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Barn Owners Go Green, Save Green

Old McDonald may have had a farm worthy of a song, but he certainly didn't have a 100 percent 'green' barn like the one Westport residents James and Pamela Weil had built to complement their 1832 farmhouse.

Purchased from a Vermont farmer in 2005 through The Barn People , the 200-year-old barn is made entirely from reclaimed/recycled wood, is powered by solar energy and uses a geothermal heating and cooling system.

"It's 100 percent energy efficient: There's no [outside source of] electricity and no fossil fuels are used at all. What we bought were the bones, so the post and beams are original. The rest was built reusing wood that normally people would discard," James said. "Essentially, there's no carbon footprint."

Wood used in the barn's reconstruction came from Pennsylvania, Vermont and Connecticut.

Although it's a barn, you won't find any animals, hay bales or farm equipment inside. Instead, the 1,000-square-foot barn serves as James' office, exercise and retirement space. "The Dude Room," as James' friends call it, is complete with a built-in bookshelf, couches, a kitchenette, bathroom and basement.

"It didn't take us long to figure out [James] needed a space of his own, and we didn't want to convert any bedrooms into an office," said Pamela. "So it seemed like the natural thing to do: We've always loved and wanted a barn."

Though it was built to serve as James' retirement sanctuary, the barn is multifunctional. It hosts a weekly yoga practice and has held fundraising dinners, discussion groups, holiday dinner parties, and was even the reception site for their daughter's wedding.

But why not just buy a new barn? That idea, they said, never entered their minds.

"Why do that when old barns available are much more beautiful, charming and have more character?" James said, adding that they wanted their barn to blend in with the ones in their neighborhood. "Here, we say, 'Everything old is new again,' and I hope we can encourage people to give things a second life."

For restoring a 200-year-old barn with green technology, the Weil's were among nine recipients of the town's 2010 Historic Preservation Award .

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