An effort to make prairie style 'greener' - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

An effort to make prairie style 'greener'

SPRING GREEN (WKOW) -- The horizontal lines of the Usonian Inn blend with the river valley around Spring Green.  Three years ago, it was that style that caught the eyes of Carolina Dursina and her husband everytime they drove by.

"We said if this property ever comes for sale, we're going to buy it," she said.  The native Romanians, who moved to Wisconsin this decade, did just that.

An apprentice of architectural phenom Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Usonian in 1952.  As the Dursina's soon found out, just like any other 56-year-old building, the place also had its problems.  "First of all, we looked at savings with electricity and the heating bill," she explained.

Underlying any renovation, however, is its historic status.  In 2005, Sauk County placed the inn on a registry of historic places.  Therefore, the exterior appearance must be preserved.  Dursina is also trying to honor the interior appearance as much as possible.

In the past year, there's been a huge effort to reduce the energy consumed here.  For instance, the windows are uniquely shaped with an outer box-like appearance.  Without changing the exterior, new interior windows were installed that are double-paned and Energy Star rated.

Dursina said the new windows cost about $16,000.  Other changes at the inn totalled about $50,000 she said.

In other parts of the bedrooms, it looks like Frank Lloyd Wright met CFL.  If those squiggly energy-saving fluorescent bulbs didn't fit the fixture, then they weren't installed.

Then there are the bathrooms.  Original toilets had a sleek design that combined straight lines with traditional curves, but they were big water consumers.  "We realized those were flushing four gallons, and that was a large waste of water."

Dursina said she shopped around until she found dual-flush models that matched the bathrooms' theme close enough.

The laundry room has new front-loading washers.  They use less water.  One machine is hooked up to a radiant catalytic ionizer that helps clean with less soap.  "It keeps the laundry very soft," she insisted.

After all the renovations are completed at the Usonian Inn, the Dursina's decided to keep one room as it was.  They are calling it 'where history meets the future.'

Dursina said she also expected to meet with solar energy experts this month.  That had us wondering what Frank Lloyd Wright and his students would think about putting a solar panel on horizontal roof, a classic feature of prairie style.

"We have to consider some facts like that for sure, like I said, the outside look is to stay."

Dursina said its possible she would be able to installed a standalone solar panel that tracks the sun's movement behind the building so it wouldn't be visible from Highway 14.  She is also considering putting a small wind turbine on the property as well.

Not a problem for a new owner who's trying to make prairie style a little more progressive.

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