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Winter Park's greenest family gets award

Rob and Denise Smith, with son Elliott, designed Central Florida's first LEED certified home, and they've been living in it ever since.

Rob and Denise Smith, with son Elliott, designed Central Florida's first LEED certified home, and they've been living in it ever since.

Sarah Wilson

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From the inside out, every design element of Rob and Denise Smith’s Winter Park home serves a purpose.

Outside, from the materials used for their driveway, to the greenery planted around it and the cars parked on it, and inside, from the basic structure of the walls, to the floorboards and fixtures, Rob said every detail has been carefully planned with sustainability and functionality in mind.

“There’s a story behind everything we did,” he said.

The stone on the driveway was repurposed from materials of the house that previously stood on the property, the drywall was recycled from a manufacturer in Tampa, and the decorative pond outside doubles as a rainwater retention area for use of irrigation. Even the couple’s old yellow Labrador retriever, Yeller, has his own tale.

“We rescued him,” Denise said, “so we joke that he’s our recycled dog.”

When bound together, elements of these stories and details combined to make the Smith’s home the first LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — certified residential property in Central Florida in 2009.

Rob, a ‘green’ builder, and Denise, a landscape architect, are known for keeping the environment and sustainable practices in mind in both their personal and professional lives. Last month, the pair was honored with a Keep Winter Park Beautiful Award by the city for their ongoing green efforts in the community.

KWPB Executive Director Tim Maslow said the Smiths are doing a great job of leading by example as to how other citizens, and the city, can incorporate sustainable, environmentally conscious efforts into their home and work.

“They’re doing at the home level what we’re trying to do at the city level,” Maslow said. “We’re hoping more residents and businesses will pick up on it.”

Home sweet home

Learn more

For more information about Rob and Denise Smith’s high-performance-living work, visit www.e2homes.com and www.4egc.com. To keep updated on the city of Winter Park’s ongoing sustainability efforts, visit www.winterparkgreenbutton.org

Parked in the couple’s repurposed driveway are a pair of hybrid vehicles.

“I think I’m probably the only builder who doesn’t drive a truck,” joked Rob, motioning to his compact Toyota Prius.

On the back of each of their cars are bumper stickers representing each member of their family: a man for Rob, woman for Denise, toddler for their son, Elliott, baby for their one on the way, a dog for Yeller, and a bee for the eight hives they host on their roof.

The pair tends to the hives and harvests honey a few times a year. They also grow bananas, key limes, rosemary and thyme from their rooftop garden. It all plays into the sustainability factor of their home, Denise said.

“By growing your own food, you’re making yourself more sustainable while also helping to limit your impact on the world around you,” she said.

Through the plotted-out landscaping around the home, using native plants and less sod, Denise said the ‘mass planting’ method she used to design the greenery helps conserve water and prevent weeds.

She and Rob estimate that while the average Winter Park home owner uses well more than 10,000 gallons of water outside their home per month, they have gotten their usage down to less than 5,000 gallons, which saves not only water, but money.

“Our idea is to integrate green ideas and practices into buildings and present them to people as a financial investment,” Rob said. “I like to call it ‘high-performance building.’”

Beauty in business

Smith is taking his high-performance building to the next level with his contracting firm’s largest scale project to date — a zero-net energy home just a few streets over from his own home in Winter Park.

The home, when completed by E2 Homes, will harvest enough of its own energy via solar panels that it will be able to operate independent of the energy grid, he said.

“This is a really exciting project,” he said. From a salt-water pond to a 7,000-gallon rainwater cistern and drought tolerant landscaping, he said this will be his most sustainable and high-performing construction yet.

But Smith isn’t the only one building green in Winter Park. His former business partner Phil Kean, of Phil Kean Designs of Winter Park, has been contracted to design “The New American Home” for the 2012 National Association of Home Builders International Builders’ Show in Orlando, updating the ‘classic’ American home with new green features in Winter Park.

Rollins College, also honored by the Keep Winter Park Beautiful committee, has initiated considerable sustainability efforts over the last decade, said Scott Bitikofer, the campus facilities manager.

“We try to take advantage of the latest technologies and best practices to try to be as efficient as possible, which can be challenging when you have some buildings that date back from over 100 years old,” Bitikofer said.

But by introducing LED lighting, low-flow water fixtures and occupancy sensors in renovated buildings, he said the school works hard to be as green as possible. Pending approval early next year, the school has also drafted a Sustainability Master Plan to further their sustainability efforts for the future.

“We see this as an opportunity to multiply our sustainable efforts because if our students are educated, not only in the liberal arts, but also in seeing sustainable actions and management… we hope they’ll take that knowledge and commitment with them into the working world,” he said.

Tim Maslow, Winter Park’s sustainability coordinator, said the efforts of the Smiths and Rollins College help inspire the city, which opened it’s first LEED certified building — the Winter Park Community Center — this summer, to continue to launch more sustainable initiatives.

“I think Rob Smith and his wife are doing an excellent job of leading by example and Rollins is doing a great job too,” Maslow said. “You’re really seeing all different sectors — public, private and residential — trying to make Winter Park a more sustainable place to live.”