Letters

Letters 12-14-2014

Come Together There is a time-honored war strategy known as “divide and conquer,” and never has it been more effective than now. The enemy is using it against us through television, internet and other social media. I opened a Facebook account a couple of years back to gain more entries in local contests. Since then I had fallen under its spell; I rushed into judgment on several social issues based on information found on those pages

Quiet The Phones! This weekend we attended two beautiful Christmas musical events and the enjoyment of both were significantly diminished by self-absorbed boors holding their stupid iPhones high overhead to capture extremely crucial and highly needed photos. We too own iPhones, but during a public concert we possess the decency and manners to leave them turned off and/or at home. Today’s performance, the annual Messiah Sing at Traverse City’s Central Methodist Church, was a new low: we watched as Mr. Self-Absorbed not only took several photos but then afterwards immediately posted them to his Facebook page. We were dumbfounded.

A Torturous Defense In defense of the C.I.A.’s use of torture in a mostly fruitless search for vital information, some suggest that the dire situation facing us after 9-11, justified the use of torture even at the expense of the potential loss of much of our nation’s moral authority.

Home · Articles · News · Features · The Green Revolution
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The Green Revolution

Robert Downes - February 23rd, 2006
“Green building” is where it’s at in the world of new construction and remodeling these days, and if you’re attending home shows in Petoskey and Traverse City this season, you’re sure to hear the good news about eco-friendly living.
Green building means using renewable resources such as bamboo flooring, making your home more energy-efficient, avoiding products which damage the environment, and in general, trying to live lightly on the earth.
That doesn’t mean you have to become a commune-dwelling stereotype or move to an earthberm house, however; most green-built homes blend into their neighborhoods in terms of style, space and comfort. The difference is they’re far ahead when it comes to saving on energy bills and preserving resources.

FOR EXAMPLE
Builders Jennifer and Mark Steinorth have been involved in the green building movement for the past seven years through their company, Steinorth Fine Homes. They build an average of seven homes per year in the 1,500-3,000 square-foot range using green building techniques and materials.
Their own home/office in Chartwell Village southeast of Traverse City is a model of energy efficiency. In fact, the couple were awarded an Energy Star Grant of $8,000 from the Michigan Department of Energy for the high level of innovation in the home as a showcase for other builders.
“This house is 63 percent more energy efficient than the national average home,” says Jennifer, an articulate and well-versed spokesperson for the company. She adds that the home has a 92.7 percent efficiency rating under EPA standards, going far beyond the average.
“We basically have just insulated the heck out of our house which allows us to have a very small furnace,” she says.
That means 2”x8” studs in the walls with 7 1/2” inches of Icynene foam insulation for an R factor of 42. It also means double-pane, argon-filled windows and double-insulated concrete forms for the basement. Plus, the outside of the house is sheathed in a snug fiber-cement siding that looks and lasts like petroleum-based vinyl but without the harsh environmental repercussions.

BREATHE EASY
But isn’t there a hazard in having a home built too snugly?
“The idea is to control the breathing of your home so that instead of letting air waft in from outside you do it in a controlled manner,” Jennifer responds. In the Steinorth’s home a duct system keeps fresh air circulating. Exchanged through a capillary system, 80 percent of the air is captured and electronically filtered. The result is that most of the heat remains in the home, rather than being discharged outside.
The Steinorths take some of their design ideas from the building philosophies of Sarah Susanka, author of the popular “Not So Big House” books. In their own home, this means an open, spacious floor plan with an emphasis on cozy. “She’s into breaking up spaces which gives a house a big feeling,” Jennifer says.
We note that the home seems very feng shui in terms of its flow. “Feng shui is basically just good design,” Mark responds, noting that ancient principles have been rediscovered and enhanced by modern builders.
Mark’s family has been in the building biz going on forever. The company was founded by his parents Paul and Lee Steinorth in Alpena. They moved to TC in 1975 and Mark and his brother Cal grew up with hammers in hand, just like their father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

AN EDUCATION
Mark and Jennifer strive to lead the way in educating other builders on the benefits of green building. Other eco-friendly aspects of their home include bamboo flooring; they note that bamboo is a fast-growing grass that’s ready for harvest and regrowth within 7-15 years, compared to at least 40 years for oak or maple. Then there are their lyptus wood counter-tops made from a fast-growing tree found in South America and Africa; again a renewable resource that spares rare tropical hardwoods.
So, how does green building compare, cost-wise?
“It doesn’t have to cost much -- it’s all about education and making the right choices,” Mark says. That may include using recycled materials, such as a claw-foot bathtub or the window door in their office -- both from Odom’s salvage shop in Grawn.
Jim Carruthers, who handles sales and marketing for the company, notes that there are tax incentives for green building that cut costs, and of course, anyone with a heating bill this winter knows the value of long-term energy planning.
“We really try to fit a building plan as close to the client’s budget as possible,” he says. “And with all of the information on the Internet we have such smart clients who are familiar with green building. They spend their evenings surfing on the ‘net and coming to us with these products.”
Moral of the story? Go green, and save.

Check out www.steinorthfinehomes.com for more on green building.
 
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