Paul Peterson shows his niece some of the edible plants Kleinberger incorporated into her landscape around the “Green Building Adventure” office. From heirloom tomatoes, blueberry bushes, and fruit trees to blackberries, salad greens, and snap peas, the garden features a variety of hearty vegetables and fruits.
The idea behind making sure we leave minimal “carbon footprints” on our environment is not new but Vered Kleinberger may be the only person you know who has taken the idea to a completely new level locally with her Green Building Adventure.
“I believe it’s important to reduce our impact on the planet as much as possible and, although it is extremely difficult to have zero impact on the environment, the GBA portrays methods of building and living that can minimize effects on the planet,” Kleinberger said.
The “adventure” started over a year ago when Kleinberger’s not-for-profit Education Excursions organization needed larger office space and storage. Instead of renting Kleinberger decided to build beside her Twin Mountain Lakes home. With the help of around 40 people who pitched in their time, talents and lots of dedication, she constructed a completely new building from deconstructed barns, old homes, leftover building supplies and natural elements. Kleinberger also incorporated edible landscaping and rain barrels for daily watering needs.
Last Saturday, Kleinberger held an open house to showcase the now “almost” completed building and thank all those who helped along the way. In thanking them, she began crying before she could even get the words out.
“I didn’t know I was going to do that,” she said. “I’m not a crier either. This has been an incredible year. I wanted to do this to show people that there are other ways to build. You can use recycled materials and not have to cut down trees, so spread the word. And there’s still more work to be done.”
The building itself is sided with old metal roofing. Last June, she and others tore down an old barn just south of Jasper and incorporated most of the materials into the building. Her siding used to be the barn’s roof. The three large windows on the front of the building were originally two double-paned windows that Kleinberger and company re-used from a home in Woodstock, re-working them into three single-paned windows.
“The top two windows are hinged so we can open them in the summer,” she said. “And since the front of our building is facing south, these large windows enable us to heat with passive solar energy. They let the sun shine through in the winter to help heat the building.”
The front porch is made from salvaged wood from a neighbor’s torn-down deck. That lumber was also used to frame one of the walls on the second level, the larger decks upstairs, and more.
Water for the office’s kitchenette comes from rain barrels sitting on the deck.
“It’s only used for hand-washing and rinsing coffee mugs, and we only use plant-based biodegradable soap, so the water drains into a grey-water system.”
No office is complete without a bathroom and Kleinberger’s indoor outhouse serves the purpose. She constructed a “humanure”-composting toilet, which she describes as “basically a human litter box”.
“You take care of ‘business’ into a 5 gallon bucket and then cover it with a few scoops of wood shavings.”
Most of the walls for the building are framed with 100-year-old heart pine that was reclaimed from a shotgun shack near the cotton mill in Cabbagetown in Atlanta.
Multi-colored glass bottles add an aesthetic element to the office. The bottles fill in the gap between the rafters and, when the sun shines through them, give off a beautiful glow.
“Sheathing, the wood nailed to the outside of the studs to make the building sturdy, is made from plywood, OSB, or particle board in modern construction. Because we didn’t have those materials, we used wood from the barn we deconstructed. Before plywood or OSB was invented, people sheathed with boards nailed to the studs at 45-degree angles, also called diagonal sheathing. It is very, very sturdy. So that’s what we did,” she said.
One of Kleinberger’s friends suggested using old newsprint as a layer between the wall’s insulation and sheathing.
“Since newsprint had been used as insulation for many years before fiberglass and other modern insulations, we thought it was the perfect solution.”
Looking up at the building, visitors will likely notice a quite unusual feature: glass bottles stacked in rows of three between the walls and the rafters.
“We don’t have a ceiling or an attic space so the gaps between the rafters were open to the outside,” she said. “Sure, we could have just closed the spaces with boards, but that would have been so boring. Many wonderful ideas were suggested, but a couple of creative kids suggested recycled glass. Thank you Pickens County’s beverage drinkers for your wide variety of bottles. And the sun comes through them, which is lovely.”
Kleinberger’s multi-colored deck is made with Trex, recycled plastic and wood shavings that have been pressed together to make an extremely durable material. A builder friend of hers was able to purchase pallets of the new materials that were left over and unused from other construction jobs.
Sitting on the deck are six metal barrels that catch water off the roof’s bamboo gutters. The rainwater is gravity-fed down to the sink in the kitchenette and will ultimately irrigate her rooftop garden that features salad greens, dwarf blueberry bush, and tomatoes.
“I want to express my sincerest thanks to everyone who helped with the Green Building Adventure. More than 40 people helped build the building, truly a community project. Almost every decision was a group brainstorming process and a learning experience.”