Model Remodel: A Colorful Green Renovation in North Carolina

A North Carolina residential designer uses her ultra-green remodel as a mode of artistic expression and a model for green building in her community.

| July/August 2011

When residential designer Jenny Pippin bought her Lake Norman home about an hour from Charlotte, North Carolina, she didn’t have plans for a huge remodel. She did a basic remodel upon moving in and enclosed the carport to create a garage. When the place needed a new roof, Jenny and her husband, Wes Stearns, decided to take the opportunity to make a few other changes. They wanted to add a second story with a new master bedroom that would take advantage of their gorgeous lake view, and their wish list kept growing from there. “The project evolved over a year and a half,” Jenny says. “We went from, ‘We’re adding a bedroom and bath,’ to ‘Let’s add a studio, and while we have the opportunity, why don’t we deal with the site’s runoff issue?’” 

Land Preservation 

Though she was working on her NC HealthyBuilt Homes green building certification from the North Carolina Solar Center at the time she was remodeling, Jenny had long been an advocate of sustainable design, and she was committed to working within her home’s original footprint and to creating as little waste as possible. However, her home’s site had some major drainage issues that had come to light after she enclosed the carport to create the garage. The plot slopes severely from the high front yard down to the lakeshore in the backyard. Water running downhill hit the home and garage and had nowhere to go, creating the potential for mold problems.

Jenny and builder Willis Spivey of Spivey Construction came up with a plan to regrade the site, collecting rainwater via catchment basins throughout the yard, and to build a new first floor, level with the front yard, on top of the original home. Jenny also wanted to move her business to her home, eliminating her long commute (more than an hour to travel just 18 miles, each way), and Wes, a hobby photographer at the time, was planning to build a photography business out of the home. They topped the new first floor, which houses a great room, master bedroom and bathroom, with an airy studio and work space with lots of windows and a stunning view of the lake.

Though they needed to add space to their home, Jenny’s No. 1 priority throughout the remodel was working with the site to better enable her home to coexist with its beautiful natural surroundings. “Working with the site itself was critical to us,” Jenny says. “One of the key things is making sure whatever you do to the site flows with what’s already there—the existing trees, the lay of the land, the path of the sun. It’s like putting a puzzle together.”

Regrading a portion of the site allowed Jenny to make her home’s connection to the water a benefit, rather than a problem. The land needed to drop significantly to get from the driveway level to the lake level, so she and Spivey created a deep drop at the front of the house with a walkway to connect the driveway and front door, which allows the land to dip down below.

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