For single mother Nancy Barnes, the remodeling of her home on a quiet cul de sac in southern Prince George’s County was driven by the need to accommodate her 12-year old paraplegic son.

The 1960s cramped 1,500 square foot rambler was not wheelchair-accessible and her son’s other health issues needed to address indoor air quality. While searching for a qualified remodeler, Nancy began to educate herself about universal design and healthy homes by reading magazines and watching Home & Garden Television.

After many false starts, Barnes hired Alex Dean, CEO and president of the Alexander Group. “I was intrigued by the possibilities this project presented for our group,” says Dean.

The Alexander Group began evaluating Nancy’s home for the remodel; that work coincided with the pending launch of the Leader in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Homes program by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit that advocates sustainable building practices, says Dean, who attended the first LEED technical workshop in 2008.

“We saw this project as a great opportunity to register and build one of the first LEED homes in the D.C. area,” Dean says. But for Nancy, it meant she would have a house that not only would accommodate her son, but also provide extra space for visiting family and rooms that might eventually house her parents.

After reviewing several design proposals, she settled on a Mediterranean-influenced architectural style that uses traditional exterior stucco, finished with a high-performance acrylic coating and sturdy concrete roof tiles in a classic terra cotta shade. It’s a dramatic transformation, but part of the original house still exists beneath the skin of the new 4,000-square-foot dwelling.
The Alexander Group kept two first-floor walls and the basement exterior walls so that the home would qualify as a remodeling project under county regulations. It was also cost- and resource-efficient to recycle some of the existing dwelling,” Dean says. “Everything else was removed, including all electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems.”

“In addition to providing essentials, the house is designed to act as an assisted-living care home,” Dean says. “In the event of a power failure, heating, cooling and cooking functions can be maintained.”

Universal design elements include three-foot-wide doors and four-foot-wide hallways. There are no thresholds to impede movement between rooms, and an elevator provides easy access to each of the three levels for Nancy’s son.
While the house presents a striking new facade to the street, Nancy wanted to make sure the views of open space to the rear, the lot’s best feature, were preserved. The main living spaces on the first floor — a large open kitchen and an airy great room — are oriented toward the pastoral landscape. Her son’s bedroom on the main level also overlooks the bucolic scene.