A local homebuilder introduces the Main Line to a new shade of green.
Photos by John Lewis
The new Tudor-style house on Beaumont Road looks like it’s been a part of its Devon neighborhood forever. But while its impressive façade, generous square footage and impeccable landscaping complements the surrounding homes, it’s unlike any other on the block—or the Main Line, for that matter.
It’s just that element of surprise that custom homebuilder Mark Janiczek was going for. “One of the many myths about green homes is that they have to be contemporary in style,” says Janiczek. “That’s obviously not the case. This is an English Tudor traditional filled with green techniques.”
That’s not the only myth Janiczek has debunked with his latest spec project. “There are a lot of misconceptions about green,” he says. “People don’t understand what it is.”
The U.S. Green Building Council defines a green home as one that “incorporates smart design, technology, construction and maintenance elements to significantly lessen the negative impact of the home on the environment and improve the health of the people who live inside.” And Janiczek has proven that adhering to those requirements is possible without sacrificing the style, sophistication and comfort Main Liners are accustomed to.
Though Janiczek wouldn’t call himself a tree-hugger, he is dedicated to promoting green design, building practices and materials. He is co-chair of the Residential Working Group for the Delaware Valley Green Building Council and a member of the board of the Philadelphia-based startup firm Greenable, which provides enviro-friendly building products and design and consulting services to residential and commercial markets. Janiczek’s earth-friendly initiative has taken him all the way to Costa Rica, where he’s now a consultant, site designer and builder for a new sustainable development project.
Eight years ago, Janiczek’s first venture into green building was a barn he dismantled in Valley Forge and reassembled in Gladwyne. What he learned on that project inspired him to continue using the same practices. “Green is about being environmentally sensitive, energy efficient and living in a healthy environment,” he says.
Throughout his 20-year building career, Janiczek has championed recycling. “Two of the biggest principles behind building green are being efficient and properly using resources,” he says.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, construction and demolition refuse accounts for 25 percent of all landfill waste. Using recycled materials reduces the amount of debris and cuts back on the raw materials needed to produce new products.
The initial plan for the Devon site was to renovate the existing house, but it made more economic sense to tear it down and start from scratch. Instead of bulldozing, Janiczek dismantled the home so he could reuse brick, flagstone, timber and other materials. Anything left over was hauled away by Philadelphia’s Construction Waste Management, which sorts through the refuse and recycles it.
Everywhere in the home are examples of Janiczek’s ability to breathe new life into old products and materials, starting with the front door (pictured above)—and not just any door. More than 120 years old and made of oak, it was salvaged from a neighboring mansion. Its limestone surround was also recycled from an earlier project. “The door makes a wonderful architectural statement,” says Janiczek.
All the oak floors throughout the house (pictured above) are recycled barn beams from dismantled Lancaster farms and fencing from the local estate that was once home to the racehorse Barbaro. The distressed look of the recycled wood gives the flooring character and brings warmth to the rooms. Additional materials were salvaged closer to home, including beautiful antique terra-cotta tiles from the Regina Mundy Convent on Waterloo Road in Devon, which was demolished in 2002. The tile is used in the entrance to the mudroom. The library’s fireplace has an antique cast-iron surround, and the herringbone hearth is made of recycled brick from the original house.
A stunning oak antique display cabinet (pictured above) was put to good use in the butler’s pantry area for storage and as a decorative accent. Upstairs in the master bathroom’s toilet room, an antique brass porthole salvaged from a Long Island tugboat adds a touch of whimsy and serves as a window in the small space. “I’ll find things, and I know I’ll be able to use them in some way in one of my projects,” says Janiczek.
A green home is also a healthy home. According to the EPA, indoor air is three times more polluted than outdoor air, and it’s considered one of the top five hazards to human health. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other toxins can fill the home from sources like paint, stains and insulation. VOCs and toxins are released into the air by a process called offgassing, which can continue for years after application.
Janiczek took an aggressive approach for his Devon spec home, using low- or no-VOC materials and low- or no-formaldehyde products. Carpeting is another source of offgassing, so all of it (pictured below) is made with recycled content and no formaldehyde.
“Most suppliers have these materials available to them,” Janiczek says. “It’s just a matter of knowing what to ask for.”
Initially, Janiczek found it challenging to acquire the green products and materials he needed. “Now I find that they’re far more readily available,” he says. “It also makes it easier that there are more suppliers of green products.”
Another myth is that these products—and green construction in general—are substantially more expensive. “That’s not the case,” contends Janiczek. “There’s a minimal additional cost with green construction, which is understandable because you’re buying higher-quality, more durable products.”
A fast-growing plant that helps reduce carbon dioxide gases, bamboo is one of the most environmentally friendly, renewable materials one can incorporate into a green home. Janiczek used bamboo in the second-floor bathroom for countertops, robe hooks, a mirror frame and towel bars.
Cork is another favorite renewable resource for flooring and countertops. Essentially, cork is derived from stripping off tree bark, which grows back in a few years. Janiczek opted for a mocha brown cork floor in the laundry room. “Cork and bamboo come in a variety of colors and designs,” he says. “So both materials easily can fit into any décor.”
Along with its aesthetic appeal, hypo-allergenic cork also receives high marks for its durability, resilience, insulation, impermeability and ease of maintenance.
From the bench seat to the paneling, all of the custom millwork in the library is made from pine obtained from Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) sources. The FSC is an international agency with guidelines to ensure proper deforestation. FSC wood was also used for the home’s “secret” revolving bookcase door that leads from the library to the living room. “I did it primarily for functional traffic flow between rooms,” says Janiczek. “But it’s also just a fun feature.”
Avoiding trim and crown molding throughout the house was another way to conserve trees—and even the concrete for the project was an eco-conscious choice. It’s made with recycled fly ash, a byproduct of coal-burning power plants that makes concrete stronger, more durable and easier to work with.
