Green home remodel wins award for design and energy efficiency (PHOTOS)
For Peter Michelson, CEO of Renewal Design-Build, green is more than a color; it's a building philosophy.
It’s also the way the Decatur, Ga.,-based builder helps his clients live healthier, eco-conscious lifestyles, save money on utility bills and make the world a greener place.
"Green homes incorporate sustainable materials and design ideas aimed at protecting the environment by promoting energy conservation,” Michelson said. “The more you are doing to your house, the more of an opportunity you have to replace inefficient equipment with high-efficiency equipment and materials.”
The company’s whole-home remodeling project won a 2010 Southeast Regional Contractor of the Year award from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.
The project reflects Michelson’s dedication to building energy-efficient homes in an effort to help reduce climate change. His company’s green-building approach incorporates a number of strategies that are meant to increase a home’s energy efficiency by 30 percent, conserve water and reduce storm-water pollution.
“By promoting recycling and the use of durable, low-maintenance, recycled, and rapidly renewable materials, Renewal Design-Build helps to ensure homes conserve natural resources and protect ecosystem biodiversity,” Michelson said.
The firm’s award-winning remodel began as a 900-square-foot, 1930s cottage with two bedrooms and one bath. The original floor plan was outdated, inefficient and no longer fit the modern needs of a growing family.
The homeowners were dedicated to achieving a total green renovation, and worked with Architect Eric Rawlings and the Renewal team to incorporate innovative, sustainable building practices, materials and technologies into both construction and the interior design of the home.
The remodeling team first deconstructed most of the home’s original structure down to the foundation. They then expanded the living area of the home to 2,100 square feet.
“We reused everything we could reuse from the original house, which was challenging if you saw how tiny the original house was,” Michelson said.
High-efficiency and sustainable building were top priorities for the project. The team used SIP, or structural insulated panel construction, instead of traditional stud framing. SIPs are made by sandwiching a layer of rigid polystyrene foam between two pieces of oriented-strand board (OSB). SIP construction is stronger than conventional stud frames and takes less time to erect. It also creates an airtight, draft-free envelope for the home, which saves homeowners money on energy bills.
“An important thing to consider in green renovation is allowing the house to mechanically breathe,” Michelson said.
When a house is built very tightly, it can increase the chance for mold or air quality issues without the proper use of ventilation. In this case, energy recovery ventilators helped to reduce the costs of heating and cooling by transferring heat from the warm air inside with fresh (but cold) air from outside in the winter. In the summer, the inside air cools the warmer supply air to reduce ventilation cooling costs.
Energy Star-rated exhaust fans in the bathrooms and cooktop vents in the kitchen helped to reduce the chance of mold growing in more humid areas of the home. In addition, the remodelers placed a 40-millimeter thick vapor barrier in the home’s crawl space and added an Energy Star-rated dehumidifier, so no ground moisture could seep up into the house.
“The tighter a house becomes, sick-home syndrome becomes a bigger issue,” Michelson said.
Geothermal heating and cooling, high-efficiency windows and doors and a tankless water heater cut down energy costs. In another strategy to save on cooling, the team incorporated deep-roof overhangs to provide shade for the windows. Another savvy addition was the water harvesting system, which was hidden inside the home’s exterior stone columns. The cisterns collect up to 600 gallons of rainwater that the family uses to flush toilets, wash cars and for landscape irrigation.
Upon completion, the new Prairie-style home featured four bedrooms, three baths and a spacious modern kitchen. Careful consideration was taken in choosing interior finishes. The homeowners opted for Forest Stewardship Council-certified hardwood and bamboo flooring throughout the house. “Since we built this house so tight, so we had to pay close attention to off-gassing and make sure that all of our finishes were low- or no-VOC and non-formaldehyde,” Michelson added.
The builder said that the initial cost of building green pays for itself over time. For example, an additional investment of $10,000 will typically cost a homeowner about $65 per month on a standard loan. If the energy savings meets or exceeds $65 per month, then it becomes a great return on your investment. "A typical green project adds 10 percent to 15 percent to the construction cost,” said David Michelson, president of Renewal Design-Build and Peter's brother. “However, as the price of energy continues to go up, the payback accelerates when people build green homes and they can see dramatic decreases in their monthly utility bills.”
(Photos courtsey of Renewal Design-Build)
For more information, see our Green Home Remodeling Research Center.
Gary Wollenhaupt is an experienced writer and editor, with a background as a daily newspaper reporter as well as corporate and agency public relations and marketing. He is constantly looking for affordable green upgrades to make to his home in eastern Kentucky.www