Copeland Casati, founder of Green Modern Kits, in front of the prefab home she’s building on a small farm outside of Richmond. Shawn Stanley Photo
The earth is hot, flat and crowded, says Thomas Friedman. Perhaps the best way to start practicing a more environmentally responsible way of life is to begin by making changes in the houses we live in. Fortunately, people and businesses specializing in green technology abound in Richmond. Here's a sampling below. (For others, check an updated resource directory by the Virginia Sustainable Building Network that was scheduled for online publication in January, vsbn.org/smartbuilding.shtml ).
Home Energy Inspection
Your first order of business should be a home inspection, to see how or where you might be wasting energy. Earthworks Home Performance (441-0283, earthworkshp.com ) and Commonwealth Building Sciences (467-2375, noenergyloss.com ) can come and perform a series of tests to measure how well your house holds heat (or keeps it out in the summer), as well as how efficient your existing heating and cooling system might be.
Geothermal, Solarand Wind
You may want to consider a geothermal heating system. This is a heat pump that takes the heat from the earth in the winter to boost your HVAC system's power. In the summer it transfers the heat back to the earth.
Folks who understand the intricacies of how this type of system works and how to install it include Anderson Heating & Air Conditioning (231-6053) , Marshall Mechanical ( 323-0189, marshallmechanical.com ) , Town & Country Mechanical (643-7777, iwantgeo.com ) , Delta Temp Inc , (739-5854, deltatempinc.com ) , T.H.S Construction (335-6336, thsconstruction ) , and Dominion Service Company of Richmond (745-0007, dscr.com ) .
Solar panels can be expensive but should recoup their cost in anywhere from five to 20 years, depending on tax incentives and the amount of sun you actually use to power the systems in your house. Atlantic Solar (540-577-4249, site.atlanticsolarusa.com ) can answer questions and do the installation, as can Cityspace Solar (353-0491, cityspacesolar.com ) ; Shockoe Solar, LLC (798-9715, shockoesolar.com ) ; Richmond BySolar ( bysolar.net ); and CommonWealth Solar, LLC (798-5371, commonwealthsolar.com ) .
If you'd rather try wind, Chesapeake Renewable Energy ( chesrenewable.com ) carries everything for your wind-energy needs from small wind turbines to small wind-energy towers.
Heating and air-conditioning improvements will be undercut if you don't insulate properly. Creative Conservation (798-2727, creativeconservation.com ) , ThermalTec (757-903-6004, thedryingco.com ) and Atlantic Spray Systems, Inc. (757-566-4892, atlanticspray.com ) get the job done with foam- and sprayed-insulation systems that seal your house up tight.
Architects and Contractors
Once you decide to start making your home more efficient or to build a green home from the ground up, an environmentally responsible contractor can help you make important decisions and then get the work done. Find a directory of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified architects, builders, landscape designers and engineers at the United States Green Building Council 's Web site, usgbc.org .
Most architects in town can design an eco-friendly plan for a home or figure out how to integrate a new addition with an existing house. There are a few firms that specialize in green residential structures. They include Watershed Architects (254-8001, watershedarch.net ) , BAM Architects (355-6016, bamarchitects.com ) , Beyond Ordinary Boundaries Architecture (344-0060, bobarchitecture.net ) and Full Scale Architecture (767-7197, fullscalearchitecture.com ) .
Why don't you just get a kit and make yourself a whole new house? Copeland Casati, founder of Green Modern Kits (515-7886, greenmodernkits.com ) , Green Cottage Kits ( greencottagekits.com ) and Green Cabin Kits ( greencabinkits.com ) , offers house styles for every taste, plus the confidence of knowing you're minimizing the carbon footprint you leave behind when you build your house.
For the do-it-yourselfer, materials that won't harm you or the environment are easy to come by in Richmond. EcoLogic (254-7336, ecologicthestore.com ) has a showroom on Main Street full of nontoxic paints, countertops and flooring. ECO Supply (355-3547, ecosupplycenter.com ) is a distributor of environmentally responsible materials from countertops to plaster.
One of the best ways to integrate good environmental practices in home building is to use recycled materials. An added benefit is that materials reclaimed from older structures are often unique. Caravati's Inc. (232-4175, caravatis.com ) is the grandfather of Richmond architectural reclamation, and Governor's Antiques Ltd. (746-1030, governorsantiques.com ) has not only architectural details and fixtures for sale but furniture and household accessories as well. Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity ReStore (228-1305, richmondhabitat.org/restore.html ) also sells recycled materials for the home with the added benefit that the profits go to a good cause. S.B. Cox, Inc. Construction and Demolition Recycling (222-3500, sbcoxdemolition.com ) will take most of your used construction materials and recycle them for you so that they don't end up in a landfill.
Do you want heart-pine flooring but live in a newer house without it? ReStore RVA (648-0202, restorerva.com ) — not to be confused with habitat for Humanity's ReStore — offers reclaimed flooring from vintage factories and other older structures slated for demolition. And E.T. Moore (231-1823) right here in Richmond is one of the largest and oldest suppliers of recycled fine woods in the United States.