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Princeton house receives top environmental certification


A house on Linden Lane became the first in Princeton to be awarded a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum certification.


LEED is a green building certification program, awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council, that recognizes buildings that conserve resources and promote renewable, clean energy while also having a positive impact on the health of occupants. Platinum is the most prestigious level.

The house, which belongs toarchitect Kristen Thoft and her husband, Theodore Nadeau ’87,was built for five people, including two adults working from home in addition to guests.

The house has a Home Energy Rating System rating of 19, as opposed to a normal code-built house’s rating of 100, which means that it consumes 19-20 percent of the energy that another similarly sized house would consume.

This energy efficiency is achieved mainly through a 39-panel, 11-kilowatt solar photovoltaic array on the south facing roof and a heat pump that functions using geothermal energy from two 480-foot deep wells. The house generates about 95 percent of the electricity that it consumes annually, including electricity plug loads, appliances and heating and cooling systems.

Nadeausaid Thoft went through the LEED process and found that they had qualified and achieved platinum status after inspections during construction and testing after construction.

Nadeausaid he wanted to build the house normally without being too excessive.Thoft said that she was able to take additional liberties with the construction of the house as she was building it for herself and her family.


“I built my dream house within this box of budget and zoning constraints and engineering constraints and code constraints,” she said. “But it is still a wonderful house.”

Thoft added that working within a budget involved making various choices about how spending would occur, noting that she chose to spend money on things like insulation instead of on fancy appliances.

Thoft said that while she had planned to achieve LEED silver status, she was surprised by the achievement of platinum certification. She added the main reasons for the platinum status were probably the well-insulated and airtight exterior and the geothermal heating system.

“Houses, instead of being like a significant consumer of electricity and energy really can be individually net neutral,” Nadeau explained.

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Nadeau said that they chose to build the house in Princeton because, as an alumnus, he wanted to be close to the University community.Thoft added that she moved to live with Nadeau from Philadelphia after being chased at gunpoint and stayed in Princeton because the town was great to raise children in.

“I moved here because I felt like I could walk on the streets by myself safely,” she said.

Thoft said there is a recent trend in people wanting to build environmentally friendly and LEED-certified housing,particularly in Princeton, since New Jersey’s state laws and its tax credit for solar initiatives facilitate this type of housing.

LEED certification also helps marketing, she said, so suppliers are making products to fit the requirements of green building as climate change is more real than ever.

“Green means progressive, not crazy, and Princeton is a pretty progressive town,” she said.

Thoft said the toughest part of the construction was digging the foundation for the wells, because the house was sitting on bedrock of unknown depth. Another challenge, according to both Thoft and Nadeau, was the process of achieving the LEED certification, which involved a payment of $6,000 to the LEED provider for inspection and paperwork that included design process alterations and a 100-page application.

Thoft is currently interested in a client who wishes to have a net-zero house, which will have to be more energy efficient than her own house on Linden Lane, as it would require a Home Energy Rating index of 0. She also added that she would have no qualms with taking on another project that requires LEED certification.

As for the community, Maureen Quap, a Princeton resident, is in the middle of the process of applying for LEED platinum certification for her house located just a few houses down from Thoft and Nadeau's.

The University is also set to pursue third-party certification like LEED certification for new major construction and renovation projects, starting with the Lewis Center for the Arts and 20 Washington Rd.