Underhill's vegetated roof is performing beautifully, and steps are being completed to make this green-roof house weather-tight and livable. Over the last few months, the well has been drilled, the windows & doors trimmed, one staircase built, and now additional electric service is being installed. While there are still structural walls to be built (incl the garage), and some sections of roof to be built, the main house is enclosed and looking more like a home every day.


Thanks to the dedicated planning and attention of friends Bruce and Karen Wilson, a team of students from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Susquehanna University came to Underhill on the weekend of April 30 - May 2, 2016 to place the soil and vegetation on Underhill's main roof. Through rain and cold, these students, who included Joshua Levesque, Katie Fischer, Derrek Reitz, Tara Barbarich, Jacqui Meredith, and William Trabold, placed FIFTY TONS of soil over 2300 square feet of roof, and planted over 100 plants. Their contribution embodied the spirit of volunteerism that Susquehanna University holds as a key value.

Working alongside them were friends and community volunteers that included Eileen Stock, Siva Jonnada, Nick Butera, Scott Wilson, Mary McCrae, and dedicated laborer Guadalupe. In preparation for the arrival of the Susquehanna team, these folks spread 22 TONS of crushed stone on the roof, and spread filter fabric.

In the space of three days, these amazing people brought our dream of a green roof house to reality.

Underhill has windows and doors!

Thanks to Underhill's newest sponsors, distributor Tower Windows and Doors, and manufacturer Marvin Windows and Doors, for providing Underhill's windows and doors at their cost!  The windows are Marvin's Integrity line - made with Ultrex Fiberglass, which is the best material for Underhill, given the home's low profile and vegetation.  The doors are ThermaTru Smoothstar Doors, also fiberglass.  Special thanks to Tower's expert and insightful representative, Jules Rakus, for helping us find the products that are perfect for our green roof home.

The Summer's Progress

It was a summer of big changes at Underhill - 500 square feet of green roof installed and growing, 1500 square feet more of concrete floor slabs poured, the fireplace & chimney built, and many materials acquired for future steps, including 500 square feet of roof planking salvaged from a pool hall in Queens.  And we're not done yet.  The walls of the study are being built from block and stone, and in some places have reached 8 feet above the footings.  These are almost the only structural walls still to be done.  These steps have been completed thanks to the help of many amazing friends and sponsors.  More to come!

500sf of earth roof is in place!

Underhill's living room roof, recently waterproofed and insulated, was backfilled with crushed stone and soil on Wednesday.  This marks the first section of earth roof that is actually installed. With the help of some heavy earth-moving equipment and able operators, backfilling is also being completed at the front, right side, and back walls.  The place is really showing its earth-sheltered character!

Our newest sponsor, KOHLER.

Build Underhill welcomes our newest sponsor, KOHLER COMPANY, maker of fixtures for kitchen and bath.  Kohler is generously donating all the fixtures for our green roof house!  These include water-conserving dual-flush toilets and low-flow 1.5gal/min shower heads.  Special thanks to Felix Plaisir, Kohler LEED Green Associate, for making Underhill greener AND more beautiful!  

Underhill's first green roof section installed by end of May

Underhill's living room roof, which covers about 500 square feet, is about to be waterproofed.  The materials are on hand, the surface has been thorougly cleaned, and every joint has been caulked.  This weekend, the waterproofing will be applied.  It consists of a liquid-applied primer, a thick coating of liquid-applied urethane waterproofing, a layer of reinforcing fabric pressed into this coating while it's still wet, and a second coating of waterproofing on top of that.  Once that cures (in a day or two), we'll cover it with foamboard insulation, root-stop, a drainage medium (crushed stone), filter fabric, soil - and finally the vegetation native to Underhill's beautiful woodland site.

Underhill will appear tomorrow morning on News12 NJ!

Nancy, Jim, and friends Eileen Stock and Ben Lillibridge were interviewed in January by SallyAnn Mosey, a great reporter with News12 NJ, and her terrific camera operator Trevor.  That story will air early tomorrow morning!  The word from SallyAnn is, "It is airing tomorrow (Friday Feb 28) between 5:15 and 5:30 AM, or 5:50-6AM, then repeats each hour until 9am."  

Concrete floor slab poured with Zurn PEX tubing

On February 21, a team of volunteers helped pour the concrete floor slab that will support the floor in the living room of Underhill.  On hand were grade school chum Mary McCrae, her husband Kelly Martens, another 5th grade friend Chris Nadolny, and his wife Ellen Nadolny.  Surmounting the challenges of a frozen driveway and a circular room, we got the floor poured with the expert help of Tom, the concrete truck driver from Sparta Redi-Mix.  We're excited that this floor includes flexible PEX tubing completely donated by Zurn Industries - so the room will have radiant floor heating!  Thanks to Zurn PEX, our newest sponsor Sparta Redi-Mix, and our amazing volunteers!

