From the Ground Up

An east-side family builds their dream green home

Lindsey Lee and Beth Rosen's living room combines industrial and eco-friendly materials. SEE MORE PHOTOS OF THE HOME IN THE SLIDESHOW BELOW.

Lindsey Lee and Beth Rosen's living room combines industrial and eco-friendly materials. SEE MORE PHOTOS OF THE HOME IN THE SLIDESHOW BELOW.

For eleven years Lindsey Lee looked out from Ground Zero, his WilliamsonStreet coffee shop, to a house falling apart before his eyes.

But after further contemplation, he noticed the house’s nice positioning next to a park, close to all the amenities of the east and downtown parts of Madison and mere steps away from his work. He realized it could be a great spot to live with his wife, Beth Rosen, and their three children. So when he saw a “for sale” sign go up in early 2007, the family took the leap.

The city had assessed the house at $1,000, but Lee and Rosen knew they’d have to tear it down and rebuild. After getting approval from seven different city agencies, they were ready to create their new home from scratch.

To be sure, it wasn’t a typical building project. The lot measures thirty-six by forty-five feet, with a retaining wall on one side and a house on the other. Lee and Rosen realized that to get ample living space they would have to build up instead of out. With the help of architect Todd Barnett of Barnett Architecture—one of the first regulars at Ground Zero—they designed a six-level house with roughly eighteen hundred square feet.

“We bought the property without set plans,” Lee says, adding that they had a conceptual starting point. “We wanted the front of the house to reflect the busy urban street and the back to reflect the park.”

The couple also wanted the house to feel open and filled with natural light, and a minimalist, slightly industrial aesthetic seemed the best solution. Concrete and wood floors, as well as open staircases using elements from commercial construction, suit the style and saved money. “Often there’s a cheaper way that’s also a cooler way,” Lee says.

Lee and Rosen took care to make their house environmentally friendly, too. They installed an efficient boiler for radiant heat and good insulation, and opted for a whole-house fan in place of air conditioning. And some of their furniture is secondhand.

Since moving into the home in spring 2008, the family has found additional ways to be green. Lee’s work commute is literally a stroll across the street, and the kids can walk or bike to school. “It’s a very low-carbon-footprint way to live,” Rosen says.

Katie Vaughn is associate editor of Madison Magazine.

Slideshow: Lee-Rosen Home

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