The residence of Dan and Judge Adele Hedges was recently featured in the Houston Chronicle as part of its “Living Green” section. The article is reproduced below. To read the article on the Houston Chronicle website, please click here.
Couple Turn to Green Power for Their Home
By MAGGIE GALEHOUSE
A Bach fugue spills into the high-ceilinged home of Dan and Adele Hedges. Crisp but welcoming, its the perfect aural counterpoint to a place that softens sharp angles with warm woods and sunshine.
As the couple relax in their living room in late afternoon, tall windows provide all the light they need. The air that surrounds them is cooled — or heated — by a geothermal system that pumps water in a closed loop from wells dug 300 feet underneath the home. And the electricity behind the busy Bach fugue comes straight from the sky — by way of 140 solar panels on the roof.
In short, the serenity of the moment belies years of careful planning that packed the couples green building desires into one average-size Houston lot.
This isn’t casually done, says Dan, his elbows bent and hands sweeping across the general area. This is a very busy piece of land.
The Hedges’s new home is one of the greenest residences in Houston.
Tucked into a 60-by-120-foot corner of Upper Kirby, its nothing like the traditional Georgian-style house they left in River Oaks. And thats one reason that their architects, who also happen to be close friends, admire the couples bold choice.
They could have done anything, said Joe and Gail Adams, the husband and wife team that is Adams Architects, but they chose to build green.
The high-powered Hedges — Adele is a judge and Dan a lawyer — started by making lists of what they wanted in their new home. They wanted storage space. They wanted energy independence and low operations and maintenance costs. They wanted self-sustaining landscaping.
I had gotten so weary of dealing with sprinkler systems, said Adele, who is Chief Justice of the 14th Court of Appeals.
Also on the wish list: a home that could stand up to Houstons volatile weather.
This neighborhood flooded in Allison, said Dan Hedges, a partner at nearby Porter & Hedges. My office building was wiped out. So we wanted a house as hurricane and flood resistant as possible.
What they got, after more than a year of discussion and nearly two years of building, was a contemporary-style home built from steel, aluminum and glass that is designed to give more energy back to the city than it takes.
Adams Architects designed the 3,700-square-foot house to support the solar array on the roof, above the treeline of oaks. Steel trusses, part of the endo- and exo-skeleton of the of the home, leave room for 40-foot ceilings that give the indoors an airy richness.
The downstairs is a modified dogtrot: a middle breezeway separates a garage and a one-bedroom apartment with concrete floors. At the moment, the apartment is home to the Hedges’s two Siberian huskies, Simon and Cricket. Cricket is more than happy to ride the small elevator to the second floor, where the Hedges live. But the big guy — Simon — is just terrified, Dan said.
The front door sits on the west side of the house. Upon entry, a set of bamboo stairs leads up to the Hedges living space, where three different shades of gray — one of many suggestions from local interior designer Marlys Tokerud — keep it clean but cosy. Floor-to-ceiling windows reveal a canopy of oak leaves above and a courtyard below.
Inside, there are few knickknacks to interrupt the overall calm. The spareness of the space is the result of a decision the Hedges made to downsize and simplify. After buying a vacation home in Vermont some years ago, they discovered that living with less was liberating.
We made a pact, said Adele. We have to love everything in the house.
The living space is only one room wide, a shallowness that makes it easier to pull in Gulf breezes from the south and get the air circulating.
On the south side is an extended galley kitchen with 10-foot-long-Richlite counters and bamboo cabinets that hide multiple recycling bins.
The dining room is dominated by a handsome curly maple table, custom-crafted in Vermont, that seats 12. A porch runs along the north side of the home, off the length of the dining room and, further back, the master bedroom. If the couple arent here, lingering over a meal, Adele can be found reading in their bedroom next to a Venetian plaster wall. Dan is partial to the sitting room, where he can watch sports on his flat-screen TV above the Heat & Glo electric fireplace.
The Hedges home is on track to be the first LEED platinum home in Houston. The Leadership in Environmental Design (LEED) designation comes from the U.S. Green Building Council, and points to energy usage, innovation and design, location and linkages, water efficiency, materials, resources and indoor environmental quality.
During the day, the home runs in real time off energy generated by the solar panels. At night, the house is on the grid. If the grid goes down, a back-up battery system kicks in.
We believe overall well feed more into the grid during the day than we take out at night, Dan said.
The home is already on Houstons radar. Cris Eugster, the citys chief officer for sustainable growth, helped the Hedges with difficult permitting for the water cistern.
The Hedges also opened their doors to a film crew from cable TV show Renovation Nation earlier this year, so they should be sharing their space with million of TV viewers sometime this summer.
We consider ourselves environmental evangelists, said Adele Hedges.
We wanted to make a statement.