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Environmental lawyer spends $2M building a home that meets green building certifications

Posted Sep 6, 2013 1:39 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Eric Lemelson’s quest to build a livable home that meets stringent green-building certifications cost about $2 million and lasted through three years of construction.

Lemelson’s 3,500 square foot, four-bedroom home is in Oregon wine country, next to one of seven vineyards where he grows the grapes for his winery, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports. It also sits only about 400 yards from his former house, occupied by his ex-wife and son.

Lemelson's goal was to meet certification requirements for Passive House (requiring an airtight building and solar power for heat), LEED Platinum (based on sustainability) and Minergie-P-ECO (emphasizing comfort while consuming less energy and resources). He traveled to Switzerland to learn about Minergie, hired a passive-house consulting company, and hired a construction company led by the president of the Passive House Alliance, according to the story.

Air is brought in from the outside through a heat-recovery ventilator, the article says. Outdoor window overhangs and external window shades help control cooling. Lemelson couldn’t use a gas stove, because it would have to be vented outside and it could create particulate emissions. Part of the payoff: His energy bills will likely be less than $50 a year.

"This house isn't an example for your average person," he tells the Wall Street Journal.

Lemelson manages a foundation that focuses on the impact of climate change in the Himalayas, as well as a foundation established by his inventor father and mother to encourage other inventors. Fortune magazine had this 2001 story on Lemelson's father and the "wily lawyer" who helped him reap $1.5 billion from his patents.

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