In all of the home’s secondary areas, Janiczek used compact fluorescent lighting (CFLs) instead of halogen or incandescent bulbs—though he felt the color of the CFLs wasn’t soft enough for the main living areas. CFL light bulbs produce 75 percent less heat and energy while lasting about 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs.
How well a house is insulated has a direct impact on how much energy it takes to heat and cool it. “It’s all about properly sealing the envelope of the house—and that’s not just the insulation in the walls but the vapor barriers and various caulking components that seal all the penetration,” says Janiczek. “My company implements a process that seals every crevice and crack. We use the highest form of insulation in the walls and attic components.”
The Devon spec home’s casement windows (pictured above) are Anderson 400 series, which can save up to 25 percent on cooling bills and 10 percent on heating costs. The home’s high-efficiency HVAC system with hybrid fuel (gas and electric) also ensures lower energy bills. “I’m comfortable in saying that an owner could realize a reduction of approximately 25 percent or more with the energy-efficiency systems and insulations currently in this house,” Janiczek says.
Elsewhere, a tankless hot water heater conserves energy by heating only the amount necessary at the time. Low-volume water fixtures in the powder rooms help conserve water, as do the dual-flush toilets.
Outside, all the existing shrubbery was salvaged from the original house and relocated to the perimeter of the property. A 35-foot specimen Stewartia tree that originally stood in the footprint of the new house was relocated to the back of the house. “It took a substantial amount of money. But, in our mind, it was the right thing to do,” says Janiczek.
During the excavation process, they ran into several large boulders, which were incorporated into the landscape. Janiczek also planted two rain gardens, an essential way to reduce runoff. Water captured in the garden (which features native plantings) slowly filters into the ground.
Green homes are expected to comprise 10 percent of new home construction by 2010, up from 2 percent in 2005. Janiczek plans on being an increasing part of that percentage. He’s in the process of getting approval on a four-lot subdivision in Devon that he hopes will be the first LEED-certified single-family home development on the Main Line. Part of the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the national benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. A ranking system for residential homes was just established last year.
“The Beaumont Road home is an extremely green house, but it didn’t meet all the various requirements for LEED,” says Janiczek. “I’m very excited that my new project will inspire other green houses.”
Janiczek has built homes as sprawling as 10,000 square feet. But the houses for this project will be just 2,500. “As I age and mature, my projects are getting smaller in size,” he says. “I’m a big proponent of any form of green being better than none. And now more than ever, clients are receptive to incorporating green into their projects.”
The Janiczek spec home was sold in March. Its eco-friendly, health-minded construction was a major factor in the buyer’s decision.
Builder: Janiczek Homes, Mark Janiczek, Wayne, (610) 952-1221, janiczekhomes.com
Architect: F.L. Bissinger, Fredrick L. Bissinger Jr., 1502 Old Gulph Road, Villanova, (610) 525-6438
Green Living Online
greenable.net (Responsible Building Solutions, Showroom and Design Studio, 126 Market St., Philadelphia; 215-922-6066)
A local hub for interior and exterior green building products and services.
dvgbc.org (Delaware Valley Green Building Council, Philadelphia, 215-625-4485)
The local chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council is an indispensable regional resource for green building and environmentally responsible living.
Also try …
Healthy House Call
You obviously know who’s living in your house, but do you know what’s living there? The answer could do wonders to improve your family’s health—which is why Healthy Spaces’ Jim and Teresa Quigley might be the most important guests in your home. “We started Healthy Spaces back in 2004 with the simple mission of helping customers create healthier homes,” says Jim of his Delaware Valley business.
For more than a decade, Jim’s sinus congestion led to many a sleepless night, while Teresa endured headaches and had difficulty breathing. Soon after a home remodeling project—in which they removed mold and old carpeting, sealed water leaks, and repainted with no-VOC paints—the couple’s ailments disappeared. “We’re bringing our knowledge and experience to others,” says Jim.
Healthy Spaces offers mold testing and moisture assessment; indoor air-quality testing; air and water filtration; healthy home assessments; consultation on design and construction of new homes and offices; and research on possible links between health ailments and their environmental causes. The Quigleys can also evaluate products used in the home and offer healthier alternatives. “There’s a lot of misunderstanding in the marketplace about what is green,” says Teresa. “There are low-VOC paints that still have carcinogens that offgas. We educate clients on what they should be looking for.”
“We’re not alarmists,” adds Jim. “There’s almost always a solution to whatever issue, and it usually can be resolved in a cost-effective way.”
To learn more, visit healthyspaces.com.
Healthy Home Tips
No shoes inside. They track in dirt, heavy metals such as lead, and larvae that can cause disease in pets. Have indoor slippers or socks by the front door.
Keep plants indoors. Several types help clean the air, including dracaena, areca palm, ferns, English ivy, peace lily, mums, daisies, spider plants, and mother-in-law tongue.
Forget about air fresheners. Many have formaldehyde, and solid ones can be fatal if eaten by children or pets. Avoid using air purification systems that create ozone, a known lung irritant. Set out a bowl of citrus fruits or herbal teas for natural fragrance and baking soda or vinegar to absorb odors. Open the windows to allow fresh air indoors.
Don’t use ammonia- or chlorine-based cleaning products. A homemade concoction of baking soda and vinegar will keep drains clear and clean sinks, tubs, toilets, counters and more.
Vacuum rugs or carpeting weekly with a HEPA vacuum cleaner and HEPA filter. Sprinkle on baking soda a few minutes beforehand to absorb odors.
Make sure gutters, downspouts and downspout extensions are clear of debris and working properly. To keep water out of your house.
To learn more, call (215) 233-1852 or visit healthyspaces.com.