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We Have a New Media Partner!

I’m very excited to announce that Southeast Green has officially come on board as a media partner for Green on Gift. Southeast Green is the destination for green and sustainability news for the Southeastern US. In addition to reporting on the news, they also provide an online business directory, the Speaking of Green online radio show, blogs and other information. Over the years they have grown into an incredible resource and just announced more than 9.5 million page views in 2014!

Southeast Green will help us get the word out about this project and the many ways to make homes more green. We’re going to collaborate on articles and blog posts as well as promoting the new Green Shortz videos.

The First Green Shortz Video

One of the goals of the Green on Gift project is to demonstrate some of the many ways to make a home more green. Since education is a personal and professional priority of mine, we’ve partnered with GreenShortz to produce a series of videos to help spread the word about the project.

The mission of GreenShortz is to promote incremental personal sustainability. Greenshortz host, Tom Mills, creates short videos about easy (and some not-so-easy) ways to be green. You can find his videos at Tom is partnering with us to document the Green on Gift renovation. He’ll help create videos highlighting certain aspects of the project and profile both the technology and products that will help make my house a green home.

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Happy Radon Action Month!

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated January as National Radon Action Month. Most people are surprised to learn that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US, after smoking; exposure to both radon and smoking multiplies the risk of developing lung cancer. Radon is a naturally occurring gas that forms from the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It is also colorless, odorless, and tasteless, making it impossible to detect without special equipment. The higher a home’s radon level, the greater the health risk to occupants. Radon can be found all over the US, and average levels are particularly high in the metro Atlanta region (Figure 1).

Georgia’s radon map. From

Figure 1. Georgia’s radon map. From

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The Realities of Demolition

Renovating a neglected 1940’s era home into a green showcase within strict budget constraints is a challenge, but I have never been one to shy away from challenges. I recognized early on that I would have to make some compromises, but have eagerly identified cost effective improvements that would increase the performance of this house as much as possible. The mechanical systems are one example of my current compromises. While I would love to install new high-efficiency HVAC and water heating, the existing equipment is less than 10 years old and in reasonably good condition, making it difficult to justify replacing them. I can easily do so later when they reach the end of their useful lives, or in the unlikely event that I acquire and need to dispose of large sums of money. For now, however, it is more important to improve the structure of the house through insulation and air sealing, as those improvements are more difficult and costly to retrofit than upgrades in mechanical equipment. Read more

Farewell, Kitchen Floors

Today we decided to remove the original kitchen floor. I had hoped to keep it, but after removing around 10 layers of vinyl, linoleum, and tile to get to it, the actual floor was riddled with rot and nail holes, which makes for a costly repair. Here’s what the kitchen looked like pre-renovation.

The kitchen pre-renovation.

The kitchen pre-renovation looking towards the living room.

Here's the kitchen pre-renovation looking from the living room towards the side door. The ceiling beam is where they had combined two rooms at some point.

The pre-renovation kitchen looking from the living room towards the side door.

Here’s the kitchen as of this afternoon. The ceiling beam is where they had combined two rooms at some point. I’m guessing these were the original kitchen and dining room. We are going to scrap about half of the floor and use the other half to patch sections around the house.

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So What’s The Plan?

The Green on Gift home is an 840 square foot bungalow in the Ormewood Park neighborhood of Atlanta, GA. When originally built in the 1940s the house had 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, and a small porch. At some point the porch was enclosed and used as a storage room. Incidentally, that renovation kept the window to the second bedroom and the original exterior door. Below is the floor plan of the house pre-renovation.

Pre-renovation floor plans ("as-built" drawings).

Pre-renovation floor plans (“as-built” drawings).

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Welcome to the new Green on Gift website! As a green building consultant, I’ve often dreamed of renovating my own home. I wanted to practice what I preach and test out some new ideas firsthand. Here I’ll be detailing the process of renovating my home to showcase green products and techniques.

I had some specific criteria when buying a home. I wanted an older home that needed a new kitchen, bathroom, and other improvements that would give me the opportunity to make green upgrades. I wanted it to be in a good walking neighborhood with local amenities, since I also plan on living in it.

The house is located in North Ormewood Park on Gift Avenue (hence the name of this blog) in southeast Atlanta. The house scores a 77 on, which is pretty good for this car friendly city.

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