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Daniel Keeslar's Springfield company, Modern Historical Homes by Daniel, uses old-style home designs for Energy Star-rated homes.
Daniel Keeslar's Springfield company, Modern Historical Homes by Daniel, uses old-style home designs for Energy Star-rated homes.

Tapped into Nostalgia

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When times get tough, people become nostalgic for the good old days.

Two Springfield-area home builders hope that the recession will spell a comeback for traditional home designs, either in the name of energy efficiency or to bring back a simpler time when families gathered on their front porches.

Traditions meet modern ideas
Marrying old style architecture with new energy-efficient building technology and modern size expectations is Daniel Keeslar’s goal.

His Springfield company, Modern Historical Homes by Daniel, focuses on using old-style traditional home designs for dwellings that are Energy Star-rated.

Keeslar has only built two custom traditional-style homes since 2006, falling short of his initial goal of constructing two custom homes per year. Those homes, both built on opposite sides of
Springfield, were 2,600 and 3,800 square feet, respectively, and cost about $400,000 apiece, Keeslar said, noting that he will build homes of all sizes.

One of the Keeslar-built homes belongs to Carl and Kathy Regier. Their 2,600-square-foot,
1920s cottage-style home was built a year ago.

Carl Regier said the home is a mix of old fixtures and new.

“We have an old post-and-beam ceiling that was hand-tooled in Illinois shortly after the Civil War,” he said.

Some older wood from that era went into the home’s staircase and windowsills, too.

“We have some really old materials and some that look old, but you would have to know which is which to know the difference,” Regier said.

Energy Star ratings are based on the Home Energy Rating Service Index, which begins with an analysis of a home’s design before construction occurs, according to www.energystar.gov. This results in a projected HERS index, and the rater also will work with the builder to identify improvements to help the house meet Energy Star guidelines.

Once construction is complete, onsite inspections, including tests for air and duct leakage, are conducted and used to generate a home’s HERS index score.

To earn a five-star energy rating, the rating must be 65 or less, Keeslar said.

“Our last home had a HERS rating of 54, and I’m working on a project now that should have a HERS rating of 40,” he added. “If a home I build meets that five-star plus requirement, I will pay the energy costs for one full year.”

While some might argue that a truly sustainable approach to historic homes would be to renovate existing structures, Keeslar’s company, with its focus on energy efficiency, touches on a key aspect of being green, said Jeff Barber, president of the Ozarks Green Building Coalition.

“If a home is brand-new, it obviously can’t be historic. But it can be reflective, and that’s what Daniel’s company offers,” Barber said.

That’s a good fit for Regier, who said he and his wife have always preferred traditional home designs and restored an older home in Kansas City.

Plus, by blending the home’s older look with Keeslar’s use of Energy Star guidelines, Regier said his monthly utilities, which average $150, are about half of what he spent in a previous home of similar size.

Front-porch livin’
While Stan Gutshall isn’t focused on energy efficiency, he, like Keeslar, is working to show homeowners that older design principles can still be relevant today.

Gutshall, vice president and director of operations for Hawthorne Creek Homes, moved to Ozark in December and is building homes that will bring outdoor living back to the front of the house.

“When I was a kid, I would spend the summers with my grandparents. They would sit out on the front porch in their swing in the evening, and the neighbors would stop and talk,” Gutshall said. “That had a big impact on me.”

His four floor plans, which he describes as a cross between a tract and a custom home, all have interior options to make them unique. They also can have 8-foot-by-22-foot front porches or French country-style outdoor courtyards.

The homes range from 1,500 square feet to 2,000 square feet and cost between $155,000 and $187,000 including the lots, he said.

Though he hasn’t yet sold a home, Gutshall has reserved 30 lots in Copper Leaf subdivision in Nixa. He has a finished model home and broke ground in May on two homes that will be finished to buyer specifications, he said.

Gutshall said his traditional style doesn’t end at the front porches.

“We try to use as many local and American-made products as possible in our homes,” he said.

Both Keeslar and Gutshall are hoping home buyers see the value in their traditional roots.

“Right now, my goal is just to survive. It’s been a tough building market,” said Keeslar, who declined to disclose his 2009 revenues.

Gutshall said he hopes to sell at least three homes in 2010 and 18 to 24 homes a year beginning in 2011. His revenue goal for 2011 is $3 million, which would allow him to fully recoup the $300,000 he’s invested in starting Hawthorne Creek Homes.[[In-content Ad]]

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