Building a Green Lifestyle

By+Kelli Stopczynski

When you think about “green”—the movement encouraging the world to become more environmentally friendly—which generation comes to mind? X? Y?  

J.P. and Marguerite Burford admit they didn’t know a whole lot about building green until they began planning a spacious, 1,150 square foot addition to their South Bend home.  The mother’s suite would be for Marguerite’s parents, Gerald and Mary Ann Wardzinski, who often come from their Virginia Beach home for extended visits. 

Baby Boomers themselves, the Wardzinskis wanted a place in their daughter’s home where they could enjoy interacting with their three young grandchildren and still have some privacy. They wanted full kitchen, bedroom and bath spaces. But Marguerite’s parents were adamant any addition must be as energy efficient as possible.  Or they wouldn’t live there. 

“Where they live, the whole idea of conservation and whatnot is what it’s all about,” J.P. explained.

“They see the beach erosion, they understand (what it means to be conscious of their environment),” added Marguerite.  “They have water conservation on Virginia Beach and being green is part of their lifestyle.


From initial planning phases to the final touches, construction on the addition took about 4 ½ months. Her parents did much of the green research, working with Peacock and Company to find exactly what they wanted. Marguerite’s father, who she affectionately calls Poppy, had one major request for the suite—a geothermal heating and cooling system. Soon enough, Allegiant Heating and Cooling drilled several wells in the Burford’s front yard, each 150–250 feet deep, to install the heat pumps. Those below-ground pipes collect the Earth’s natural heat then carry it into the home during the winter. In the summer, the process is reversed in order to cool the home. 

Currently, half of the Burford’s home is being heated with the new system. They plan to switch the rest of the house (built in 1951) to geothermal this spring.  J.P. and Marguerite say the cost to install the system wasn’t cheap, but through their research on geothermal energy the couple discovered it will pay for itself in less than 10 years. Thanks to stimulus rebates from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and a lifetime property tax credit available to Hoosiers who install geothermal heating systems, the investment will bring the Burfords money from the government each year.  

“The Burford’s geothermal heating system is really revolutionary for this area.  We needed a large lot to be able to install a system of that magnitude.  And the size of their front yard enabled us to do it,” said Scott Peacock, owner of Peacock & Company.

Both Peacock and the Burfords now look back and laugh at their extensive search for the perfect windows for both the addition and to replace the home’s originals. You see, Mary Ann and Marguerite were very specific about what they wanted. Per Mary Ann’s wishes, the windows had to be thermally efficient, with a low U-factor and a high R-value (good insulating properties). Her daughter had to have red on the outsides with elegant taupe grilling. Peacock said he went through about six different suppliers until he finally found the perfect windows at a company called Kolbe & Kolbe in Wisconsin.  

It’s fair to say the addition is eco-friendly from top to bottom.  Rather than using the traditional 2x4 wood to build the walls, Peacock opted for the thicker 2x6 walls and a higher grade insulation to help with heating and cooling. 

Instead of traditional hardwood, the family chose bamboo flooring throughout the space. The grass is considered a green element because some types of bamboo can grow several feet in a day, and it takes about 3–5 years to reach full maturity. Traditional hard woods can take decades to mature. Also, bamboo can be harvested without the need to replant because the root system is left intact when it is harvested. It’s becoming a very popular option in homes across the nation, Peacock said. 


Inside the master bedroom, two beautiful sets of French doors open up to spacious his and her closets. Like others throughout the home, each is three feet deep.

The master bath boasts a very unique, elegant layout—a posh double sink vanity area leads into two separate rooms. One has a shower for Poppy, the other a bath for Mary Ann.  The Burfords admit the tub, purchased from Ferguson Enterprises and ordered from England, was their biggest splurge.

“There were a few things that were above and beyond our budget. The tub is considered above and beyond,” laughed Marguerite. “And it was a runner-up to her dream tub. The first one was out of control!”

Poppy’s shower is pretty fancy too.  It features a zero grade entry and a sky light to bathe in natural light, if he desires. You probably guessed, but the shower head is designed to conserve water and the toilets are dual-flushing. 

Another green element lies in the vanity countertops from Keystone Designs in Pierceton.  They’re manufactured from bits and pieces of recycled marble.  


When you first walk into the addition, huge custom windows and 9 foot ceilings complete with elegant cove crown molding present a feeling of serenity, much like a calm day at the beach.  Ironically, the soothing blue paint scheme is quite a difference from the Wardzinski’s Virginia Beach home, where elegant reds and darker colors take center stage.

“They already have a fully decorated house, so this is Round 2,” Marguerite explained. “You don’t usually get to start over. It’s their space and we want them to be happy and able to enjoy it.”

Even though all the construction equipment is gone, the Wardzinskis are not rushing to complete decorating their new space. They’re taking their time, searching for rare pieces that complement the uniqueness of the space. 

As for project managers J.P. and Marguerite, the addition gave them a new respect for “green living.”

“It’s a lifestyle,” said Marguerite.  “In other parts of the United States, being green is very much what it’s all about.”

Whether they realize it or not, the family is also setting a strong example for our region—showing anyone in any home can be as green as they want to be.