Couple hope to lead others down green renovation path
This house in Highland Park was renovated in 2006-07 with plenty of earth-friendly elements, including "smart" lighting controls, passive solar and radiant-floor heating, Energy Star appliances and bamboo woodwork.
Nathaniel Glosser is holding tours and free green renovation workshops at his house in Highland Park.
The kitchen is part of the first floor's open "flex" space that has room to seat up to 30 people for dinner.
Because of allergies, the couple chose to keep hot water heating, as shown in the home office.
The master bedroom.
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Instead of spending $500,000 to renovate his 80-year-old family home, Nathaniel Glosser could have moved or built a new house. But he and his partner, Lissa Rosenthal, chose the "greener" path, and that has made all the difference.
"There was nothing green in the city when we were looking," she said. "And we love Highland Park. This was the way to go."
Now they are trying to make the path easier for others who follow their lead: They're holding tours and free green renovation workshops today at their house, 1422 Greystone Drive, a five-bedroom, 31/2-bath house for sale for $589,000 (MLS No. 797457, www.pittsburghmoves.com).
"Before we started, we would have loved to have been able to tour a green home and ask questions," Ms. Rosenthal said. "We know how hard it was to find these materials."
Of course, the couple will not be disappointed if a workshop-goer opts to skip all the hard work and just buy their house. Realtor Teekie Smith of Coldwell Banker Real Estate acknowledges it's a unique way to sell a house.
"We have not seen this type of futuristic marketing in our industry enough," Ms. Smith said. "The same old open house isn't going to fly with clients who are tech-savvy."
With the 1 p.m. workshop nearly filled, visitors should plan to attend the second one, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. today. The program begins with a tour of the 2,400-square-foot house, followed by programs and Q&A sessions with Mr. Glosser and Janice Donatelli, owner of Artemis Environmental Building Materials in Lawrenceville. They will discuss the benefits of green building and renovation, how to find green contractors and materials, techniques, education and other issues.
The house was renovated in 2006-07, before green home construction or renovation had really caught on in most parts of the country.
"We were the first total-gut residential green renovation in the city," Mr. Glosser said.
Being first meant many hours of research, mostly on the Internet, to find sustainable products and technologies. Elements used in the house include "smart" lighting controls, passive solar and radiant-floor heating, Energy Star appliances, bamboo woodwork, PaperStone countertops, Icynene insulation, low-VOC paints and adhesives, PEX plumbing and low-maintenance landscaping.
Mr. Glosser remembers particularly struggling to find an insulation product because of misinformation spread by competing insulation companies. He chose Icynene, a type of open-cell, blown-in-place foam insulation.
"I had a long sleepless night before deciding it was the most environmentally friendly, energy-efficient, safest type of foam insulation," he said.
Since he and Ms. Rosenthal have allergies, indoor air quality was a major concern; it's the main reason they stuck with water vs. forced-air heating.
"We were miserable in the old space," she said. "You could tell the difference right away [after renovation]. You can breathe better."
Designer and friend Garth Massingill helped them find architect Stuart Horne and designer Todd Swan of Seigle, Solow & Horne. Mr. Horne recommended general contractor Tom Dowd of Dowd Construction Services. The couple decide to open up the first floor into a bright "flex" space with a 14-foot kitchen island and room to seat up to 30 people for dinner.
"We really wanted a loft environment but with privacy on the second and third floors," Ms. Rosenthal said.
Ms. Donatelli and Artemis were also key players in the renovation, which is why she'll be speaking at today's workshops. Ms. Rosenthal admits the renovation isn't only about "green." She insisted on a Viking stove for the kitchen and she and Mr. Glosser commissioned site-specific art installations that will remain with the house, including a two-story chandelier made from reclaimed laboratory glass by Pennsylvania artist Ben Cunningham.
Once the house is sold, Mr. Glosser says he plans to undertake another green renovation, albeit a more affordable one, somewhere in the East End.
"It's been our passion and interest to live the green life, a sustainable life," he said.
If you would like to attend today's workshop or a future program at 1422 Greystone Drive, Highland Park, call 412-708-1588 or go to www.greystonedrive.info/.
First Published February 20, 2010 12:00 am