A no-guilt Mc­man­sion

‘Eco Freak’ home makes up for size with sus­tain­abil­ity

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By Kim Palmer

Bill New­man’s kayak bud­dies love to tease him about his new house in Brook­lyn Cen­ter, Minn. It’s too big for just one per­son, they say. It’s a Mc­man­sion. And it’s way too nice for him.

New­man just laughs. He erased his guilt about the home’s size (more than 3,000 square feet spread over three lev­els) by pack­ing it with sus­tain­able fea­tures, in­clud­ing so­lar panels, geo­ther­mal heat­ing, su­per-in­su­lated walls and rain­wa­ter col­lec­tion sys­tems.

“I wanted it to be en­ergy-ef­fi­cient,” he said. “I geeked out on the en­gi­neer­ing aspects. Then it started get­ting out of hand.”

His house, which he nick­named the Eco Freak Mc­man­sion, is big­ger, bet­ter and, yes, way nicer than what he’s used to. Even though he’s lived in his new house for sev­eral months, “I feel like I’m house-sit­ting for some rich guy,” he said.

For 13 years, New­man lived on the same site in an ec­cen­tric 1940s cabin that had been du­bi­ously “im­proved” by pre­vi­ous own­ers. “It was an odd lit­tle house,” he said. “It had dark pan­el­ing, brown and orange swirl car­pet­ing, and the front door (opened) di­rectly into the mas­ter bed­room.”

He bought it for its lot, which boasts 140 feet of Mis­sis­sippi River frontage across from an is­land wildlife pre­serve. And he got a deal, which was good be­cause he’d just been laid off, he said. “I was poor. I took my sev­er­ance and started a ground­wa­ter cleanup busi­ness.”

New­man added a few modest im­prove­ments to the house, mak­ing it “al­most nor­mal,” he said. But his fo­cus was on build­ing his busi­ness, Re­me­di­a­tion and Nat­u­ral At­ten­u­a­tion Ser­vices, which he runs out of a de­tached garage/ so­lar­ium next door.

Even­tu­ally the busi­ness was do­ing well enough for him to build a new house filled with green tech­nol­ogy. He hired ar­chi­tect Pat Mackey of Mackey Malin to de­sign a home that made sub­tle use of that tech­nol­ogy.


“I feel like I’m house-sit­ting for some rich guy,” says Bill New­man.

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