A no-guilt Mcmansion
‘Eco Freak’ home makes up for size with sustainability
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.