Eco-Smart for a Cause

It can be easy to take a house for granted, but the homes Habitat for Humanity provides do not go unappreciated by the Long Islanders in need who receive them. This month, a special residence is underway, one that is the first of its kind for the organization. Woodbury-based Spector Group, a LEED-certified architecture firm, and Habitat for Humanity of Nassau County (HFHNC) have teamed up to construct an energy-efficient home.

Spector Group approached HFHNC with the idea of hosting an in-house competition to design a home aligned with Habitat’s motto, “simple, decent, affordable.” Architect Kate Mulry was the winner with “Habitat Haus,” her three- bedroom design. At just more than 1,000 square feet, the home is packed with eco-friendly, energy-saving ideas. “We are using standard construction materials, but it’s how they are being used that will make this home stand out from the rest,” said Mulry.

The design takes full advantage of the climate, solar angles and wind to help maintain a comfortable temperature and reduce the need for auxiliary heating and cooling. Large, south-facing glazed windows let in plenty of sunlight to help warm the house in the winter and rigid insulation in the walls locks the heat within. Mulry explained a thermal mass wall and convective cooling are also incorporated to regulate temperature. These innovations can all be integrated using standard construction practices and materials. “The solar panels are the only advanced technology going into the home,” Mulry said.

While Habitat typically does not do landscaping, Habitat Haus’ design integrates planter boxes around the front and back porch that will work as a natural rainwater filtration system. These planters drain directly into a cistern on site once the plants, gravel and sand do their part to purify the water. This will be the first Habitat home to feature an irrigation system.

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Michael Pfeiffer, HFHNC’s executive director, said that a major factor in choosing Mulry’s design was how well it would fit into the area, something that was important to the family selected for the home. “While it will stand out due to its beauty, the design will still fit into the overall feel of the neighborhood,” said Pfeiffer. A pitched roof, particular exterior materials and a covered entry were some of the features included specifically to fit the surroundings, according to Spector Group senior associate and project designer Paul Anderson.

The project is part of Spector Group’s outreach to celebrate the firm’s 50th anniversary. “This competition underscores our company’s five-decade commitment to giving back,” said Marc Spector, AIA, NCARB and principal of Spector Group. “The partnership with Habitat for Humanity in Nassau County is a natural fit, as it matches our professional focus with Habitat’s primary mission. I, my father and the entire company are enormously proud to be associated with this effort.”

After reviewing nine submissions to the competition, Pfeiffer and a panel of celebrity judges selected Habitat Haus from a group of five finalists. Pfeiffer said that HFHNC usually works on two to three projects each year, sometimes with the help of the larger Suffolk County Habitat office. “This is a crucial time for us to expand and plan for the future,” he said.

annette rose-shapiro

annette rose-shapiro

Annette Rose-Shapiro writes about decor, interior design, art and architecture. She is currently working on a short documentary about the creative process.