A template for sustainable building 

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To demonstrate the extent of green building possibilities in Indianapolis, Green Path Homes will be displaying the Elm Street Renovation project in Fountain Square as part of this month's First Friday events, from 5 to 8 p.m. Though the project won't be finished until the end of April, you can learn about the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum process that's been used in renovating the house to demonstrate sustainable building practices to the Indianapolis community. Attendees can expect informed presentations, discussions about sustainability, light snacks and a limited amount of craft beer.

In January of last year local green building contractor and consultant William Wagnon, of Green Path Homes, noticed a property for sale in Fountain Square through the Southeast Neighborhood Development (SEND) organization. The abandoned home was being bid on for redevelopment through the non-profit's Transfer and Transform program, which seeks to reinvigorate the community. Wagnon had been looking for an opportunity to do a LEED Platinum certified redevelopment on a house that could serve as an example of green building for contractors, home owners and a city in need of sustainability.

The home at 1055 Elm St. was built in 1910. It's a solid two-bedroom, one-bath with 960 square feet, a stable foundation and straight, level floors. Initially, there had been a small hole in the ceiling but it was easy for Wagnon's crew to patch up. A team of professionals seeking experience in LEED certification building was organized to assess the building's key issues and address them. Wagnon makes it clear that he sought to prove a point with this project - that green building is an economically viable way to change Indianapolis for the better. No subsidies or donations were taken to help the project along.

"We wanted to do it as a market-rate project so that nobody could make an excuse for not doing it. That's the point I wanted to make," Wagnon said.

Wagnon started renovating homes in 2005 and became interested in sustainable building by purchasing green materials for his projects, which led him to learn about the science involved in green building in 2009. Since then he's become a U.S. Building Council Green Associate and a LEED Accredited Professional, valuable experience that he's spreading by including local professionals on the renovation.

The house now features around $7,000 worth of insulation, putting the home's heating efficiency well-above most standards. The floor plan was changed to allow for a contemporary living style. Raised ceilings and other space improvements provide for maximum storage in the home. A rain garden now sits at the front of the house fed by a drain pipe from the roof. The backyard deck looks out onto a single-car garage, raised planters for growing vegetables, a rain-barrel and a patch of lawn.

Most of the green renovation is based around simply putting quality and concentration first. The paperwork and bureaucracy involved in LEED certified commercial-scale building isn't found in residential projects. Steps are still inspected and tested, but many contractors avoid green building bids because they aren't aware of the how the process works and the standards they would have to follow. According to Wagnon, Indiana's residential sector lacks green construction because only a few builders attempt to learn about initiatives like LEED.

"If you could go 90 percent or 85 percent of what we would, you could do it for a lot less - which is part of the conversation. Some people just aren't even bothering to do basic minimal stuff," he said.

Though the numbers for the project's budget and selling price are still being determined, Wagnon expects to make a reasonable profit from the home's sale at a fair-market value. He's confident that this will be a practical and affordable home for first-time buyers. The transitional nature of Fountain Square made this renovation financially viable and the location attracts eco-minded buyers to fit the home's design, he explained.

"The biggest thing is for people who want to live a sustainable urban lifestyle, and push the envelope of what that could be, both in terms of how the house is and how they live in the house," Wagnon said.

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