Houston Residence Makes Extensive Use of "Green" Materials
August 23, 2007
Located on 300 acres of land, just north of Houston, TX, stands a 2,500-square-foot residence that was recently redesigned with a “green” architecture concept in mind. Using locally available materials that had minimal impact on the environment and/or used recycled material in their fabrication, Robert Reid, ASID, with Brooks-Reid Studio, a local architectural firm, transformed the home into an updated space.
“The homeowners live on property that has been meticulously restored to how this grassland prairie region of Texas originally existed, before settlers moved in and began to farm the area,” explained Reid, adding that the wife has lived on the property since the early 1970s and is considered one of the founders of the “organic gardening movement” in Texas.
“With the intense adherence to organic methodologies in maintaining the land, it was a strict directive that all materials used on the project were deemed “green,” and we could obtain MSDS documentation and provide an environmental-impact statement from every vendor/supplier,” Reid said. “The environmentally responsible approach was applied to all aspects of the project, ensuring that the structure had minimal impact on the property, had minimal maintenance, used “green” construction materials and methodologies, and ensured the best indoor air quality possible.”
Understanding that the project had been nurtured for the past 30 years by hand, an additional goal for the architects was to create a project that continued this tradition, and to avoid any materials and processes that were mass–manufactured.
Material Selection“With our understanding of the huge environmental impact that the production/manufacturing of tile and stone can have, finding the correct materials that met our aesthetic requirements was extremely important,” Reid said.
The master bathroom contains a variety of materials, including terrazzo wall panels from Bisazza. According to Reid, the material was selected for a number of reasons, including longevity, composition, easy maintenance, its recycled content, embodied energy and the “cradle-to-grave” environmental impact. “Both cement-based and thin-set epoxy terrazzo systems are comprised of zero VOC materials,” explained Reid.
“Terrazzo exhibits little or no off gassing over the life of the cured material. The non-pourus, cleanable terrazzo finish does not support microbial growth, nor allow moisture to accumulate, helping to maintain a mold-free environment with improved indoor air quality.”
The countertops feature soapstone from Vermont Soapstone Co., a durable surface that only requires maintenance with mineral oil, and the floors are comprised of a minimally clefted slate, which was acquired locally and cut and fabricated on site by the installer, according to Reid.
The wet walls in the bathroom are lined with handcrafted recycled glass tile from Oceanside Glasstile. “The color [of the material] was chosen as it is reminiscent of the color of the Sabinal River that runs through the homeowners’ property in West Texas,” said Reid.
Furthermore, the kitchen makes extensive use of tile as the backsplash features similar environmentally friendly glass tile from Oceanside Glasstile. “The specific material used on the backsplash contains 85% total recycled content and silica sand, an abundant natural resource,” Reid explained. Complementary Vermont soapstone was used for countertops, as it is a durable surface that only requires maintenance with mineral oils.
The studio backsplash also features handcrafted glass tile from Oceanside Glasstile, which contains 76% recycled content and silica sand. Furthermore, Corian solid-surface was used on the countertops because it is a low-emitting surfacing material that is impervious to the natural dyes the homeowner uses for art projects, according to Reid.
The fabricator and installer for the tilework was Saady Bayeh from Q-Tile of Houston, TX, while a local craftsman served as the fabricator and installer for the soapstone.
Overcoming ObstaclesThe architects labored over the types of materials used on the project, paying close attention during the finish material research to find materials that met performance requirements, “green” building material requirements and the demand for aesthetic qualities. “All of these criteria were equally important and limited the choices in the marketplace for possible surface material specifications,” said Reid. “Where necessary, surfaces were sealed, such as the slate flooring for example, but the glass tile, terrazzo and solid surface required no sealing, and the soapstone is maintained with regular application of mineral oil.”
According to Reid, the biggest challenge of the project involved meeting the strict guidelines established by the client to develop such an environmentally responsible project. “These requirements did not just include the sourcing of surface materials that were deemed “green,” but also finding the installation materials and adhesives that met these demands, finding materials with the shortest shipping distance due to the impact of fuel consumption for shipping, understanding the means of production such as shipping raw materials, manufacturing, processing and packing the product, and then finding a fabricator/installer who could complete the project without compromising the intent.”
“Although we don’ feel that it is understood how intensive the research process was for this project, anyone who has visited the residence comments on how incredibly beautiful the structure is, and how it accurately reflects the personality of the homeowners. A very well-know art dealer and friend of the homeowner remarked on her first visit to the house, that it was ‘an incredible sculpture that you can live in.’”
“The homeowners were dream clients that allowed us to propose specifications that met our vision and the environmental demands for the project, and then they approved our proposed finish materials without question.”