says Steve Ellis, cofounder of MyGreenBuildings. “We givepeople an alternativeto scraping the entire structure.” In other words, they won’t be building any McMansions.

“Our goal is to give clients what they want without visibly changing the neighborhood.” Ellis, who built a multi-million-dollar business helping companies reduce, reuse and recycle, teamed up with Castilow, an experienced general contractor and designer/builder/remodeler, to tackle their first joint rebuild in December 2006.

Over the next few months, they converted the 1100-square-foot twobedroom, one-bath house into a three-bedroom, three-bath beauty with an additional 1000 square feet. But you’d never know it from the street—and that’s the way the neighbors like it.

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Grant Castilow and Steve Ellis founded MyGreenBuildings to address the growing demand for sustainable housing. Their first project, a Spanish-style cottage, is a prototype for projects they plan to complete in the future.

Though Castilow and Ellis didn’t know it until well into the process, theirs would be the first certified “green” remodel in the state of Florida. “We certainly didn’t set out to achieve any records, but we did,” says Castilow of their impressive score from the Florida Green Building Coalition.

The Goldenrod Project earned a score of 303, positioning it as the second highest-rated FGBC certified green home in the state.

What You See vs. What You Get
To the average person, it looks like any other home. A tour quickly corrects any misconception that green-built homes are unattractive or made from inferior materials. In fact, because many materials from the existing structure were reused, the home retained much of the character that would otherwise have been lost.

“If we had built it from scratch, would it have wound up this cool?” suggests Castilow.

Exposed wood beams constructed from southern yellow pine harvested during the remodel add rustic charm, especially at night when they are subtly lit from above. The same wood—impervious to insects and termites—was reused elsewhere in the home.

The crew kept a very organized site, sorting materials for reuse, recycle or donation. Interior doors were donated to Habitat for Humanity, replaced in some instances with vintage doors and hardware from Sarasota Architectural Salvage. Other decorative and functional architectural elements from there were also used throughout.

When it came time to build the addition (a bedroom/bathroom and the master suite), they called Efficient Wall Systems of Florida. The health, safety and environmental benefits of E-Wall are numerous.

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A unique terrarium-style table display was created using live plants in large glass vases. Research by the Environmental Research Laboratory of John C. Stennis Space Center shows that plant-filled rooms contain 50-60 percent fewer airborne molds and bacteria than rooms without plants.

“The walls were delivered in a flatbed truck and erected in one day and poured with concrete the next,” Ellis explains. “Once the forms were in place and inspected, the ledgers and trusses were installed. We insulated with a spray-foam polyurethane product made from annually renewable American-grown soybeans—about a half an acre’s worth— instead of 15 gallons of petroleum. What we ended up with is a superior, insulated wall system (three times the R-value of block) and twice as strong (280 mph wind load).”

While Eco-insulation, E-walls and Energy Star windows cost a little more than traditional construction techniques, they provide about a 20-25 percent return on investment in lower energy costs. “And that’s the whole point,” says Ellis.

Waste Not, Want Not
In the kitchen, Energy Star appliances use 10–50 percent less energy than standard models. According to the Energy Star website, if just one in 10 homes used Energy Star qualified appliances, the change would be like planting 1.7 million acres of trees.

MyGreenBuildings used compact fluorescent lighting in the fixtures and put timed motion sensor lighting in closets to reduce wasted electricity. Outside, they opted to go solar instead of spending $10,000 to $15,000 on a low voltage system. “I’m really psyched about free energy,” says Ellis.

Equally so about the Certified Florida Friendly landscaping that exists on reclaimed rainwater. Two barrels connect to a downspout, which is attached to a soaker hose. The system not only conserves water, but also reduces runoff. Additional savings will be realized due to an active solar water heater with an on-demand recirculation pump, which brings the hot water to the faucet within 15 seconds of pushing a doorbell-type button on the bathroom cabinet. This feature is expected to save thousands of gallons annually.

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The spacious master bedroom receives plenty of natural light, and Energy Star windows reduce energy loss. Bed and rug from Uptown/Downtown; chair, painting, red pillows and throw from Box Furniture Boutique; red coral fingers and hyacinth planter from Madison Park.

Green Has Never Looked So Good
After the crew completed the final construction cleaning using environmentally friendly products, Ana Todd got to work furnishing and decorating the place, applying a “green” design philosophy. Natural furnishings and accessories from Box Furniture Boutique, Uptown/Downtown, Madison Park and East Indies Home complemented the newly remodeled interior. The result is a comfortable, eco-friendly space that actually feels noticeably different: fresh, clean and healthy.

“The Goldenrod Project demonstrates that it is possible to create sustainable homes using socially responsible construction practices that offer buyers what they want—without sacrificing the environment to get it,” Castilow says.


Florida Homes and Lifestyles Magazine