By Richard L. Gaw
The Camp, so named by its new owners, is in the middle of a seven-acre patchwork of woods, streams, fields and a two-acre pond in Landenberg, and if a visitor did not know any better, he or she would feel removed from any notion of neighbors or outside interference. It is a Private Idaho of peace and serenity, where a bald eagle or osprey may do a flyover at any minute, and where the setting sun over the pond turns the sky into a pale gold.
Through the end of November, The Camp is also serving as the working canvas for builder Hugh Lofting of Hugh J. Lofting Construction Management Services. If it isn't already the perfect marriage of design, creativity and efficiency, it sure will be when it's completed.
For the last 30 years, Hugh Lofting Timber Framing, Inc., headquartered in West Grove, has been one of the nation's leaders in the design and construction of timber frame homes. Using hand-carved timber, the Lofting group has made its reputation by combining old world craftsmanship with new world technology – not only in residential building, but in the design and construction of public buildings.
Open the door to any of the company's projects and you will also find a commitment to energy-efficient, environmentally aware design and building – from reclaimed timbers to passive solar design to low-impact “green” materials, Hugh Lofting is committed to passive house and LEED construction as a way of the future.
At the end of last year, when the owners approached Lofting and his colleagues with the idea of constructing an extremely energy efficient home at their Camp site, they were quickly on board. As a result, the 2,700-square-foot, single-floor home, scheduled to be completed by Thanksgiving, is being built with special attention to heating and cooling demands and costs.
“The owners approached us with the idea of wanting to build an open-design, high-efficiency home using passive house energy techniques,” said Hugh Lofting. “Because they have the pond as their heating and cooling source, they're able to use a geothermal system. What we're doing now is expanding interior distances and not building walls, and this house is a great example of open building. While interior walls should be able to be adjusted quite easily, we believe the shell is the part of the home that has to last for 300 years.”
When Steve Hessler, designer with Hugh Lofting Timber Framing, Inc., first looked at the original designs for the home that were created by architect Townsend “Townie” Moore, he was hooked.
“Townie created the vision of the owners, and as we do with architects, we moved it from development and concept into construction,” Hessler said. “Along the way, we helped the owners visualize the exterior and then worked with them to create a design for the home's interior.
“I am a junkie for modern design, so this has been really refreshing for me,” Hessler added. “Our clients were so intelligent and knowledgeable in bringing ideas to us, that they've become part of the design process. I love the design of this building, but I also love what the owners wanted: a super clean, open-flow floor plan.”
In 2007, a client asked Lofting to build a LEED-certified house, but he'd been doing sustainable construction since he began the company in 1974.
He pointed around the still unfinished interior of The Camp home. “Over time, they found out if you made an airtight, super-insulated shell, you could save 89 percent on your fuel costs,” he said. “A passive house is a little more expensive, but if you take the money you save on energy, you're covered.”
Lofting and his crew are not the only ones at work on the construction of The Camp. Electronic Home Solutions in Hockessin is installing a home automation system that will allow the owners to control lighting, heating and cooling and a media center through a smartphone or tablet application – eliminating the need for multiple on-off switches and remotes. In addition, the owners have requested that Electronic Home Solutions have the proper wiring infrastructure in place for when they need to have access to healthcare professionals or caregivers.
Lofting said that he sees houses like the one at The Camp becoming a template for how home construction will be done in the future.
“The younger generation is already getting on board, but eventually, I see it as a trend that everyone will have to join, because of [the need for] renewable energy,” he said. “We're finding that people will have to build smaller, more well-insulated houses that will save the world of its natural resources.”