UPDATE: ‘Green Home’ Writer Yet to Submit Permit Request

green400January 8, 2010

Last month we reported that USA Today writer Wendy Koch and her husband are building a “dream green house” in Falls Church. Readers soon identified the location as North Virginia Avenue. Ensuing comments reflected considerable local interest, so we are printing an update provided by Ms. Koch on her USA Today website. In her January 7 entry, she reveals that although she had hoped to submit plans to the City for a building permit on January 4, there have been delays. . . .

Yesterday in my architects’ office with its nifty exposed brick walls, I spent my lunch hour hunched over the schematics for my new green home. The task: find a place for the gas furnace.

Our plans had a mechanical room in the basement, so why not just stick it there? Why another meeting? Well, there’s a fine reason for its careful consideration, as there are for so many details in building an ultra-efficient home.

As an earlier post mentions, the planning process often seems more akin to engineering a machine than designing a home. Its success depends on how well the pieces fit together.

Our HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) guys wanted to put the furnace and its equipment as close to the middle of the house as possible. For good reason. Centralizing it creates balanced, efficient air flow because it eliminates 90-degree bends in ductwork.

We found the right spot, but it will require rearranging part of the basement and extra work for my architect, Heather Daley. Alas, we won’t be submitting our plans for permitting this week as I had hoped.

What kind of HVAC system are we using? . . .

Stay tuned for when we’re ready to submit our plans for permitting.

Read the full story here.

January 8, 2010 


4 Responses to “UPDATE: ‘Green Home’ Writer Yet to Submit Permit Request”

  1. Teddy Rutledge on January 9th, 2010 2:18 am

    Is the City REALLY approving the removal of ALL those beautiful trees to make way for this green home? Ironic, no?

  2. Gordon Theisz, City of Falls Church on January 9th, 2010 12:07 pm


    The City doesn’t have to approve removal if the owner does it before they submit plans for their building. Tree management by the city only occurs when the plans are submitted. As I understand it, in the end, the City will require that the owner have planted enough trees to ensure 25% tree canopy coverage at 10 years. In many cases, the developer will plant many small trees (cheaper) rather than a few larger trees (more expensive) to meet this requirement. These small trees will need to thinned after 10 years to allow for healthy growth of the remaining trees. Since this is a homeowner and not a developer, I would hope she would make practical choices in tree replacement rather than choosing the cheapest way to go.

    When I read the owner’s discussion of geothermal vs. conventional efficient HVAC, I wondered if geothermal would be more preferable 20 years from now – it would be hard to retrofit. After all, the conventional system she is choosing now will be obsolete in 15 years.

    My basic problem with the green house movement is that choosing energy efficient appliences and good insulation isn’t really enough – these things just make good sense. A sustainable resource like geothermal would be truly green choice.

  3. Andy Rankin (Falls Church) on January 11th, 2010 9:09 am

    Gordon, is it really true that I can cut down all the trees on my property without permission? I think when I lived in Fairfax County I had to get permission to cut down a tree that was bigger than some certain size (I forget how big). Is that not the case in the City? Maybe it was a homeowners association thing where I used to live.

  4. Gordon Theisz, City of Falls Church on January 11th, 2010 12:33 pm

    Andy: See section 35-11
    Sec. 35-11. Applicability of article.
    The terms and provisions of this article shall apply to real property in the city as follows:
    (a) All undeveloped property and property undergoing redevelopment.
    (b) Yard area of all developed property except residential property zoned R-1A and R-1B; provided, that the covered area of historic and specimen trees shall be covered by the terms of this article.
    (c) Covered area of historic or specimen trees.
    (d) Public rights-of-way, parks and public grounds.

    Note the exception made for residential development. We can debate when a property is undergoing redevelopment, but to answer your question, no you can remove any tree that you want as long as you don’t have a “specimen” tree.

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