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Clean & Green: LEED Platinum Home Offers Light and Space

Studio Twenty Seven Architecture


  • Todd Ray
  • Neil Moodhe
  • John Burke
  • Sophia Zelov
  • Jake Marzolf

Project Status

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Project Description


• Retrofit home to be LEED Platinum certified
• Revitalize a typical suburban home with modern amenities and sustainable retrofits
• Reorient the house to optimize its sunny aspect


Architect Todd Ray, of Studio Twenty Seven Architecture, in Washington, D.C., wanted to “… achieve site specificity with a high-performing sustainable residence,” when he undertook the remodel of his own home in Arlington, Va. Built during a housing boom when the Pentagon opened in 1944, the original structures are “… block foundations made of brick with very little window space and no insulation,” Ray says. Additionally, the original developers gave little thought to orientation, topography, or access, making it difficult to take advantage of the sun for gardening or natural lighting for interiors. With Studio Twenty Seven’s modifications, Ray's home was able to achieve LEED Platinum certification.

The original project started out when Ray’s wife wanted a porch addition. But as Ray explored the potential modifications, the possible project's scope expanded and the idea of how the home connects to the outdoors changed. To maintain the home's scale with respect to the neighborhood, Ray decided it was best to keep the mass of the house in relation to the other homes around it. 

In building green, the envelope was a priority, since insulation and air sealing were of little concern to the original builders. Ray kept the existing masonry core and added an addition on the top. Spray foam insulation was applied to the entire structure, acting as both insulation and sealant, minimizing air leaks.

The home’s mechanical system was also upgraded from a traditional gas boiler and forced-air cooling to a geothermal system, and water-saving low-flow and dual-flush products were installed.

To gauge how well these new systems would work, Ray did some energy modeling and performed energy tests prior to making the upgrades. He then compared his utility bills: pre-remodel and post.Even though the house is now about three times larger, the renovated home uses 64% less energy per square foot than previously.

Daylighting was also an important component in achieving both LEED certification and highlighting innovative architectural design. Fortunately, the front facade faces due south and the back due north, which enabled Ray to capitalize on daylight by opening the east side of the home with expansive windows and making what was once the front yard into a bountiful side yard with a garden. The home's addition also has a skylight to admit abundant natural light. With so much light entering the interior, close attention was paid to the paint palette for the walls; five shades of white were used.

For the exterior, Ray selected "self-finishing" materials that were either salvaged, sustainably harvested, rapidly renewable, or recycled. For example, the wooden screen of narrow slats by the staircase is made from the wood of a dying maple tree on the site that had been planted when the house was first built.

Judges’ Comments

The panel of judges appreciated the discussion that occurred between the Rays and their neighbors about how the house would be different and the goals of the design. In terms of green remodeling, they also noted that the house meets practically every standard possible to be LEED Platinum, which is highlighted by Ray's selection and use of materials. Although they agreed that the before and after look and feel of the home differ dramatically, they felt that the finished product is a success, exuding clean, elegant lines while still being a good neighbor to the surrounding homes.  

Explore this project further in this video walk-through.

Products Used

Bathroom plumbing fittings: Kohler, low-flow
Bathroom plumbing fixtures: Duravit,  dual-flush
Bathroom cabinets: Ikea and custom
Countertops: Ice Stone recycled porcelain and glass
Dishwasher: GE, Energy Star
Entry doors: Salvaged; Loewen
Hardware: Stanley;  McCaster Carr
HVAC equipment: geothermal water furnance
Kitchen cabinets: custom fabricated; Ikea
Oven: GE
Paints/Stains: Sherwin Williams
Range: GE
Refrigerator: GE, Energy Star
Siding: TrespaCBF 
Skylights/roof windows: Velux
Windows: LoewenEagle
Flooring: Wood: salvaged from existing house, FSC-certified white oak, porcelain tile with high recycled content
Basement rubber floor: Expanko recycle rubber tiles
Lighting: ViabizzunoLutron dimming and control systems
Siding: Trespa

Click to see the 17 other winners in the 2014 Remodeling Design Awards.

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