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Happy & Healthy

Lake MacLeod home is kind to the earth and its family

The standing seam metal roof reflects heat and energy away from the house.

Shawna and Sherwood Johnson have always been conscious of the world around them. Growing up, they both learned the importance of environmentally safe practices and energy efficiency. “My mother has a solar house in North Carolina,” Sherwood says. “Both Shawna and I were taught about the importance of recycling and why it is important to look at the food you eat and the air you breathe.”

Urban Tree Forge created the unique entry door, which is made of ash.

A natural decision

So, about four years ago, when they started the process of building a new home for their family, it was only natural that they decided to construct a green home. “It isn’t only about building an energy-efficient home, it’s about building a healthy home for our children,” Sherwood explains. “All of the components and materials that went into this home are not only good for the environment, they’re good for us.”

They chose the Pine Township community of Lake MacLeod because of the surroundings, and because of the relationship they developed with Tim Shipley and Chris Frank and their construction company, SureGreen. “We are a very active family and we knew living by the lake would be a good fit for us,” Shawna says. “Plus, Tim and Chris wanted to work with us to build a sustainable home.”

The Johnsons teamed up with Lori Smith of Distinctive Dwellings to help them make all the eco-friendly selections, from the concrete flooring on the main floor to the eclectic energy efficient light fixtures. The two-story contemporary boasts a façade of green HardiPlank siding and a recycled standing seam metal roof. “The roof features a special PPG coating that reflects the majority of the energy away from the house. That means the warm temperatures don’t leak into the house,” say Shipley, who also points out the solar panels recently installed on the roof, which are also generating energy for the home.

A soothing water feature and wonderful views of the lake are just a few of the highlights in the back yard. Shawna and Sherwood are veterinarians, therefore admitted animal lovers. “We have two dogs and three cats,” Sherwood says. “The dogs have their private area and we included catwalks and ledges for the cats inside our home.”

An outdoor shower, made of bamboo and Timbertech composite wood, offers the perfect spot to rinse off after the family spends time at the lake. “My family has a cottage on Cape Cod Bay and the outdoor shower is a favorite convenience after a day at the beach,” Sherwood says. “We knew it would be the perfect addition to our home.”

Custom cabinets from a local wood source and bamboo flooring keep the kitchen green.

A colorful (and green) interior

A big aspect in green building is creating an open floor plan, with an abundance of natural light and natural materials. The main floor of the Johnson home encompasses the kitchen, dining area and living room. The concrete floors flowing through the first floor are topped with a green-hued, low-VOC stain. “The paint and stains used in the home were very important,” Smith says. “Not only were the color combinations important, all 12 paint colors and every stain you see throughout the house are low or no-VOC.”

The kitchen boasts custom cabinetry made from a local wood source, bamboo floors and GE Monogram appliances. The Johnsons point out that they elected not to have any gas lines in their home. “At first I wanted a gas range, but it would have been the only gas line in the house,” Shawna says. “It just didn’t make sense. So we went with an induction cooktop and it was probably one of the best decisions we made.”

The adjoining living room offers views of the front entry door, made of ash by Urban Tree Forge, and a water feature, as well as a saltwater fish tank and a fireplace. A bamboo-staircase leads to the second floor, which houses four bedrooms, a laundry room and the master suite. “The décor was very important to Shawna and Sherwood,” Smith says. “They made a point of finding unique, local vendors to create one-of-a-kind pieces for their home.”

Among the unique pieces are the vanity mirrors in the master bathroom, custom made to resemble tree branches. Paperstone countertops, a solid surface made from recycled paper, complement the natural look of the mirrors.

The loft features a bold floor made of black and tiger bamboo.

