Faculty couple LEED-ing the way to greener living
Harry Kurtz and Julia Frugoli, professors in the Department of Genetics and Biochemistry, have taken the concept of green living to new heights in South Carolina through their state-of-the-art, environmentally efficient home in Central. Featuring innovative energy conservation systems and designs, the house represents the couple’s enthusiastic commitment to a cause that is both personally and practically important to them.
Plans for the house began in 2006 after the couple lost their son, Nathaniel, in a skiing accident. An environmental engineer, Nathaniel spent much of his adult life working on sustainability and conservation projects around the world, from composting systems in Guatemala to pollution awareness in Thailand. At the time of the accident, Kurtz and Frugoli had been making plans to remodel the house and decided that going green would be an appropriate way to honor Nathaniel’s memory.
“We feel this house is very much in the spirit of Nathaniel’s life, and we want it to be, in part, a memorial to him,” said Frugoli.
The home was the first in the state to apply for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Developed in 2000, LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system that provides homeowners with a framework for implementing environmentally efficient design and construction practices. LEED uses a points system that awards houses ratings of Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum. Kurtz and Frugoli’s home received a Platinum rating.
Before breaking ground on the new project, the old house had to be demolished. Keeping with the principles of sustainability, the couple donated many parts of the old building, including the heating system, hot water heater, and plumbing and lighting fixtures, to Habitat for Humanity for resale. Much of the timber that was cleared after the demolition was reused for flooring and trim in the new house.
The couple says that finding an architect in South Carolina familiar with LEED residential design was perhaps the most difficult part of the building process, as theirs was the first home to apply for LEED certification in the state. However, the search proved successful, and architect Bob Bourguignon became an instrumental resource for materials, people and technologies that adhere to LEED specifications. After beginning construction in 2007 with Paradise Upstate, a company owned by a Clemson alumnus, Kurtz and Frugoli moved into their new home by December 2008. The couple says the house is still a work in progress, but they are happy to continue developing it.
The house features some of the most innovative systems available in energy efficiency today. Instead of conventional solar panels, photovoltaic film produces between 40 and 60 percent of the house’s electricity needs. The photovoltaic material adheres directly to the house’s metal roof, eliminating the need for conspicuous panels.
To reduce the energy used for heating and cooling, Kurtz and Frugoli chose the Sanyo Mini ECOi System, which divides the house into multiple interior units that operate independently. Through this system, temperature is controlled only in areas of the house that are being used. In addition to low-flow sinks, toilets and showers, the house conserves water by collecting and routing rainwater from the roof to a pump that distributes water to landscape plants through drip irrigation.
Keeping with the spirit of sustainability and promoting a growing interest in green landscaping design, Kurtz and Frugoli invited Clemson students in the Spring 2008 Horticulture 461 class to help create plans for the house’s landscape. Students researched and presented proposals for the property that were later modified and expanded by Clemson alumnus Nat Bradford of EcoArt to form the final layout.
Through student involvement with and exposure to projects such as their LEED house, Kurtz and Frugoli hope to promote green initiatives of various scopes in the Clemson community. The couple commends the University’s commitment to sustainability through renovations and building projects around campus that incorporate LEED standards, but they are also quick to remind students and community members that going green doesn’t always require breaking ground.
“Our house was a huge project that involved an enormous amount of effort,” Kurtz said. “But everyone doesn’t have to build a house. You can insulate, get new windows or change your heating pump. For students, it’s as easy as riding the bus to campus.”
“I’m always getting caught fishing cans and bottles out of trash bins to put in recycling containers,” said Frugoli, smiling. “Ultimately, green is not a thought process. It’s a lifestyle of conscious decisions.”
As a cutting-edge example of green living, Kurtz and Frugoli’s home contains a vast wealth of these conscious decisions, from vegetable gardens and chickens to Energy Star appliances and recycled building materials. Through ambitious projects like the LEED home and the promotion of green living on campus, Kurtz and Frugoli are leading the way on a path of reduced carbon footprints and bolder initiatives for the future.