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Alternate Energies

Reconsider Your Sources, Nurture the Planet

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Muffy Ritz and her husband John Tormey have a new favorite color and though you may not find Kermit’s green pallor painted on any walls, the home they will build in consideration of the symbol of environmental good deed doing will instead be it.

When the pair break ground next spring in Hulen Meadows, everything about their abode will be chock-full of energy-saving and energy-generating features.

Here is a sampling of their plans: to build their house into the hillside to use the earth as an insulator; to complete a sun study to figure out how to harness the most sun they can to warm their house in winter while providing plenty of cooling shade in summer; to orient their home so the sun will come through the south-facing windows heating up the fireplace masonry, which will then store the heat and release it as needed; and, they’re planning to add what Ritz calls “eyebrows” to shade the house during summer.

Among the other things they are exploring is the feasibility of tapping into geothermal properties to maintain a comfortable heating range inside without having to crank up the furnace. Structurally insulated panels are being considered because they provide superior insulation while involving less material and less waste than traditional 2-by-4 walls.

They hope to install solar panels to provide the electricity they do need; plan to establish a drought-tolerant lawn to cut down on the water they will use; will install a water reclamation system to collect rainwater and snowmelt–which they’ll re-filter and purify for irrigation and other uses; AND, they’re thinking of planting vegetation on the roof to infuse the atmosphere with a little more oxygen.

Stone will come from local sources because that cuts down on the energy used to transport the materials. They’re also thinking of purchasing recycled timbers from a Salt Lake City train trestle as some other green seekers have done. Regenerated cork or bamboo will comprise the floors and they will choose their countertops with like conscientiousness. Their hot water heater will be tankless and all appliances will meet the maximum standards of energy efficiency.

And, finally, they are exploring the construction of a wetland in their yard to treat the wastewater that is not treated by their septic system.

Even with all of that said, “It probably won’t be a full green house but we’re doing as much as we can,” says Ritz, who has been traveling with her husband to green building conferences throughout the United States to educate herself. “With what’s happening in the world today—global warming and all—I wouldn’t feel good about doing a traditional house. I think it’s time for everybody to think green—green and sustainable.”

Green energy sources and materials are being incorporated into more and more homes around the Wood River Valley. As technology improves, the availability of green materials increases and the prices come down.

Tormey, who owns Tormey Con-struction, Inc., says he doesn’t have a clue at this point how much energy he will save—or, how much he might generate.

“But the building industry is starting to see an influx of green because of what’s happening with petroleum supply and costs. And, after seeing the amount of waste I have in this business, I’m anxious to implement materials I think will be more sustainable,” he says.

“The whole field is like the electronic industry right now—there are so many innovative things going on, it’s hard to keep up with them all.”

Indeed, there are several technologies we could start seeing more and more of in the Wood River Valley, the Camas Prairie and the Sawtooth Valley in the near future. >>>


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