Going green, keeping the flush

2b

December 26, 2007|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Two pioneers have heeded Struever Bros.' call to "live green" in Baltimore, and here's what life is like out on Clipper Mill's new housing frontier: No microwave. Paper window blinds. And granite-countertop guilt.

There are many upsides, however. Not least: The grandkids get a kick out of the dual-force toilets.

Elvon and True Lloyd weren't looking for an adventure in environmentally conscious living when they moved to Baltimore from Arlington, Va. The retirees just wanted a house near their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren in Rodgers Forge.

But after taking in the Green House exhibit at Washington's National Building Museum, and mentioning that to their real estate agent, they wound up at Clipper Mill.

In October, they became the first and so far only residents of the duplex development built for clean living - from the formaldehyde-free attic insulation and low-VOC paints to the light rail access and Energy Starred everything. (The other side of their duplex is the model home, and more houses are under construction.)

They love the big windows and on-demand water heater. They're looking forward to their first, presumably tiny, utility bill. There are some adjustments, though.

Life without a microwave - they pull a lot of energy - hasn't been that bad. "I miss it when I want to defrost, and heating a cup of coffee," True Lloyd says.

Window treatments are more of a struggle. After paying a premium for a healthy house - they start "from the low 500s," the Web site says - it's hard to decorate with off-gassing polyvinyl chloride blinds. But after paying that premium, it's also hard to splurge for something organic.

"There is a 100 percent organic window treatment," True Lloyd said. "We would like to be able to do it, but it's extremely expensive."

And then there's the granite countertop. Lovely, but "not sustainable, not renewable," True Lloyd concedes. She was interested in recycled glass countertops or the "quite stunning" variety made from (believe it or not) recycled paper. But the price tag would leave little to spend at Whole Foods.

Same story with the optional bamboo floors. The Lloyds have an "engineered wood" floor that uses less wood than a conventional floor, though.

"I don't think all these well-meaning people are practical," she said. But she is not discouraged. "It gives you a standard to live up to."

Besides, that toilet, which has a small button for a small flush and a big button for a big flush? She assures me it's no wimpy low-flow potty.

"It works."

How did that horse get out of concrete?

One of Baltimore's stranger pieces of public art has disappeared from view. And before anybody breaks out the champagne, Jonathan Borofsky's aluminum giant is as happy as ever to see you at Pennsylvania Station.

The art in question is a bronze horse by Jeffrey Schiff. It's unusual because, as The Sun reported in 1991, when it first landed outside the Baltimore Gas and Electric building on West Lexington Street, the sculpture was "in its pedestal, not on it."

"Jeffrey Schiff's bronze horse [is] embedded chest-high in its own granite and concrete pedestal," the article said. "Its head, neck, front legs and upper body show. The rest is buried in white concrete, surrounded on three sides by pink granite."

"It was quite a conversation piece," said Mike Evitts, spokesman for Downtown Partnership. "It's really curious."

Evitts mixed past and present tenses for good reason. The statue is gone, but not for good. It is currently being "stabled," as Evitts put it, in a contractor's yard in Rosedale.

The sculpture was moved to make way for a drop-off area in front of the BGE building, which Southern Management is turning into apartments, said Richard Hillman, Southern Management's director of renovations and acquisitions.

"I think all the rumors about it were much more interesting than the statue itself," Hillman said. "There were stories that the reason it was encased in concrete was because the back leg fell off it, that it was anatomically correct and was offensive so they put it in concrete."

Downtown Partnership President Kirby Fowler said the piece might find a new home along Pratt Street. Some city leaders, you may recall, would like to remake Baltimore's gateway to Hooters in the image of Paris' Champs-Elysees. A half-buried horse surely would advance the cause.

Said Fowler: "We certainly don't want to lose the horse."

A friend to nature could win a big car

Linda Clement, vice president for student affairs at the University of Maryland, College Park, is one of 40 finalists for Volvo's America's Greatest Hometown Hero award.

She's being recognized for promoting environmentally friendly practices on campus. They include turning used cooking oil into biodiesel and switching to water-saving irrigation systems. You can help Clement win by voting at www.volvoforlifeawards.com through Jan. 7.

Top prize is not eco-friendly, however. Volvo would supply her with cars for the rest of her life.

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