An essential component of the renovation process was obtaining green building certification with third party verification. From the start, I wanted to practice what my company preaches to our clients – incorporating green into all decisions from design through construction and ultimately occupancy. We tested the ductwork and envelope multiple times to maximize building performance. Today I’m pleased to announce that the Green on Gift home was awarded EarthCraft Platinum certification with one of the highest point totals in the program’s history!
Southface, an Atlanta-based environmental nonprofit, and the Greater Atlanta Home Builders jointly developed the EarthCraft program 15 years ago. Since then, over 30,000 multifamily units and homes have been certified across the southeast. While there are numerous green building certification options available, the EarthCraft renovation program is by far the most robust and flexible option for builders; and as a former Southfacer, it felt good to support the program.
Window replacement typically has a poor economic payback, which I am very aware of as a green building consultant. I tell clients that windows are replaced primarily to improve comfort and aesthetics, and that’s been mostly true for my house too! The existing wood windows were single pane and in pretty rough shape. Since we were already gutting the house, the incremental costs of window installation were relatively modest. The new windows certainly help improve the home’s energy efficiency, but they also look much better and help the house feel more comfortable.
The Green on Gift home presented several challenges when it came to replacing the windows. For one, the sizes are not standard, so we had to special order the new windows. Because the house has a complicated history with water, we wanted to select windows that were as durable and rot-resistant as possible to further prevent any potential issues, especially for the windows in the showers. Finally, the existing windows were also supporting the bricks above them, since the original builder neglected to install traditional supports like steel angles or lintels. As you might suspect, windows by themselves are terrible structural supports. We came up with a creative way to solve this problem, but that’s another (future) blog post!
Master bedroom pre-renovation
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 www.GreenShortz.com. 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.
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
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 looking towards the living room.
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.