The house you never have to leave

| 03 Jan 2013 | 06:10

Ten months ago we wrote about a builder’s plans to turn a down-and-out Warwick ranch house into a model of what a green home can be. We decided it was time to check back in with Thom Woglom and the house on Hawthorne Street.

Thom, with his son and partner Dave, had gutted the house, put on a new roof, excavated the backyard so the basement windows have light, and built a covered entryway. The inside was still a skeleton because funding was proving hard to come by. “There are no comparables to what we’re working on,” Thom said. “Banks have no understanding.” But when we spoke in early December, Thom expected to have a $200,000 loan by month’s end, and the house finished in seven months.

Green features will include containers of edible plants (edible for people, not deer, Thom clarifies); LED lights that run on DC current, and eventually, a solar panel to run those lights; and a 14-inch chrome cylinder called a Solatube that will pipe daylight in without letting out heat like a skylight. But the most fundamental upgrade is “sealing the envelope,” from the basement floor through the triple-glazed windows to the roof. They’ll double the width of the walls and add soffits to the ceiling, and pad them with shredded newspaper called cellulose.

Walking through the wall-less structure with the Wogloms, I begin to see what they see. Although there’s a basement, it’s essentially a separate apartment; the house can be lived in without ever taking a step up or down. It’s a growing trend called universal design: the building is accessible to people with disabilities without feeling “handicap-accessible.” A ramp leads to the front door, the shower has no curb, and rooms have a five-foot radius of free space to turn a wheelchair. A baby boomer who moved in would never have to leave. There’s a walkable loop that includes the patio; people with Alzheimer’s, said Thom, remain calm if they can walk in circles without having to make decisions.

Paid: $135,000

Value when done: $307,000

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