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Friday, February 25, 2011

A Solid Foundation in Green Building

A Solid Foundation in Green Building:
SoNo’s Trillium Architects leads the way
By Mike Lauterborn
(For Mar/Apr Green Home supplement to Fairfield Magazine)

You would be hard pressed to find a more deeply passionate green-focused architect.

Elizabeth DiSalvo, 44, the founder/principal of Trillium Architects, LLC in South Norwalk, has always been mindful of building energy-efficient “green” houses. “Green is really simply about quality construction. We want to build houses that you would be proud to leave to your grandchildren,” she says.

DiSalvo was raised in Ridgefield, CT. She earned undergraduate and graduate architectural degrees from Rensselaer and Columbia University respectively.

She gained architectural experience in high school, college and later years working with a variety of high-end Fairfield County architects. Intervening years were spent learning to design modern, natural homes in Los Angeles and New York. Her experience in the early 90s in Colorado was particularly influential. “I lived and designed in a town that was ‘off the grid’. People built their own homes and even their own solar panels. It was very mind opening,” said DiSalvo.

She designed her first new green home in 1999 and, from then on, the “green” focus has been her priority.

“The first aspect that we look at with a green home design is the envelope – the roof, walls and basement,” she said. “We make these areas as well insulated and air-sealed as possible. We keep fresh tempered air flowing with a super high efficiency HVAC system. The better the envelope, the smaller the HVAC system required, which results in high-energy efficiency and monetary savings to the owner. We specify sustainable and natural materials that complete the package to create a long lasting, low maintenance home.”

Besides the technical areas of a home, Trillium focuses on creating unique and sophisticated designs that emphasize natural light, beauty, different levels of intimacy, and the specific needs of each homeowner.

DiSalvo’s theory is simple: The better you build the home, and the more truly special the experience of living in the home, the better the home will be cherished and cared for, and the longer it will last. A home that no one would dream of tearing down and throwing into a landfill is perhaps the greenest home you can build.

“Our distinction in this business is that we have been doing this for a long time,” said DiSalvo. “We’re building fine green homes wherein both the technical and spatial designs have been perfected. Our strong relationships with contractors and subcontractors that are truly experienced in green construction are a plus as well.”

Founded in 2004, Trillium focuses on residential work –from small renovations to complete new homes, working in various “shades” of green, throughout Fairfield and Westchester Counties and beyond.

“Last year, we completed four new homes and several additions,” noted DiSalvo. “Among the new homes was one that will likely receive LEED Platinum certification -- the highest LEED rating. LEED is a standard by which green houses are measured, created by the U.S. Green Building Council.”

DiSalvo said that the firm has another home in progress in Darien that will likely receive LEED Platinum.   

Kids Gets a Look at Colonial Winter Life

Kids Gets a Look at 
Colonial Winter Life:
Fairfield Museum program offers hands-on activities
(Posted to 2/25)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Muskets. Linen clothing. Chestnuts. Cinnamon cakes. All the ingredients of a fun-filled and educational program hosted by Fairfield Museum and History Center.

A half-day session held Friday morning as part of February Vacation programming, “Colonial Winter Times” offered children grades 3 to 6 with the opportunity to see how boys and girls spent the dark days of winter during the 1700s. Seventeen participating students tried on reproduction clothing, learned about military weaponry and gear, planted chestnut seeds and helped prepare edible treats.

A highlight of the class was the guest appearance of Agricultural Scientist Sandy Anagnostakis from the New Haven-based Agricultural Experiment Station. In the Center’s Educational Classroom, where the program was conducted, she spoke about her work trying to repopulate New England with American Chestnut trees, relied upon in Colonial times as a critical resource with many uses. The trees, which were the most dominant tree in Connecticut, were almost completely wiped out by a blight that appeared in 1904.

“At one time, a squirrel could go over 1,000 miles from chestnut tree to chestnut tree, Maine to Georgia, without touching ground,” said Anagnostakis. “They were very important as our country was being colonized. The trees produced tasty nuts but also wood that was very strong and used for floors, furniture and buildings. The additional advantage is that chestnut wood doesn’t rot and lasts very long.”

Walter Matis, a museum volunteer leading the session, added, “Chestnut trees were also a source of tanic acid in Colonial times, which was used in the process of turning animal skins into leather.”

Anagnostakis explained that the chestnuts we see today are European that have been cross-bred with Japanese chestnuts. While the latter were resistant to the blight, they are not good timber substitutes as the trees don’t grow as big as the American Chestnut tree.

In an effort to spur the return of the American Chestnut, program participants were given chestnut seeds, moistened soil and pots and guided on planting them. “You’ll take these home and, hopefully, over time, we’ll see them come back,” said Matis.

On a side note, in spring 2013, as a gift to Fairfield, the Fairfield Garden Club will be planting 100 chestnut seedlings across 10 sites to further drive the revival of chestnuts.

Brushing dirt from their hands, session participants switched gears to help prepare Dutch Cinnamon Squares. “These would be a winter treat in Colonial times as they contain sugar, which was hard to come by then,” said Matis as the children passed around a mixing bowl and took turns stirring ingredients.

“I’ve had these cinnamon squares at another museum program,” said Francis Ohe, 10. “They’re really good, like little muffins.”

As the treats, which were later enjoyed with hot chocolate, baked, Matis broke out period clothing, which all the children had a chance to try on. Items included daily wear like tri-corn hats, casual and dressy frocks, and chemises.

“People then always dressed in layers,” said Matis. “Boys and girls both wore gowns or chemises that would be worn both to bed and as underclothing. Most individuals in a family had between only one and three suits of clothing, with a best set worn only on Sundays.”

Matis added, “There were two primary materials used – wool and linen. Only the wealthiest families, like the Burrs in Fairfield, could afford silk. There was also cotton, but it was also expensive.”

In addition to everyday wear, Matis shared military garments and equipment including uniforms, muskets, swords, bayonets, canteens and shoulder pouches for ammunition. He gave background about each piece and even demonstrated how muskets were loaded and fired.

“Imagine a thousand men coming across a field with muskets and bayonets,” said Matis. “What would you do?”

“Scream and run away!” said one student.

Asked about all the clothing he had tried on, 11-year-old Matthew Pryor said, “I wouldn’t like to wear this clothing if I lived in Colonial times. It’s not very comfortable and is very loose. It doesn’t have pockets or enough buttons either.”

Clearly, the group, while fascinated with Colonial life, appreciated the comforts of modern life.