Twin Maples Embraces Sustainable Future
In addition to a 6,500-square-foot mansion, the Twin Maples property in Summit, N.J., includes a carriage house that originally sheltered carriages and horses in two large bays for the home’s owner. More than 104 years later, the neoclassic structure designed by architect Alfred F. Norris is home to The Fortnightly Club of Summit, as well as a number of other organizations in the Summit area, and hosts a variety of private events throughout the year, thanks in large part to a renovation that coincided with the home’s 100th birthday.
The Fortnightly Club of Summit purchased Twin Maples in 1949 from club member Lydia Collins, whose family had owned the home since 1918. Dedicated to volunteerism, fundraising, community service, and outreach, the organization of women used the home as their headquarters, but had a difficult time keeping up with repairs and maintenance of the spacious building and its expansive grounds.
As Twin Maples approached its 100th birthday, club member Heidi Evenson recalls the decision before the organization. “We either needed to sell the building, because it really hadn’t been properly maintained, or we needed to renovate it to a certain level and then allow the mansion to become a show house.”
The Fortnightly Club chose the latter course of action, and the rest, as they say, is history. But, Evenson notes that it’s a living history, because the many individuals and organizations that use Twin Maples today continue to appreciate the history that surrounds them, thanks to the club’s determination to both renovate and preserve the mansion.
A Green Show House
According to Evenson, who co-chaired the Twin Maples Centennial Show House with Laurie Finn, designer and owner of Summit-based La Jolie, the club invested between $200,000 and $300,000 in major repairs that included new wiring, the replacement of windows and doors, repairs to the roof, the installation of French drains, the remediation of dry rot in columns on the front facade, restorative painting on the exterior, water damage fixes in the ballroom ceiling, plumbing and electrical repairs, and fire code work.
“Our goal was to renovate the house so that other charitable organizations could use it at an affordable rate, a rate which basically covered the cost of utilities,” recalled Evenson. “And as we thought about our extraordinary heating bills, which were far too high to ask other organizations to cover, we began to think it would be great if we could use this show house to demonstrate to the community how to be green, and better yet, how to be green and at the same time preserve a historic treasure like Twin Maples, which is listed on both the National and New Jersey Registries of Historic Places.”
With the help of “Green Talk” blogger Anna Hackman, club members considered the energy-efficient options that were available to them to replace the home’s inefficient steam heat system. The group did their homework and eventually decided to raise additional funds to install a geothermal heating and cooling system. They then turned to Antonio Poccia, operations manager and owner of Perfection Contracting Inc., Newton, N.J., to perform the work.
In 2004, Poccia purchased the heating and contracting business that his father started years earlier and became acquainted with geothermal technology. “The principles of geothermal technology have remained constant,” he says. “But the equipment continues to evolve and get better, most recently with the addition of multi-stage equipment.”
Installing a geothermal system at Twin Maples presented challenges unique to the age of the property. “We wanted the system to be invisible, both inside and outside, so it wouldn’t impact the aesthetics of the historic home,” Poccia explained.
Outside, the company installed a vertical earth loop, drilling four bores at the corners of a 20-foot by 20-foot square. “We chose a vertical rather than a horizontal loop to limit the impact on the yard. And because a geothermal system does not use any outside equipment, there is no visible sign of the system on the exterior of the mansion.”
Inside, Poccia discovered the original owners had installed a steam heat system that included radiators suspended below the floor and a series of iron grates in the floors, which distributed heated air throughout the house. With an eye to preserving the historic integrity of the home’s interior, Poccia designed an unusual duct system that uses the existing grates to heat and cool the structure. He then created a return duct system using additional grates he found in the basement of the mansion.
Poccia installed three WaterFurnace geothermal heat pumps — two new Envision units and a Premier II unit in the home’s basement. The 3-ton and 4-ton Envision units feature multi-stage operation for improved comfort and energy savings. All Envision units utilize ozone-safe R-410A refrigerant. Coated air coils add durability and longer life. A sophisticated microprocessor control sequences all components during operation for optimum performance and provides easy-to-use troubleshooting features with fault lights and onboard diagnostics. In addition, heavy-gauge metal cabinets are coated with durable poly paint for long-lasting protection.
Poccia removed the 6-ton Premier II unit from another house, cleaned and serviced it, and installed the unit in the basement of Twin Maples, confident it would provide years of service to the club. Together, the three units deliver 13 tons of conditioned air to the building and are tied to one flow center and a common earth loop, requiring the fewest watts of pumping power per ton of geothermal equipment.
Although members of The Fortnightly Club appreciate consistent temperatures in Twin Maples throughout the winter and far more manageable utility bills, they are especially pleased with the air conditioning system. Prior to the renovation, the home was not air conditioned. “For all practical purposes, this meant we could not use the building during the hot summer months, which is prime wedding time,” says Evenson. “Now, the house is available, affordable, and comfortable year-round.”
Poccia said maintenance is a cinch. “The system is easy to maintain. Because of all the traffic in and out of the building, we recommend that the system’s three filters be changed quarterly. We also recommend biannual service checks, but in this case, the mansion’s caretaker is able to keep an eye on the system using the WaterFurnace IntelliZone™ touch-screen control system.
“When all was said and done, the Twin Maples project demonstrated and continues to demonstrate that geothermal is a viable replacement system for an existing heating and cooling system in retrofit applications, no matter the age of the house.”
But the renovation did not end with the installation of the geothermal system. In fact, after The Fortnightly Club had completed most of the major structural repairs and replacements, they raised $1.4 million in donations of goods and services to complete work in and around the house. Forty-five designers volunteered to decorate the home’s rooms, hallways, and closets. In most cases they honored the club’s desire to go green, incorporating environmentally responsible fabrics, wall coverings, flooring, carpets, furniture, and accessories, along with Energy Star® appliances in their designs. Those who decorated the exclusively green carriage house were required to use materials that were reused, recycled, or renewable in every facet of their designs.
When the renovation was complete, The Fortnightly Club opened the Twin Maples Centennial Show House to the public, offering tours for a period of one month. Proceeds from ticket sales benefitted the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Hospital and the Twin Maples Historic Preservation Fund.
Today, Twin Maples regularly welcomes a variety of community organizations and provides a setting for fundraisers, meetings, and celebratory events. Some of the home’s new features include a new kitchen and pantry, barrier-free bathroom, screening room, wine cellar, and a geothermal display in the basement that helps interested parties understand how the system works.
“The Fortnightly Club definitely made the difficult, but right decision to tackle the renovation,” says Evenson. “But the real success of the project rests with the architects, designers, builders, contractors, and manufacturers who volunteered their expertise, time, services, and products to the project. People like Antonio Poccia and companies like WaterFurnace; their efforts will help ensure a second century of service at Twin Maples.”
Publication date: 11/12/2012