The very nature of remodeling means that a home will likely be more green because the homeowners have chosen to remain in their house and make it more suitable, and often, more energy efficient.
This premise is what author and architect Sarah Susanka has based her book, Not So Big Remodeling. Susanka is known for her Not So Big House series of nine books to teach people how to live comfortably in smaller homes.
"One that has always struck me that is I think a lot of people when they look at their existing home, they think, 'it's not very energy efficient so at some point we will build another home that is energy efficient.' But the problem is the house you're living in right now will be being lived in by someone," Susanka said. "Every single thing you do that makes it a bit better than it is now, is helpful for the environment as a whole. It's helpful for every future owner of the house and it's helpful for our collective carbon footprint."
It's a fact that more than 20 percent of all carbon emissions from every single source come from existing housing stock in the U.S., she said. "That's one fifth and where we will tackle automobiles and factory emissions we really haven't figured how to tackle the existing home. There is no organization that really administers to all of those places. So that's where in Not So Big Remodeling I'm really asking people to pay attention to their own comfort level — their own utility bills and to look at how can I make this better."
"The big answer to that question is to hire yourself an energy auditor who can do an assessment of your house and tell you where you've got major heat loss or heat gain and where you can really improve upon what's there. The energy auditor will essentially give you a checklist of things that can be done as money allowed. And many of those things can be done right away and save you money right away," she said.
An energy auditor can be hired for about $500 to $600 to do an assessment on a house. And sometimes, local utility companies will offer a modified version of the service at a discount or no charge. Susanka said she hired one and realized her home's leaky ductwork was causing energy loss.
Susanka recently partnered with the SchoolStreet Homes development in Libertyville, Ill., to build a showhouse using Susanka's Not So Big philosophy.
For more information, see our Remodeling a Green Home research center.
All photos courtesy of Barry Rustin.