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Sizing up Green: Size & Sustainability Combined

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    David Gruol

    After: Retrofit & Modern To satisfy township rules, the foundation, attached garage, and some framing had to remain in this circa 1962 home in Central New Jersey. The deep energy retrofit design features passive solar, daylighting, smart energy monitoring, native plants, and a rain garden.

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    David Gruol

    Before

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    Harry Whitver

This home, one of the first LEED-certified remodeled homes in Central New Jersey, underwent a gut rehab energy retrofit and expanded from 2,300 square feet to nearly 5,000 square feet. Can it really be considered “green”?

“From a standpoint of true sustainability — living with a lighter footprint — it might not be,” says Carl Seville, who consults on and certifies green buildings. But, he adds, remodels have to be realistic; homes should fit in with others in the neighborhood, and satisfy homeowners or buyers. (Even after the remodel, this home is still one of the neighborhood’s smallest.)

Making it Work

Maciek Gadamski, manager of Vert­Haus, a green developer that buys properties and rehabs them through its sister company, VH Builders, used a variety of green practices on this home:

  • Waste recycling: The job was under 1% for total volume of waste.
  • Highly efficient mechanical systems: 96% efficient gas condensing boiler; 17 SEER AC system; radiant heat; solar-powered domestic hot water; heat recovery ventilation.
  • Tight envelope: high-efficiency windows; extra insulation, air-sealing, thermal boundary for all exterior walls (see illustration); maintenance-free siding and exterior trim; advanced framing (less lumber).
  • Materials/finishes: local and locally manufactured products when possible; no- or low-VOC paints; energy-efficient lighting; Energy Star appliances, low-flow faucets.

Gadamski’s biggest challenges were getting permits, satisfying township regulations, and working with subcontractors who, he says, wouldn’t change their way of building. The remodel cost about 15% more than a traditional one, but it was profitable — Gadamski sold the house soon after it went on the market. He has an agreement with the homeowners that they will share with him the details of their gas and electricity bills, to see how they fare in terms of energy efficiency. “Energy savings ... really depend on [the homeowners’] usage,” Gadamski says.

Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.

More REMODELING articles about green building:

Barn Raising: Where LEED Platinum and history meet in a zero net energy office

Deep Green: A Sustainable Remodel With Appeal for Future Homeowners

What’s the Problem With Green Remodeling?