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Eco-conscious Asheville home doesn't sacrifice comfort

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4/11/2011 - Eco-conscious Asheville home doesn't sacrifice comfort
by Stephanie Jadrnicek

Asheville is one of the leading American cities in green building. Left and right, people are turning to green options when building or remodeling. There are many well established companies offering options ranging from affordable to upscale. - Ben Falcon

Eco-conscious without compromise -- that's how Jesse Shepherd and Megan Hansen see their Montford home.

Sharing a history in the Peace Corps and a love for reusing and recycling salvaged furniture, the couple hopes to leave a better world behind. But the reality of the daily grind has hindered them from going completely green in the past. Now, in their new home, they can lead eco-friendly lives without sacrificing.

"We very much want to be eco-friendly people," Jesse said. "This is a house in which we can be eco-friendly and we don't have to compromise. We aren't making any sacrifices by living in this house." Neither is their cat, Gingersnap.

"By most people's standards, you have to have a composting toilet to be green," he said. "But we have all the creature comforts while we live here. I don't feel like we sacrifice much at all."

Built on an infill lot, the two-story contemporary Craftsman-style house doesn't leave a large carbon footprint. Megan and Jesse like the idea of using existing urban space rather than contributing to the increase of suburban sprawl. "There's no sacrifice there, either," Jesse said. "We can walk downtown in 10 minutes."

Old vs. new

With wedding vows in the near future and plans for a family, the couple decided to root in Asheville, close to extended family. Originally, they intended to buy an older home to renovate.

"We looked at a lot of homes that were around 100 years old and though they were beautiful, we could see that they needed a lot of work," Megan said. "When we walked into this house, it was brand new. They hadn't even finished it yet, and it felt like it had been built with such quality."

"If we moved into a 100-year-old house," Jesse said, "we'd be doing projects that we have to do. But by moving into this house, we're only doing projects we want to do."

It's easy being green

As a N.C. HealthyBuilt Home, the house had to meet certain green standards. Considering there's the potential that little ones will be crawling around, the couple appreciates knowing that the materials used in building their home are non-toxic.

Another perk of a healthy home is the financial savings. "You get an Energy Star rating along with the certification. Once you get this rating, you get a 5-percent discount on all your utilities bills for the life of the home," Jesse said. "Based on this home's model, they estimate we'll spend $1,328 to heat and cool this house for an entire year."

Future projects

Within the next year, the couple plans to install several solar panels. They've done their homework and realize they can receive a tax credit up to 65 percent of the cost of the project.

"That means if we spend $10,000 on installing solar panels, we can get back $6,500 which we can apply to other projects like finishing the basement," Jesse said. "All we have to do is tighten our belts a little bit to make this home even more energy-efficient."

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