Sustaining 24 Owenoke Park

And the winner of the 2022 Westport Green Building Award for Achievement in Sustainable Design and Construction is …

… 24 Owenoke Park.

Owners Keith and Kate Melnick; architect Jack Franzen; builders John and Steve Segerson and Pam Brennan, and interior designer Chrystal Toth received the honor from Sustainable Westport, and the town of Westport. They called it “a stellar example of what is possible with sustainable design and construction in a residential project.”

24 Owenoke Park. (Photo courtesy of Google Earth)

Moving to Westport in 2016, the Melnicks’ goal was to incorporate sustainable building features they had discovered while living in Switzerland and Australia into their new home. Sustainable aspects of 24 Owenoke Park include an efficient building envelope, use of sustainable building materials, a solar photovoltaic system, and a geothermal heating and cooling system.

The building envelope includes double-pane insulated glass with low emittance coating, to reflect heat and keep it from penetrating the glass. This reduces heating and cooling demands on the home, along with the size of the heating and cooling equipment.

Exterior of 24 Owenoke Park …


The heating and cooling system is an all-electric geothermal heat pump, lessening the home’s reliance on fossil fuels. When heat is required, the heat pump draws heat from the ground; for cooling, the heat pump rejects heat back into wells drilled 535 feet into the ground. Because the ground temperature is nearly constant year-round, less energy is required to extract and reject heat to the ground than to the air.

A 7.8kW solar array installation of photovoltaic panels produces clean electricity, powering the home and allowing it to send electricity back to the electric grid instead of pulling from it. The solar PV panels also power an EV charger for their electric car.

Ultra-high efficiency tankless water heaters provide hot water only when there is a call from a sink or shower, eliminating the need to keep water heated 24/7.

The interior of the home includes natural finishes and furnishings, and paint that minimize Volatile Organic Compounds (chemicals often found in building materials and interior furnishings that can cause health problems). The paint also includes cradle-to-cradle certification that assures the health and safety of the end product, as well as sustainable manufacturing practices.

… and the interior.

All appliances are Energy Star-rated. They meet energy efficiency standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency or US Department of Energy.

To learn more about what you can do to make your home more sustainable, or the Green Building Awards Program, click here.

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker (1st row, 2nd from left) presents the award to the Melnicks. The ceremony was also attended by town officials, and the home’s designers and builders. (Photo/Jenaé Weinbrenner)

13 responses to “Sustaining 24 Owenoke Park

  1. Tom Duquette, SHS '75

    When money is no object it is amazing the things you can do with your home; but it costs a lot of ‘green to go green. When we built our ranch home in Texas after retiring from the military we put in solar power, geothermal heating/cooling, tankless on demand hot water heaters, gray water collection plumbing, and a 20,600 gallon underground rainwater harvesting tank farm to back up our well water. All of these things work quite well but the hot water heaters don’t last long if you have ‘hard’ water.

    • With all that investment in water systems, the extra cost of softening and pH balancing equipment is minimal.

  2. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    I wonder how many slaves in China it took to make the solar panels. Does anybody REALLY need a house that big?

  3. Peggy O’Halloran

    And the price tag for this “stellar example” was only…🤑

  4. Another giant house – my sentiments exactly. Not a cheap street, either.

  5. The problem with these green building awards is they celebrate the benefits of the construction materials, systems and technologies that go into a home — not actual the carbon emissions and resource consumption of its owners’ lifestyles.

    Measured that way, it’s impossible for a family or 4, 5 or 6 to be living more “sustainably” in a house that is maybe twice the size of the average home in Westport — which I’d guess to be about 3,500 SF and which can house a typical family and its guests in fine comfort.

    Keep in mind we are not just talking about square footage, but the inevitable extras that come with homes of this scale, like heated pools and spas, gas fire pits, floodlit tennis courts and irrigated gardens — and powerboats, in the case of Westport’s waterfront.

    In addition, one needs to factor in the carbon emitted and resources wasted by the demolition and construction process in which literally tons of perfectly good machinery, wood, concrete, roofing tiles, plumbing etc is discarded (only some of it recycled) and an even greater tonnage of new building materials manufactured to replace them.

    Finally there’s the fact that a good portion of the people owning this kind of home, have 2nd and even 3rd homes too, and often “the lights are left on” so the place is warm/cool and ready when the owners decide to drop in at the spur of the moment — quite often by flying private.

    I have no problem with very successful people who live big. There are so relatively few of them that it doesn’t make that much of difference in the grand scheme of things. But they should not be claiming credit for, or being lauded by government officials for, “sustainability.”

    • Thanks for this one, Peter. It’s right on, it’s important and it should, going forward, be controlling.

  6. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    Not a good look.

  7. How many work people drove to the house? What distance ? How many trucks did it take to deliver supplies to the house? What distance ? In order for the homeowners to accumulate the massive amount of funds required to purchase the house consider what that carbon footprint was. Is this the best example to help society ? Or is it capitalism in a disguise ?

  8. Exceptional points by all. We all understand the value of recycling and doing our best to save the planet. Awards like this are “feel good pats on the back” that give groups like “Sustainable Westport” some attention and photo opt opportunities.

    We all consume goods produced in 3rd world unregulated countries when it comes to pollution.

    Our consumption of dairy and beef requires Cows, and that comes with the emission of methane gas!! Yes, we help screw up the carbon footprint with every glass of milk and burger 🙂

    Before we start giving out awards, we should really focus on educating people on everyday things we can do from diet, travel, clothing, investing (yes companies in your portfolio) make a real impact on the carbon footprint.

    Yes, this where I believe “Sustainable Westport” and other organizations can be most effective. Let’s get in the schools and teach the values of say a “meatless Monday dinner” and other simple things we can do in our daily lives that don’t require a big wallet.

    Thanks Dan for this article and a great discussion!!!

  9. Thanks Dan for highlighting 24 Owenoke, the newest recipient of the reinvigorated Westport Green Building Awards. As the post mentioned, the Award seeks to recognize any residential or commercial projects that significantly contribute to Westport’s committment to use best efforts to become a Net Zero Community by 2050. As the guidance ( on SW’s website states, we encourage and recognize sustainability at all stages of the project, from deconstruction (i.e., the reuse, donation and responsible disposal of existing materials/structure/appliances) to landscape design (i.e., native plants, storm water & flood resilience) to interior design (i.e., use of LED lighting, energy star rated appliances and sustainably-sourced and recycled finishes).
    We welcome applicants with projects of all scales, sizes and price tags.

    Regarding Mr. Izzo’s comment, our main focus at SW is educating and inspiring Westporters to make small everyday changes that make a big impact in our community, including all the things Mr. Izzo mentions, with the exception of financial investing. We encourage Mr. Izzo and others to spend sometime on and explore the information under Take Action and News that we have provided. We welcome the opportunity to work with the RTM to better engage the community in this effort.

  10. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    As my WWII forebears used to say (in “mean old Westport” 1941-1945) Use it up!!! Wear it out!!! Make it do or do without.” I’m sure there must be a tile for that somewhere. 😱🤡

  11. Thank You Ms. Martell! I will, and appreciate your comments.