By Beth Murray
The moss Scott is growing – on a small dessert plate – was taken from a rock in Crum Creek. “It was already coming loose from the rock,” Scott promises. He is looking for the best species of moss to cover one wall of the first-floor bathroom of his home at the corner of Dartmouth and Amherst – the Detweiler house, as many in Swarthmore know it. Scott envisions the moss absorbing the room’s excess moisture and giving off oxygen. “What a great way to start the day,” he predicts.
As a full-time design consultant for Archer Buchanan Architects in Chester County, Scott doesn’t get many calls for moss-covered interior walls, so he has fulfilled his passion for sustainable design by creating his own residential design company, GreenHomePlans.com. “Most green home plans are designed for very high-end clients. My homes are designed for the middle class,” Scott explains. “I want to make green design more accessible.”
His online house plans include strategically placed windows and rooflines that allow passive solar heating and natural cooling, super-insulated walls and ceilings, radiant-floor heating, and water-reclaiming roofs. “My homes are designed to earn an Energy Star rating and achieve half the HERS (Home Energy Rating Scale) score of a traditional house,” Scott claims. To earn the Energy Star designation, a home must meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. HERS measures a home’s energy efficiency relative to similar homes and is certified by the U.S. Residential Energy Services Network.
The Sampson’s Swarthmore home was built in 1913 by Ezra Cresson. When Scott, Curtiss and Luke moved in last summer they found “a trifecta of mold, lead paint and asbestos in the basement.” After removing the asbestos and covering the lead paint, they sprayed the entire basement with G Clean, a Green Earth Technologies product made from lavender, garlic, and linseed oil, which they purchased at Home Depot. “Then we hired a professional air quality company to test for the presence of mold, lead and asbestos. They found none,” Scott says.
Upstairs, Scott removed layers of wallpaper to uncover buckling and crumbling plaster. A three-month project of stabilizing the plaster ended with Scott, trough in hand, parging the walls with clay. “American Clay is a green building product made of real clay with little sea shells in it. It has a luminous, textured-clay look that’s beautiful,” he says. “And it has very low VOC.”
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases emitted from certain household products such as paint and lacquers, which may have adverse health effects. Polyurethane is a common source of VOCs in most homes, but the Sampsons used Poly-Whey to protect their 100-year-old Douglas fir floors. “Poly-Whey is actually made from cheese whey,” says Scott. “We feel good about using it with our toddler running around the house.” The Sampson bought the Vermont Natural Coatings product from Greenable, the eco-friendly building supply company founded by Swarthmorean Lynne Templeton.
“My next project is really crazy,” Scott admits. “I’d like to grow herbs under our breakfast bar.” He points to the open panels behind the bar stools. “Herbs would be very happy here. And I’d love to be near them.” Scott is considering using Solatubes to light the herbs, which would otherwise live in one of the darkest spots in his bright house. Solatubes bring sunlight into interior parts of homes using reflective surfaces and sophisticated lens.
Scott shares his passion for green living with others in the community by volunteering as a Sustainability Coach for aFewSteps.org. “I like helping people find easy, common-sense, non-technical solutions to living more sustainably.” He acknowledges most of his aFewSteps clients are more interested in saving on their heating bills than growing moss in the bathroom, and that’s fine with him.