A Green Dream Townhouse

Proving that green design is as beautiful and practical as it is good for the earth, architect Paul Gleicher transforms a New York City townhouse into an eco-friendly family home.

Green Dream House

Paul Gleicher and Lisa Sharkey sit in the living room of their eco-friendly townhouse.

Back in 2005, when Paul Gleicher and his wife Lisa Sharkey began to gut-renovate their 1885 Manhattan townhouse, the concept of green building was still foreign to many manufacturers.

“We were hard-pressed to locate accurate information and inspirational products,” recalls Gleicher, a LEED-accredited architect and the founder of Gleicher Design Group. “At one trade show, when we asked about green products, we were actually shown green-colored wallpaper and tiles.”

Slideshow: House Tour: New York City Townhouse Goes Green

The couple spent untold hours scouring the internet for earth-friendly building materials. Among their finds were household names, such as Sherwin-Williams and its Harmony line of no-VOC paints, as well as many small firms located close by.

For example, Icestone, a Brooklyn-based company specializing in recycled glass and concrete, supplied the kitchen and bathroom countertops, the living room fireplace surround, and the rooftop patio pavers.

Gleicher Sharkey Townhouse - Living Roof

Recycled-glass pavers appear on the "living roof" of the townhouse.

Gleicher and Sharkey filled their home with healthy, sustainable accents: upholstery made from recycled fabric, furniture made from recycled wood, and organic mattresses free of formaldehyde. Indeed, innovations continue from the high-efficiency boiler and water heater in the basement to the glass conservatory and green roof on the top floor.

“One of the great things we discovered was that choosing green does not add significant cost to a renovation,” Gleicher says. “And over time, the five or ten percent more you might spend up front will save you money, because the products last longer and use less energy.”

With the renovation complete, Gleicher and Sharkey now enjoy a home that’s as kind to the planet as it is pleasing to the eye. ”Today eco-friendly products and materials are at the forefront of the design world,” Gleicher points out. “People see their value in terms of the earth, our health, and even the market value of a home. But there is still a lingering sense that ‘green’ design is somehow earthy or crunchy, and we wanted to show that wasn’t the case at all.”

The Gleicher/Sharkey townhouse—and 16 other stylishly sustainable residences—can be found in Dreaming Green: Eco-Fabulous Homes Designed to Inspire (Clarkson Potter; 2008). “The book is the culmination of all out work,” Gleicher reports. “And the resource guide is one we would have loved to have had when we started out.”