Green Design: A Barn Reborn

This Maryland barn has been transformed into a unique green design and attractive solar home.

| April/May 2007

Changing your life requires courage and imagination, and Cassandra Naylor has plenty of both. Growing up at Cliffeholme, the Maryland farm her great-grandfather bought just after the Civil War, instilled in Naylor a love and respect for nature, and she became a dedicated environmentalist long before the term was invented. When her husband passed away, Naylor decided the time had come to simplify her life and put her beliefs about ecology and conservation into practice.

First on Naylor’s agenda was to give the large stone home she’d lived in all her life to her son and his family, and move into a smaller, more practical dwelling. An old barn on her property perfectly suited her simpler tastes and love of nature. Built by her grandmother in 1902, the structure was still sound, though the old horse stalls were now inhabited by birds and a variety of other wild animals.

Encouraged by her children, she decided to turn the barn into her new home. Her plan was nearly thwarted, however, when a housing development sprang up next door, its access road just 6 feet from her property line. Though tempted to abandon the project, Naylor resolved to create an energy-efficient home that would be the antithesis of mass-produced housing. She planted a screen of evergreens to hide the access road and carried on with her plans.

Chasing Green Design

Naylor admires the work of pioneering green architect William McDonough, the only individual to receive the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development. “I am especially taken by his idea that rather than trying to figure out how to lessen our effect on the Earth, we should instead do more to make the Earth better,” Naylor says.

“As it turned out, my son knew McDonough, who allowed me to call upon his firm for advice, providing I did all the work,” she recalls. In this case, “the work” meant extensive research to find the best materials and most efficient appliances. In addition, Naylor traced each component all the way back to its source to measure the fuel and air pollution involved in bringing it to her site. Whenever possible, she used local materials.

Once she knew exactly what she wanted, Naylor hired Baltimore architect George Holback to draw up the plans. Holback seldom does residential work, but he is interested in sustainable building and admired his client’s commitment to creating a house with minimal barriers between herself and the natural world.

Stephen Maloney
2/15/2013 8:01:26 PM

Great Story!!

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