SKANDIA - When Amy and Scott Doughty decided to build their first house, they wanted to do it in a responsible, Earth-friendly and affordable way. "We felt a sense of responsibility to build as environmentally friendly as possible," said Amy Doughty. "There are many exciting new green products, but you can also build green creatively with reclaimed and reused materials." The couple - with their three children under 7 years old -returned to Marquette last year after moving away in the 1990s. "We moved back here really for the community," said Scott Doughty, who is a family doctor. Amy Doughty is a midwife. After many months of research and networking, the Doughtys made their dream come true. They built a house in Skandia from recycled materials with a passive solar heating system and a geothermal unit for heating and cooling. "It works similar to how a refrigerator works," Scott Doughty said of the geothermal system. "It's a process where the Earth's temperature is tapped." Doughty's system uses seven 150-foot deep wells in his front yard to accommodate a pipe system. "You're running a loop into the Earth and through that loop you circulate antifreeze fluid," he said. During the winter the system sends heat from the Earth to the building. In the summer hot air from the building is cooled by running it through the system. The United States Department of Energy Web site touts geothermal energy as a vast, clean, underused heat and power resource with the potential to make the country less dependent on foreign oil. The Doughtys have seen the advantages on a personal level. Their only expense for heating and cooling is the electricity used to power the unit and the initial cost of building the system. "Over the years, it pays for itself and regains the initial investment," Scott Doughty said. He added that in the beginning, he was curious whether the system would work, but after six months of use, the Doughtys are excited about the system. In fact, now that they know geothermal energy works, the Doughtys are eager to spread the word. Scott Doughty will be available to discuss this "green" energy source during the U.P. Builders Show in March in Marquette, he said. "By showing that a geothermal system works up here, we can promote this technology and encourage other people to consider it," he said. The geothermal unit is not the only "green" system in the Doughty's home. A passive solar system in their sunroom collects hot air and uses it as a supplement to heat the room's floor in the winter, Amy Doughty said. Another feature of the house its factory-made structural insulated panels. "These are heavily insulated panels that allow you to put exterior walls up in a matter of days," Scott Doughty said. "It makes the home tighter and more insulated, and it reduces the waste on site." Inside, these walls are finished with a product called American Clay plaster, "that uses natural clay with pigments as a wall surface," Scott Doughty said. "It reduces dust and acts as a humidity buffer- this is a totally green product with no VOC's (volatile organic compounds) and it looks beautiful because it's hand plastered." He added that the only paint -low in VOC's - was used on the ceiling and on the downstairs wainscoting. The Doughtys said that without the support of Marquette residents who have already built green and businesses who assisted them, they would not have made it this far. They said they hope more people will take the green philosophy seriously when it comes to building a house. "I think people will start doing more and more of the earth-friendly building process," Scott Doughty said. "I hope that it at least becomes something that people consider."
Scott Doughty stands in front of his environmentally-friendly house during its construction last summer, with daughters Maren, 3, left and Brooke, 6. (Amy Doughty photo)