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Builder brothers say green is part of their social conscience

April 17, 2007|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - "Going Green" is an important part of Mountain View Builders, and for brothers and owners, Mike and Pete McKechnie, it's "social conscience that drives us," Mike McKechnie said.

He said the company encourages people to build energy-efficient homes and helps them make energy-saving choices. McKechnie said the company works with Larry Robinson of Twin Mountain Construction, a local solar designer.

"We talk people out of the McMansion idea, and when we talk about solar ideas, they get interested," Robinson said.

The 800-square-foot Mountain View Solar House, owned by Mountain View Builders, was designed and built to incorporate renewable energy and uses all sustainable building methods, McKechnie said.

The house on Pious Ridge Road will be finished this summer, will open in the fall, and educational programs are planned, he said.

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"Experts will instruct the public in every facet of renewable energy and green building for a healthier house that makes its own energy," McKechnie said.

The goal is to encourage the local and wider community to become energy independent, he said.

"We all got a warning back in the '70s and a lot of people remember that, and it dawns on them it (solar) is there to use. We can get our energy from the sun; the technology is all there," Robinson said.

The solar house was a demonstration model from the Department of Energy's 2005 Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C., and built by University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (UMASSD) students, one of the 18 schools that participated in the event.

McKechnie said his company purchased the house from UMASSD, took it apart and moved it to Berkeley Springs.

"We reconfigured it to make it our own and look and feel like a more traditional house and not a competition house," he said.

Robinson said when he and the McKechnies attended a design conference in Denver to get ideas about redesigning and rebuilding the Solar House, "we found out the best designs are the simplest designs."

Solar panels were installed on the house to convert sunlight into electricity to use and store, and solar will be used for the water heater and radiate floor heat, McKechnie said.

Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPS) and double walls are used on the structure for the highest value of insulation, McKechnie said.

The house will have bamboo floors and carpet from natural fibers with no harmful chemicals. Eco-paint will be used for the walls, and ceramic tile in the kitchen and bath, he said.

All the appliances are Energy Star rated, he said, and low-flow faucets, shower fixtures and toilets were installed to conserve water use, McKechnie said.

The outside walls will have a cement siding that is long-lasting, he said.

A wind generator will be installed in May to generate even more electricity.

"With solar and wind combined, that is what is called a hybrid renewable energy system," McKechnie said.

All products are environmentally sound and eco-friendly, he said, and all are readily available to the average consumer.

The solar house is connected by a breezeway to an existing 2,000-square-foot farmhouse that was saved from demolition and will be renovated next, McKechnie said.

"The hybrid house has some conventional and some renewable energy features - the kind that Mountain View Builders are building and want to build," he said.

McKechnie said he and his brother have been building homes for the last 14 years. He said his family lived overseas when he was young and they recognized a European lifestyle where living space was more compact.

He said he saw energy problems at a young age when he waited in gas lines in the U.S. in the 1970s.

"There's a sense of urgency for both of us," McKechnie said.

Mountain View Builders also uses biodiesel fuel in the company trucks, Bobcat equipment and on-site generator. The fuel is made from soybeans grown in Pennsylvania and processed in Virginia.

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