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Home on Pittsburgh's North Side brings green living to urban setting

| Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, 8:55 p.m.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
The exterior of new energy-efficient home on Reddour Street in the Central North Side.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
The exterior of new energy-efficient home on Reddour Street in the Central North Side.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
The open living space/kitchen on the first floor of a new energy-efficient home on Reddour Street in the Central North Side.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
The open living space on the first floor of a new energy-efficient home on Reddour Street in the Central North Side.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
The roof top deck at the new energy-efficient home on Reddour Street in the Central North Side.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
The open kitchen on the first floor of a new energy-efficient home on Reddour Street in the Central North Side.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
The master bedroom leads to a rooftop deck in the newly built energy-efficient home on Reddour Street in the Central North Side.

A property on the North Side is serving as an examination and celebration of urban living.

Developer Elliot Fabri Jr., whose EcoCraft Homes built a house on Reddour Street, says the job “exceeded his expectations” for his company's move into urban construction.

Besides that, the job was a joint conceptual effort by the builder, an architect, a company focused on energy efficiency and owners who love the neighborhood.

“I just love the North Side,” says Zorina Cook, who has moved into the home with her husband and two children. “It is just pretty enough and just dirty enough to be attractive.”

Ari Rapport from the Strip District building efficiency company Ibacos says the home is serving as the first that can measure the use of heating and cooling systems in an occupied building.

Mike Gwin, principal of the architectural firm Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, says it has given him a chance to design a contemporary home that fits on a classic urban lot.

Gwin and Fabri agree the job came about easily because all of the people involved worked together from the start.

Cook and her husband, Jason Jevack, moved in with their two children just weeks ago. She says she has been thrilled with all aspects of the home.

“I feel like I'm on vacation every day,” she says, standing on a deck that runs along the side of the home flanking their third-floor master suite.

The 2,200-square-foot home started at about $350,000, she says, and, after additions and preventative work to sewer and water lines, is “still way under $400,000.”

It has three bedrooms, 2 12 bathrooms and a third-floor deck.

She says she and Jevack started feeling cramped in their 1,000-square-foot home a few doors up on Reddour. They thought it was time to find more room for themselves and Ziola, 10, and Zieben, 7.

“We did our due diligence and started looking at other areas,” she says, but they had fallen in love with the North Side when they came here from Columbus, Ohio.

The search for homes eventually led them to discover EcoCraft, a South Fayette-based company that builds ecologically centered modular homes. Fabri, vice president at EcoCraft, was looking to take his homes into urban settings. EcoCraft has been suburban-oriented, working on site at Newbury, also in South Fayette.

Fabri says the company uses a great deal of reused material to manufacture its modules and concentrates on energy-efficiency in equipment and insulation. The exterior walls of the home, for instance, are made from durable Hardie board fiber-cement siding.

Cook says she and Jevack liked the construction concept, and he suggested somehow getting the involvement of Ibacos, a Strip District firm for which he had done electronic work.

Ibacos, where Rapport is director of research initiatives, works to create effective energy use in buildings. The name stands for Integrated Building and Construction Solutions.

This home uses small, high-efficiency heating and cooling systems with small-diameter ducts carrying the air, Rapport says. Because Ibacos was involved in the project from the start, those ducts were built right into the walls.

He says there are about 30 monitors throughout the home that can measure heat, humidity and CO2 levels. Those readings can be taken at any time from the Strip District office, he says.

Rapport says the company has a test home in Ohio Township it uses to measure a variety of energy issues from equipment to insulation, but it is unoccupied.

“This really gives us a good idea on the performance of space-conditioning systems after they are installed,” he says.

Meanwhile, the design and construction of the house are aimed to create what Gwin calls “an infill home,” or one that is suitable for an urban lot, which tend to be about 26 feet wide.

The contemporary look is largely a matter of choice on the part of the designers and owners.

Gwin and Fabri say they were interested in creating a modern-looking home featuring cantilevered sections and low-slope roofs. They believe the new look fits the “modern, green-thinking” owners, Fabri says.

“This is a prototype home,” he says. “I want to develop urban housing.”

Cook says she and her husband were worried that neighbors were not going to like the look of the home, but the reaction ultimately has been positive.

While the home has a distinctly modern look, Fabri says he could easily do a more traditional-looking home with the same emphasis on efficiency.

“There's more to come,” he says.

Gwin thinks the design is particularly suitable for urban living. The first floor is a totally open design holding the kitchen, dining area and living room. It is surrounded by windows and sliding glass doors, giving it a “light, airy look,” he says.

“We wanted to build a product that is a little different from others in the neighborhood,” he says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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