Ever “Green” Dreams Holiday Tour of Homes

By Gail Condrick

Article published in Natural Awakenings Sarasota in December, 2008

When a Habitat for Humanity house in the New Town neighborhood was under construction earlier this year, the new owner and the volunteers knew they were making a dream come true. What they did not know was they were also creating an award winning green home, ranked one of the top five in Florida Soon the dream goes public as the home is one of four featured in this year’s 32nd annual Junior League Holiday Tour of Homes which has the theme Ever“Green” Dreams.

On December 5 and 6 you are invited to tour four homes chosen for their innovation, green features, and sustainability located at Siesta Key, Laurel Park, Osprey Street and New Town. These homes are not models or prototypes, each of them is occupied by Sarasotans who have chosen to live or build with energy efficient features. And, because it is the holiday season, the homes will also be decorated “green” with examples of solar holiday lights and natural vegetation to spark your own decorating ideas.

Tracy Eisnaugle and Brianne Saba are co-chairs for this year’s event, a project that has been in the works all year.

“The ‘green home’ theme offers an added educational value to anyone who participates in the tour. It’s more than just a chance to admire beautiful homes, any guest may walk out of a home with a wealth of knowledge about the elements that make a home more comfortable and environmentally friendly,” says Brianne Saba.

Tracy Eisnaugle agrees, "As you enter the homes, which are furnished with the owners belongings, docents will point out the green features that make the home unique as well as the structural and energy efficient choices in each home."

The Habitat for Humanity home has been certified with the Florida Green Home Designation and ranked in the top five “green” houses in the state. In addition to energy efficient appliances, the home has carpets made of recycled plastic bottles, long lasting ceramic tile and laminate flooring, cost saving solar hot water panels, and improved indoor air handling. Florida Power and Light has certified the home as a “BuildSmart” home, one built to the highest standards of energy efficiency and expected to have energy bills 30% less than other homes that meet code requirements. And the green features continue on the exterior with metal roofing and a Florida friendly yard with efficient watering system and appropriate plantings.

The Siesta Key home, originally built in 1953 is an example of a “green” renovation project. The owners liked the existing neighborhood with it established homes and large trees, but the home they found did not meet their space needs. Instead of tearing down the existing house, they expanded from a two bedroom 2,000 square foot rambler to a four bedroom 3500 square foot four bedroom home. The ceiling has been lifted from 7 to 9 feet, exposing the trusses wrapped with reclaimed wood, an original bedroom became a dining room, and the former garage converted into two bedrooms connected with a hall bath with river rocks on the floor. The creativity and reuse continues with a dining table from the 1700’s and a side table that began its life as a door in Mexico.

At Osprey Avenue modern design blends with the history of a Florida style Cracker house. The owner inherited the property from his grandmother and moved the original house preserving history. The new home kept many of the Cracker design features that work today, with an open floor plan, large porch, and cross ventilation. This home has corrugated steel siding and Galvalune roofing which will never need to be repainted and reflects heat. Not viewable but important is an eco-soy based insulation material for energy performance which is applied under the roof. In addition, bamboo cabinets, concrete floors, and the first known Sarasota use of ice stone countertops, an ice/concrete mix, are used in the kitchen.

In Laurel Park, the home owners wanted to create as small an environmental footprint as possible and a livable space for the family. Choices included a rain water watering system and other green construction features that will enable the home to be LEED Platinum and Florida Green Building Coalition certified. Even the interior has a unique recycled quality with a table made from the window shutters of the Old Ringling Towers.

“A common misconception about building green is that it has to "look" a certain way. We think that you'll find that this tour corrects that misconception," says Brianne Saba.

Last year approximately 15,000 people attended the Holiday Tour of Homes which raised $35,000 for local charities. The hope is that this year the attendance will be even better.

Proceeds from Ever“Green” Dreams Holiday Tour of Homes will benefit the Child Advocacy Center of Sarasota. Tickets may be purchased from Junior League members, participating retailers, and at Sarasota Naturally for $20 in advance, or $25 at the door. For more information on purchasing tickets which identifies the homes on the tour, contact the Junior League at 953-5600.

Copyright © Gail Condrick, 2008

Gail Condrick is a writer and lover of all things earth and ocean living in Sarasota, Florida. Write to Gail