Home Discovery: The island's greenest home

‘Nowadays, it’s not smart to build homes that waste energy. This is the way we have to go.’The water views aren’t bad, of course, but there’s a bigger reason that Ernst and Christina Bruderer chose to build their home in Windmill Harbour: The area, conceived by Charles Fraser with sustainability in mind, is one of the most progressive on the island, one that enables and encourages the kind of eco-friendly construction that is the home’s hallmark. (Photography by Butch Hirsch)

A self-proclaimed “frustrated architect” with a vision for an ecologically friendly home, Ernst Bruderer approached architect Terry Rosser and Chris VanGeison of VanGeison Construction, who had recently built an Earth Craft home in Palmetto Bluff, to help make his green vision a reality — not to be trendy, not to cut power bills, but because, as Bruderer says, “It is our responsibility.”

Bruderer was determined to build the home to the highest energy-efficient standards, going the extra mile (and then some) to source renewable materials and appliances from as far away as Germany. “We had a blast doing it,” adds VanGeison. “They were wonderful to work with, because they understood.”

Home Discovery: The island's greenest homeEnvironmentally friendly measures were put into place from day one. Waste from the production process was separated on site and sent to appropriate recycling and disposal centers, while the parts of the original landscape that had to be moved, such as the palm trees, were replanted in the gardens by Mark Baker of Wood and Partners, Inc. The home’s landscaping employs local plants, and its pathways are lined with crushed shells. Bruderer’s ultimate goal is to craft a “natural garden” that will be sustained wholly by the elements, though until then rainwater is being collected and used for irrigation.

Eco-friendly design is evident everywhere. A special filter recycles shower and sink water for the toilets, while the driveway’s sand-based paving stones enable rainwater to permeate through the ground, relieving the street’s storm system. Runo from the roof is directed through gutters and a filtration system into a cistern below. (Given Hilton Head’s levels of rainfall, this should enable the Bruderers to collect 77,000 gallons of water annually for reuse.)

The elevator is flooded with natural light from the home’s skylights, which eliminates the need for an energyconsuming light fixture. The guest and kids’ bedrooms share a single floor, meaning that heating can essentially be shut off to that level when it’s unoccupied. The garage is already outfitted with a socket for the Nissan Leaf, an electric, zero-emission car that the Bruderers plan to buy when it is released later this year. And the list goes on — although Bruderer is quick to point out that many of these features can easily be incorporated into existing homes.

Home Discovery: The island's greenest home

In contrast to its Charleston-style exterior, the interior of the property is sleek and minimalist, reflecting Ernst and Christina’s European tastes. The home’s simple elegance reflects the family’s “less is more” philosophy. The couple designed the kitchen with Atlanta-based German company Bulthaup, using mostly Miele appliances and Silestone countertops, which is an environmentally friendly alternative to granite. An attractive eye-level fireplace creates a divider between the kitchen and living space, with large windows framing the expansive views (and beautiful sunsets) across the water. In short, the efficiency doesn’t detract one bit from the beauty.

“Nowadays, it’s not smart to build homes that waste energy,” Bruderer says, “This is the way we have to go.”

“Nowadays, it’s not smart to build homes that waste energy,” Bruderer says, “This is the way we have to go.”

The greenest of building blocks

The Lowcountry’s greenest homeInsulation
• Aerated concrete block walls and foundations
• Filmed insulating glass windows Sustainability
• Bamboo floors throughout
• Certified plywood from managed forests
• PaperStone countertops made of a composite of recycled paper and resin.
• Gas fireplaces
• High-efficiency appliances, including wall-mounted, European dual-flush toilets

Renewable energy
• Geothermal pumps for heating
Home Discovery: The lowcountry’s greenest home• Solar panels to provide 20% of home’s electricity
• VanGeison Construction had to create a new company to meet their needs for collecting rainwater

• 2010 Lighthouse Awards for Best Green Home in Beaufort County; Best Kitchen
• First LEED silver-certified home in Hilton Head.

• A geothermal ground source heat pump, installed by Gochnauer Mechanical, uses the same components as a conventional heating/cooling system, but instead of exchanging refrigeration with outdoor air temperatures it uses the consistent ground temperature to enhance efficiency. Holes are drilled in the land, and a small pump is used to push water in and out of the ground in a buried-loop system.

Ernst and Christina Bruderer chose to build their home in Windmill HarbourTo warm the home, fluid-filled underground pipes absorb stored heat and carry it indoors; an indoor unit then compresses heat to higher temperatures and distributes it throughout the building. To cool the home, the system reverses, pulling heat from the building through the loop and transferring it to the cooler earth.


• Argand Energy, solar PV contractor
• Budget Blinds
• Gochnauer HVAC
• J.T. Rosser Architects
• KPM Flooring
• VanGeison Construction
• Year Round Pool