How the Proud Green Home of St. Louis got its start
When Michael and Emily Kuentz found out they were transferring from Fort Worth to St. Louis, they knew they wanted to build a new home that was healthy for their family.
Their middle child suffered from asthma and allergies, and Emily simply wanted a new home that wouldn't aggravate problems for their son, and would be healthy for the whole family.
"We bought land and decided we wanted to build because we don't want to by a home that could be older and have mold, we were just fearful of that," Emily said.
Ready to build green
In Texas they talked with a friend, Don Ferrier, who is a prominent homebuilder and green building advocate.
"We asked Don what green building was all about for the energy efficiency, and being able to use material that would be better for my son and his allergies," Emily said.
But with building a home in a new city, they couldn't choose a builder based on word of mouth recommendations from friends and family.
So they found Hibbs Homes online, and talked with owner Kim Hibbs by phone. Later they met at the building site to look over the land and visualize their dream home. Hibbs also included Matt Belcher, a green building consultant. He is the director of the High Performance Buildings Research Center, part of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Research Consortium at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a principal with Verdatek Solutions, a consulting firm in Wildwood, Mo.
"We met them on site when we bought the land, and we felt comfortable with Kim and Matt and decided to work with them," Emily said.
In turn, Hibbs connected the Kuentzes with architect Curtiss Byrne, who turned their ideas into a plan for a new home.
The Kuentzes had done their research, looking at home plans and deciding what was important for their family's new home.
"We gave Curtiss pictures of a home and a floor plan we really liked and he was able to tweak it to be more unique for our family and to meet our family's needs," Emily said.
Before the Kuentz family relocated to St. Louis, they had conference calls and emails with their building team.
"We were able to go over the concerns we had and the desires of what we wanted and what we needed," Emily said. "Since we moved here, it 's been so much nicer because we can meet on the property."
Bringing a dream home to life
The building team set to work on the design, incorporating the Kuentz's desire for both good indoor air quality and energy efficiency.
"We wanted to meet their concerns for good indoor air quality using materials with low or zero VOCs," Byrne said.
The design also took into account a family with three young children, an active lifestyle, and relatives who would come for a visit.
"They wanted a fairly open plan with the ability to close off the kids wing," Byrne said. "Also the site had great view out the front, so we tried to maximize the views there, and we used a lot of natural light and controlled the amount of sun with overhangs."
The Kuentzes liked Byrne's initial design and made a few tweaks.
"It was a matter of, let's make the kids bathrooms a little bigger, can we move the stairs from one side of the house to the other," Byrne said.
The design had to be reviewed and approved by the neighborhood's architectural review board and meet the standards, or indentures, of the neighborhood. For instance, the indentures required a masonry fireplace and chimney even though the house would use only a gas fireplace that didn't necessarily require a chimney. The indentures also had requirements for square footage, exterior finishes and other building aspects.
"The indentures had a lot to do with the design consideration, if we had a clear palette could have had a more efficient design than what we ended up with," Belcher said. "We did as well as we could do within the parameters."
Ready for move-in day
As the home rises from the rural lot, the Kuentz family watches with anticipation. They're eagerly waiting for the day when the building site becomes their new home. Emily is looking forward to some of the special touches they designed, including a barn door that will separate the children's wing, and a laundry room that features a craft area.
"We really looked at every single room, every feature, to make sure it was what we wanted," Emily said.
The most important aspects of the home will be all but invisible. But each day in the home will reflect the devotion to quality behind its design and construction.
"The main thing we wanted was a home with clean air and materials that were not going to affect my son," Emily said.
Read more about the Proud Green Home of St. Louis.