Major Green Remodel
Site characteristics or focus during construction or remodel:
Scott’s home was an existing, single family, wood frame structure resting on a slab-on-grade. Existing homes always have existing problems and inefficiencies. Our goal was to remedy these problems and create a more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly home. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. After all, it was a remodel. Portions of the existing concrete slab and footings were removed to allow for new footings required by engineering for a new steeper roof and third floor loft. A new slab on grade with footings was poured for an entry and breakfast nook addition. This project is an outstanding example of the remodeling procedures and products available to transform an existing home into an energy-efficient, modern, green home.
Existing and new wood frame, existing and new slab on grade.
Site Use and Protection Measures Before & During Construction (LEED Cat I):
Lake Tahoe is the center of our community here in Tahoe City. Protecting the lake and all waterways is vital to a healthy ecosystem, a healthy economy and healthy living for all. The builder was committed to making a change and making a difference.
The job-site was kept neat and clean, creating a safer and more productive work environment, and ensuring waste from construction activities did not pollute areas surrounding the job site. The majority of debris was self-hauled from the site, maintaining tight control over both the site and waste management while allowing the crew to separate materials for recycling. Best management Practices (BMPs) were strictly implemented.
Outdoor & Indoor Water Efficiency Measures in Project (LEED Cat II):
Energy Star-rated clothes washer (horizontal-axis, front loader), low flow fixtures and drought-resistant native landscaping greatly improved the water efficiency of this existing home, inside and out.
Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Measures Used in Project (LEED Cat III):
This home has been pre-wired for a 3 Kilowatt net-metered Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System with the option of battery and/or gas-powered backup electricity. Future panel locations and backup locations have been pre-established and roof mounted standoff bases for the PV grids were installed to ensure an easy cost-effective retrofit in the future. The owner may be able to earn credits from Sierra Pacific Power Corporation for sending solar electricity back into the grid through net-metering and a $2000 tax credit from the federal government for installing this system.
The home is equipped with a solar domestic hot water pre-heating system. Three 4’x8’ solar collectors have been mounted in an inconspicuous location on an upper shed roof. This is a drain-back system on an open loop and does not require a glycol solution to resist freezing. The system is simple and reliable, and is being used in conjunction with a convention natural gas-fired indirect water heater.
Space & Water Heating Systems:
The Fitzmorris home is heated using in-slab, base board and under-floor hydronic radiant heating distribution systems. Homes with existing 8’ high ceilings present a problem in proposing hydronic radiant heat. The solution is PEX tubing stapled to the under side of the second floor plywood, backed by foil-faced bubble wrap and soy/urethane foam insulation. The top side of this floor is finished in stone tile flooring to help increase thermal mass. The first floor on-slab and the third floor loft are equipped with hydronic radiant baseboard heaters and the new entry/foyer has hydronics in the new slab.
This home has a standard EPA-rated wood-burning stove, enabling the owner to utilize the plentiful and locally available renewable, wood fuel source. This home also takes advantage of passive solar heat gain even though re-orientation of this structure was not an option.
The home is equipped with a solar domestic hot water pre-heating system. Three 4’x8’ solar collectors have been mounted in an inconspicuous location on an upper shed roof. This is a drain-back system on an open loop and it does not require a glycol solution to resist freezing. This system is simple and reliable, when used in conjunction with a conventional natural gas fired indirect water heater, maximum water heating efficiency is achieved and the owner is allowed an additional $2,000 tax credit.
Green Materials & Green Measures Implemented in Project (LEED Cat IV):
Framing this remodel and addition was a great pleasure knowing that the materials were different, environmental, and top quality. They are superior; FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified framing lumber and plywood, laminated veneer rafters and blocking, posts, headers, blocking and backing recycled from the existing structure, and an especially sensible alternative called RMTs (Rosboro Manufactured Timbers). RMTs replace all 4x and 6x solid sawn structural posts and headers. This home has blown-in soy/urethane and 100% recycled paper insulation, top of the line energy-efficient wood with aluminum clad Loewen Windows, recycled chemical free carpet, composite decking and recycled wood trim and moldings. Portions of the siding are Rusty Corrugated Metal (RCM) purchased out of Colorado. This product looks similar to Cor Ten corrugated metal, but is substantially different. Cor-Ten is made of copper cromium, which can be harmful to the environment and humans, while RCM is made of iron oxide, which is better for the environment and our health. RCM is also thought to be more durable and less likely to perforate than Cor Ten, for roughly the same price.
The kitchen cabinets, pantry, and bathroom vanities are especially exciting. The face frames are built from 80-year-old vertical grain Douglas fir flooring, salvaged locally from a home on the shore of beautiful Lake Tahoe. The cabinet boxes, finished panels and door panels are built out of FSC Certified VG Fir plywood and the doorframes are built out of lake salvaged Douglas fir timbers. These cabinets are beautiful, and with a roll out recycling center these cabinets are as green as it gets.
The builder demolished and recycled approximately 50% of this structure. The remaining structure was stripped down to bare framing and the prefabricated trusses and roof sheathing were removed intact, then donated and used on other projects. Other materials were salvaged and reused for the new remodel and addition.
Indoor Environmental Considerations Used in Project (LEED Cat V):
An EWS (Environmental Water Systems) whole house water filtration system was installed to ensure consistently safe and healthy drinking water. The existing furnace was removed and hydronic radiant heat was installed to improve indoor air quality with the added bonus of creating more space throughout the home. Formaldehyde-free blown-in insulation, chemical free carpet, no VOC paints, stains, and water born lacquer were also used. Installation of an energy-efficient ceiling fan, operable skylights, numerous operable windows, and wall-mounted ventilation fans allow fresh air to enter and circulate throughout the structure.
The south and west wall sole plates were below grade (natural dirt grade and asphalt grade) by approximately six inches. During excavation we removed this material and re-graded these areas to prevent future dry rot and bug damage, increasing durability, and reducing the risk of polluting the indoor air.
Subjective Evaluation/ Design Considerations: How well has the structure achieved its design goals? What would be done differently the next time?
Scott Fitzmorris set out to remodel and add on to his home, creating a more practical and comfortable living space, as well as a higher value, more energy-efficient and moderately green structure. Scott has far exceeded his initial goals for this project and critics would agree it is a success. Transforming a typical existing home into a high-performance energy-efficient home presents many challenges, but life is full of challenges and it is about time we face the ones that count. Realizing our impact on the environment and our children’s futures is long over due.
Scott Fitzmorris is to be commended for his dedication to minimizing his impact and I thank Scott for giving me the opportunity to build green. John Doherty Construction will continue working towards our goal of excellence in building and remodeling high quality, energy-efficient and exclusively green homes.