If you visit Charlottesville, Virginia, a place that you must visit is Monticello. This was Thomas Jefferson’s mountaintop home. It’s an amazing example of neoclassic design, one that Jefferson would use again and again as he designed public buildings across Virginia. It’s also a vivid testament to the fact that Jefferson was a curious tinkerer.
When Jefferson wasn’t busy writing the Declaration of Independence or living in France as the United States Minister or serving as our 3rd President, he would return to Monticello. Over the course of his time there, he built and rebuilt, modified and renovated. While his home is now very much a museum today, it was never quite up to his satisfaction during his life.
Jefferson placed Monticello on top of a hill along the Rivanna Gap to take advantage of the sweeping views of the Virginia countryside. One drawback to this was the exposure to constant sunlight in the summer. Temperatures in the Virginia Piedmont can be brutal in the summer. During one of his many renovations, Jefferson created an enormous center hall at Monticello, with rooms on either side. The entire thing was covered with an octagonal cupola. The center hall allowed fresh breezes to constantly sweep through the house, and the daytime heat rose up into the dome of the cupola. Windows atop the house could then be opened, allowing the heat to escape.
It was energy efficient before we had electricity.
When we create dream homes for our clients, we discuss with them their needs, their tastes, and their future plans.
- Location, location, location.
While most of our clients don’t have the luxury of thousands of acres and an empty mountaintop when they build their home, where it sits on the property is important. During early site visits, we’ll look at where the sun rises and sets. Properly placed rooms and windows can use that sunlight to light and heat rooms, lowering energy costs.
- Too often, the first thing a developer does when it acquires a property is clear it. Leaving mature trees in place not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of a home, but they help shade the home in the heat of summer. This takes some of the burden off of your HVAC system.
- Energy Efficient Appliances.
Our clients have a million options when it comes to things like stoves and water heaters and washers & dryers. We always, however, look for those appliances with a high Energy Star rating.
- Insulation is Everything.
One of the first steps in a new home construction is sealing the foundation. We do this not only to protect it from future water damage, but to ensure that the cool air you pump in during the summer months doesn’t escape, and the warm air you blow in the winter stays in your home. This extends to the insulation in the walls, in the attic and crawlspaces, and most especially to the windows.
- Smarter is Better.
A few years ago, a friend went to Iceland. Everything there is heated using geothermal energy, and it’s dirt cheap. So, even in winter, people frequently crack their windows open. They can crank up the heat during those long, dark months, and their windows become the thermostat. If you’ve lived in an older home, you may remember trying to find a wrench so that you could turn the radiator up or down. Modern energy systems have a host of smart devices and thermostats that allow you to control what temperatures go where, and when they do it. You can program them to your daily habits and the energy needs of you home, making your utility use smarter and cheaper.
Again, we design and build homes for our clients based on a number of different likes, wants, and wishes. But by starting out with energy efficiency in mind, we can build one that is more comfortable every day, and saves money over the years.