Many people visiting Shalimar, FL, don’t want to miss one of the town’s attractions: a sprawling European style waterfront estate on Lorraine Bayou. Featuring a main house, carriage house and guesthouse, the estate offers luxurious finishes and phenomenal views all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The crowning touch is a Gerard stone coated, barrel vault metal roofing system that not only resists 170 mile per hour winds, but saves energy as well. No wonder the electric bill for this three structure estate is $47 and its gas bill $14 a month. The estate to which we’re referring is that of the EcoSmart Demonstration Home in Shalimar, about 50 miles east of Pensacola. This is the second eco-friendly showcase house built by Charlie Rushing, sustainability director and CEO for EcoSmart Worldwide. The first was built in nearby Destin. The home is open to visitors as a working educational model of an entirely green residence. “It’s a home, but actually set up as a business,” Rushing says. “I can educate people about the top green products, teaching them about how they work, and the benefits of saving energy and money. The demonstration home is designed to allow us to educate people first, and then talk about products.” Located at 781 Boulevard of the Champions, the EcoSmart Demonstration Home is set near the water on a “point lot” overlooking Lorraine Bayou, with extraordinary waterway accessibility to Destin, Choctawhatchee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. “It’s perfect for the site, because we have views of everything,” Rushing relates. “On the point, you have barges and sailing clubs coming up. We’re looking behind the bayou to Destin, and behind that is the Gulf. “You have great breezes off the Gulf and off the bayou. We get the trade winds up here; that’s the great thing about this part of Florida.” EcoSmart aims its sustainable products message not just at industry professionals but environmentally-minded home buyers as well, Rushing says. “We’re teaching industry professionals like architects, pro builders, residential and commercial developers and consumers interested in eco-friendly construction and sustainability,” he explains. “We also teach university and school groups. And we had officials and executives of Southern Company, which is called Gulf Power here, come by several times to advise us. They’re very excited because it’s green.” Visitors aren’t required to pay an admission fee. But there are requirements to touring the EcoSmart Demonstration Home. “It’s open by appointment only, and only open to people who have a current project and aren’t just looking,” Rushing says. “We ask people to bring their builders and architects with them, because if we’re educating all of them at once, we’re saving time. We’re getting them started and thinking along the same lines.
Building the home
Before construction commenced on the EcoSmart Demonstration Home in 2009, Rushing’s team undertook a full year of site work. That endeavor included the installation of an 11-foot-high, 210-foot-long seawall, and stepped-down concrete footers two feet wide and two- to four-feet deep for security purposes. Rushing chose the products that would comprise the house, but also consulted with Julio Banks, an engineer, architecture and design professional working in the Palm Bay, FL, area on projects calling for specialist engineers. “I bought the original plan, and we completely redesigned the home, making it slightly larger,” he says. “I had a designer do some drawings for me, and also consulted with factories making some of the materials.”
“This is a beautiful roof and it’s a beautiful reddish terracotta color.”
All the home’s exterior panels feature insides of foam, Rushing says. “These panels are wavy in the middle, and galvanized wire is shot through the panel, so it’s basically a galvanized steel cage in each panel. “The wires overlap, so when you pull them together, it creates a solid wall. Concrete is sprayed or troweled on the outside of the panels and inside the home, ending up two to three inches thick. So you have a really lightweight foam panel two tradesmen can pick up easily. But once you get it all wired together and apply concrete, it’s a one-piece, incredibly strong building system.”
Raising the roof
When choosing the roofing system, even more care had to be exercised. “I wanted something really strong, really energy efficient that would last permanently, as opposed to a 30-year life expectancy,” Rushing recalls. “I’m a big believer in Gerard. I think it’s the best roof on the market. It’s got a limited lifetime warranty, and it’s easier to install. In addition, it’s got the best coating on the market, because it is galvalume® steel and has granite chips on top.” The roofing system also had to be natural looking and reflect the home’s elegant European influences. “I wanted that Spanish look, the barrel vault tile appearance,” Rushing says. “That was in keeping with the Italianate style. This is a beautiful roof and it’s a beautiful reddish terracotta color.” Another advantage of choosing a Gerard stone coated metal roofing system was the opportunity to install it on battens attached to the concrete building system, he says. That installation helps create an air pocket between roof and interior. The result is increased air movement beneath the roof, and reduced heat transfer from the roof into the interior of the house. “Plus, we picked an Energy Star color, which reflects better than standard colors,” Rushing adds. “It’s contributed a lot to the energy savings on this particular product.” Just how much? A home the size of the EcoSmart Demonstration Home would likely rack up an electric bill of $400 to $500 a month at minimum, he says. Instead, electric bills at the EcoSmart Home average about $50 monthly. Rushing says he likes the Gerard stone coated metal roofing systems not only for their energy savings, but for their environmental friendliness and resistance to both fire and high winds. “By the way, the Gerard roof will take 2-½-inch diameter hail, which will bounce off and not harm the roof,” Rushing says. “That’s the size of a baseball. And because it has these different layers, a Gerard roof is not noisy like a tin roof. It’s quieter than any other metal roof out there on the market.” The roof actually makes money for EcoSmart.
Because it is topped by a 5,600-watt system featuring 28 panels of photovoltaic cells, that system can harvest the sun, generating electricity purchased by Gulf Power. Rushing originally wanted to use a geo-thermal heating and cooling system, but eventually abandoned the idea. “We just didn’t need it,” he says. “The roofing, along with the walls, the windows, and the doors, enabled us to avoid going geo-thermal, and we were able to use American Standard 20-SEER smart heat pumps in place of a geo-thermal system.” The EcoSmart Demonstration Home and all its features help Rushing pursue a mission very important to him. “I want to help people get a home they can feel safe in, where they don’t have to run from a storm,” says Rushing.
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