The Green Dream

A Kennett property gets the environmentally friendly treatment and turns its owners into role models.

(page 1 of 4)

The Topels' 4,500-square-foot post-and-beam home was more expensive to build than a conventional house, but energy-saving materials and methods have already cut their utility bills by half. Photograph by John LewisDesigning their new home, Avrim “Ave” Topel and his wife, Vicki, were intent on downsizing.

When finished, they indeed wound up with a slightly smaller home—and significantly reduced their footprint on the planet.

“It’s always exciting building a home,” Vicki says. “This one wound up being exciting on several levels.”

The Topels’ contemporary take on a rustic retreat was designed by Matthew Moger of Lyman Perry Architects in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. Moger blends clients’ wishes with the demands of the site.

A grove of poplars, growing in a natural arch above an open field on the Topels’ five-acre parcel in Kennett Square, called out to embrace the house. The structure, essentially, completes the circle of the trees, in harmony with the setting.

The couple, who also built the expansive, 5,300-square-foot farmhouse down the lane, knew the land well. They also knew what they wanted in a home—and what they wanted was less.

 Most of the building materials were found locally to reduce the impact of transportation. Photograph by John LewisThat made sense. Their son and daughter are both young adults who are building new lives away from home. Ave Topel is semi-retired, so he and Vicki enjoy spending months each year at their beach house in Rehoboth Beach.

But instead of a smaller model of the home they had enjoyed for years, the Topels found inspiration in their timber frame barn. They called the man who built it, Hugh Lofting, founder of Hugh Lofting Timber Framing in nearby West Grove, Pennsylvania.

Amy Cornelius, Lofting’s construction manager, suggested the couple build a green house, combining their affection for natural materials with environmentally friendly design and such features as compact fluorescent lighting, high-efficiency windows, and wood salvaged from old buildings or from suppliers certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Page 2: The Green Dream, continues...