Going GREEN by the Ocean blue


At first glance, the house at 116 First Street in Bethany Beach might look like any other construction project in the beach town. Where once there was an outdated beach cottage, now sits a newly constructed, modern house in its place.

Coastal Point • Monica Fleming: This newly constructed home at 116 First Street in Bethany Beach is owned by Rick and Kathleen Wheeler. The couple chose to build the home with environmentally friendly features inside and out.Coastal Point • Monica Fleming
This newly constructed home at 116 First Street in Bethany Beach is owned by Rick and Kathleen Wheeler. The couple chose to build the home with environmentally friendly features inside and out.

For owners Rick and Kathleen Wheeler, the original plan was to keep that cottage, but after some drainage and mold issues were discovered, they decided they would start over.

Their newly constructed dream home is “green” — from the bottom up and the inside out. Instead of merely demolishing their new cottage to make room for their new home, the Wheelers, of Annapolis, Md., decided they would de-construct it instead.

“We had Habitat for Humanity come and deconstruct it,” said Rick Wheeler. “They used about 85 to 95 percent of the materials for use in other buildings, which more and more people are starting to do. There is a lot of useable stuff, like drywall, timbers and hardwood floors.”

With a lot of direction from their architect, Sam Stusek of Surfaces Inc., based in Annapolis — who according to Wheeler, has had an environmentally friendly stance in building for some time now — they decided they wanted to build the house as green as possible.

That decision was simple. Living in close proximity to the Chesapeake Bay has taught them a respect for the environment around them, and in their main house they already had geo-thermal heating and cooling.

“[Working with our architect] put us in the mode of ‘green construction,’” said Wheeler.

After putting out a bid, they found Steve Smith of Summer Hill Builders in Ocean View to contract their job.

“In a sense, we took a chance on Steve because it was his first time doing something like this. But we were very comfortable with what he had built in the past and he allowed us to designated the subcontractors, and it’s amazing how quickly it’s gone up, like, ‘Boom’ — it’s up,” said Wheeler.

According to Smith, the house is applying four major “green building” techniques: the use of insulated concrete walls (ICFs), which are extremely strong and efficient and allow them to curb the construction waste that come along with traditional stick framing; the third story is framed with posts and beams that attach to structurally insulated panels (SIPs) for the gambrel and shed dormers, which again are very efficient and don’t create waste; the home will use geo-thermal heating and cooling; and finally, it will have two tankless water heaters.

“These systems are extremely efficient and greatly reduce the amount of fossil fuels needed to supply the home with energy sources needed for everyday use,” said Smith.

“There are so many ideas being developed,” continued Smith. “I’ve been a custom home builder and community developer for over 15 years and I’ve seen a positive change toward more environmentally friendly development in the attitudes of everyone in our industry.

“There is definitely a new trend toward neo-traditional new urbanist community design and new green building construction techniques. Unfortunately, these new ‘green’ designs are much more costly than traditional building. I’d like to see the federal and state governments focus more funding to subsidize these types of construction methods that create a cleaner environment and reduce our dependency on fossil fuels,” he said.”

An added bonus to the way the roof and house is constructed will be the sound insulating factor.

“For the roof, we’ll have SIPs panels, and we’ll have exposed beams made out of engineered wood as opposed to real timber,” said Wheeler. “It’s environmentally friendly and will give it a nice look and is extremely energy efficient. Between the roof structure and the SIPs panels, it should be pretty quiet.”

Wheeler added that, inside the home, they will be using engineered wood floors and most likely will use Ice Stone, a durable surface material made from recycled glass and concrete for countertops. For the outside, they plan to use cedar shingles from local suppliers for a classic Bethany style.

The green aspect doesn’t stop at the house, though. The Wheelers plan even for a more environmentally friendly driveway. The driveway will be all pavers, so the grass can grow and water can get into the ground.

“The kids can’t wait,” continued Wheeler, “they are really excited about getting back to the beach. It’s really going to be a legacy house for my wife and I to enjoy, and our kids, and, hopefully, their kids.