Family-friendly activities

The Johnsons wanted to create a healthy environment for their two sons, 8-year-old Connor and 5-year-old Koven, but they also wanted to make sure they offered a happy home. Living on the lake provides plenty of outdoor entertainment, but the couple also wanted something unique inside the home. This is where the rock-climbing wall comes into play. Shawna says they had initially considered adding a climbing wall to the fireplace surround, since original plans called for a two-story living room. “When we decided on the lower roofline, the idea disappeared,” she adds.

The idea popped back up when they were looking at the design for the entry by the mudroom. The wall extends up the two-story wall and into the lower level. “We’re not avid climbers, but we enjoy outdoor activities,” Shawna says. “The boys and their friends love it and they’ve become quite good at climbing.”

Clean living

Thanks to a partnership with Smith and Shipley, the Johnsons were able to create a sustainable home that is good for the environment and their family. The trio is in the process of submitting the home for LEED certification. They are hoping to receive Platinum certification. The home has already been awarded the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Emerald rating and it is Energy Star Plus certified. “The energy savings are great, but the real benefit of building a green home is that you are creating a healthy and comfortable home for your family,” Shipley says.

Shawna and Sherwood couldn’t agree more. “We love the house. It feels bright, comfortable and connected to the outdoors. We wouldn’t change a thing.”

Hidden Amenities

Toasty temperatures

The home is kept warm thanks to radiant heat flooring and a geothermal heat pump. Instead of pulling in heat from cold outside air, the geothermal system pulls heat from the ground, which is typically around 58 degrees. This drastically reduces the amount of energy required to heat or air condition the home.

The envelope

Builder Tim Shipley says the most important aspect when it comes to building a sustainable house is the envelope. Thanks to a foundation made of Insulated Concrete Forms, or ICFs, there are no drafts. “Nothing can blow through reinforced concrete, so these ICFs are much more energy efficient than a concrete block or poured foundation,” Shipley explains.

To coincide with the foundation, Shipley framed the home using a minimum of 2x6s spaced 24 inches apart to accommodate a thicker layer of spray cell foam insulation to seal each outer wall. The home is topped with a roof system made of structural insulated panels (SIPs). These high performance panels are strong and energy efficient by combining several conventional building components, including I-beams, studs and insulation. They act as an air barrier, leading to fewer drafts and better insulation and resulting in lower energy bills and more comfort.

Air quality

Due to a tighter envelope, a HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system and a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) maintain the air quality in the home. The HRV uses heat exchangers to heat or cool incoming fresh air, preserving most of the energy used to condition the inside air that is exhausted. After moving through the heat exchanger, the warmed or cooled fresh air goes through the HVAC or into different rooms in the house. By transferring energy from the exhaust air to the new fresh air, the home uses less energy, essentially reducing consumption.

The Johnsons’ system also contains HEPA filtration, so any dust, pollen or other impurities are cleaned out, helping to eliminate allergies. Paints, building materials, and furnishings containing VOCs or formaldehyde were avoided to improve air quality.


Architect: FortyEighty Architecture; Builder: SureGreen; Designer: Distinctive Dwellings; Paint: PPG Pittsburgh Paints; Home automation: ELAN’s HomeLogic, installed by MGM Automation; Dog patio: K9Grass; Entry door and fireplace mantel: Urban Tree Forge; Appliances: GE Monogram, supplied by Bridgeville Appliance; Master bathroom vanity mirrors and towel racks: Iron Eden; Master bathroom countertops: PaperStone; Cabinetry: Carl Stevens, Stevens Woodworks; Climbing wall: Rockworks, Inc.; Flooring: Plyboo bamboo; EcoTimber bamboo; natural cork; Artemis Environmental; Loft railing panels: Lumicor; Lighting: Teka; Ogetti Luce; Juno; Lightolier; Sea Gull; George Kovacs; MinkaAire Geothermal heating and cooling: Wade Heating and Cooling, WaterFurnace; Spray insulation: InsulRight; Landscape: Funyak Lawn & Landscape Management

To see this article as it appeared in the magazine, please visit our Digital Edition, pages 54-64.


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