Saunders, Real Estate, Hamptons

Hamptons Life

Oct 1, 2009 3:05 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

National Solar Tour showcases range of possibilities for green homes

Oct 1, 2009 3:05 PM

It’s the simple fact that green building can be less expensive than traditional building, and that society has a responsibility to work with the environment instead of against it, that motivated architect Bill Chaleff to put his East Hampton home on the solar tour every year.

“However long they’ve been doing it, that’s how long this house has been on it,” he said during a tour of his home last week.

Mr. Chaleff’s home has a curved red roof and is nestled about 5 feet into the ground on three sides for temperature control. The house also incorporates solar panels and daylighting, and was constructed with structural insulated panels made up of polystyrene foam (the material used to make coffee cups) and oriented strand board (chips of wood glued together to form a solid board).

Chaleff & Rogers, Mr. Chaleff’s architectural firm in Water Mill, has been designing solar low-energy, low-cost buildings since 1974. He estimates he’s built more than 200 buildings with structural insulated panels but can’t be sure of an exact number because he stopped counting. The material, Mr. Chaleff said, costs the same or less than the traditional 2-by-4 studs used to build houses but doesn’t do the environmental damage.

“I just will not build with sticks anymore,” he said. “It’s silly and not the best value. And as an architect, that’s what we’re supposed to be looking out for.”

Mr. Chaleff said his greatest concern as an architect and as a solar home owner is the misconception among people in his industry that green building costs more. Since his and many other green homes are constructed in wooded, secluded areas, Mr. Chaleff said he uses the “National Solar Tour” as an opportunity to spread the message that building green doesn’t have to be expensive.

“This is the only way to build,” he said. “I want to be a part of this cultural shift.”

Combatting and changing sometimes negative perceptions is also on Mr. Raacke’s agenda for the tour. “People can tend to think of green building as a sort of hippie technology, he said, adding that he’s discovered many homeowners who credit the tour for helping them make the decision to embrace solar technology.

“People go on the tour and they find that this is really mainstream now and it works,” he said. “Seeing is believing.”

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