FlowGuard Gold® & Lubrizol - our newest sponsors

FlowGuard Gold®, the most widely used CPVC plumbing system in North America, has come on board as Build Underhill's newest sponsor!  Lubrizol, maker of the CPVC that goes into FlowGuard products, will be donating all the supply water pipe & fittings for the house.  It marks the beginning of a terrific partnership between a manufacturer that has billions of feet of installed product, and New Jersey's newest green roof house.  And on a personal note: I have worked with both CPVC pipe (which is cement-welded at room temperature) and copper pipe (which has to be sweated with a propane torch), and I'm delighted that our water supply system will come together without heat!  Special thanks to Lubrizol's superb consultant, Dave DeAngelis.

Thanks to all our mighty supporters

Nancy and Jim want to offer a huge THANKS to everyone who has supported our campaign to Build Underhill.  As of Dec. 17, when the campaign ended on indiegogo, $9691 had been contributed to complete a house that offers a greener way forward for a crowded world.  That's $6441 contributed on indiegogo, and $3250 given in personal checks.  Amounts ranged from $5 to $2000.  And it was a boost to us every time someone new liked us on facebook (all 291 of you!).  Thanks also to our fantastic sponsors, Tower Windows, Cerbo Lumber, Rockaway Bagel & Deli, and Wisdom Trackers.  And we're not done yet.  Our donate button will be migrating to BuildUnderhill.com.  More importantly, we continue to develop new corporate sponsors, lots of new friends want to put their hands to work in construction, and on Jan. 8 we're being interviewed by News12 NJ, the state's largest TV news station.  You've helped to make our dreams come true.  Thanks, and Happy New Year!  - Jim and Nancy


Whoever gives the most to indiegogo.com/projects/build-underhill by midnight Friday gets 2 FREE TICKETS to Pericles at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, in addition to the perk for their donation level!  See the production that the Star-Ledger says "dazzlingly and entertainingly conjures new worlds at each step."  Runs through Dec. 29.  No donation too small or too large!

nj.com runs a full article

nj.com, the state's biggest online news portal, just released a full article about our building project.  This follows a photo essay they ran a few days ago.  Thanks, to Justin Zaremba and nj.com, for the double whammy that gets the word out about Build Underhill, the modern equivalent of an old-fashioned barn raising!

Over $1000 donated to Build Underhill today!

Well over $1000 was donated to help build Underhill today, led by a $1000 donation from Dillard & Adrienne Kirby!  The generosity of the Kirbys and all our donors today are inspiring and humbling to us.  We will get there!  Thanks for helping us create a sustainable home that will conserve energy, minimize storm water runoff, reduce the urban heat island effect, and maximize habitat for plants & animals in the Garden State!  Watch our 3-minute video.

Underhill is on nj.com, the state's biggest online news portal

nj.com, the state's biggest online news portal, has run the photos taken last week by reporter Justin Zaremba:


Thanks, Justin!  Friends, help us reach our campaign goal and build a sustainable house that charts a way forward for the most densely populated state in the nation.  Please contribute at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/build-underhill/x/1817452.  You'll get some great perks!

Millennium Park in Chicago is an enormous green roof

Jim Reilly visited Millennium Park in Chicago tonight.  Known for its Cloud Gate sculpture (aka the Bean) and its arch-covered Great Lawn, the park is less famous for the fact that it is itself an enormous green roof.  Beneath its trees, shrubs, native plants (in the Lurie Garden), and sweeping lawns is a gigantic parking garage, restrooms, offices, and more.  A brilliant use of space in a crowded environment - or any environment.  Across the highway is Maggie Daly Park, currently under construction, which will also sit atop a parking garage.  Its six to seven HUNDRED THOUSAND square feet of green space will make it one of the largest green roofs in the world.  Check it out:


Greenbuild Expo in Philadelphia - green is growing

The Greenbuild Expo is happening this week at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.  I spent the morning and early afternoon exploring it.  I found experts committed to building sustainably, and it was a great chance to learn the latest in green technology: waterproofing, drainage, insulation, "root stop," geothermal heating, plumbing, and a lot more.  Contacts were made; we'll see where they take us.  The fact that green building is supported by manufacturers & suppliers from all over the world - enough to fill a huge exposition hall with their exhibits - shows that this technology is growing.  People are learning that it's the way forward for a sustainable civilization.