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Second Life: A Residential Retrofit of a Row Home

Posted by Green Builder Staff

Jul 25, 2014 2:50:38 PM

AS MANY GREEN EXPERTS will point out, the greenest home is an existing home that has been “saved” and turned into a high-performance unit - a residential retrofit. That was the case with this 1890s two-story row house outside Philadelphia.

The owners loved their home where they have lived for the past 35 years, and which is within walking and biking distance of work.

They wanted to update the house to reflect their Quaker values: unpretentious, earth friendly, and functional.

The modest addition they settled on added a spare 320 square feet. Attached to the kitchen, it incorporates a bedroom/study with storage, an accessible bathroom, laundry, and an entry from the urban garden.

The main part of the house was air sealed and insulated with spray foam in the basement and cellulose in the above-grade walls and roof. The team also replaced the older furnace with a 95% efficient unit.

According to David Closterman, builder and owner of DCI Enterprises, the project was unique from a reuse standpoint. “We focused on demolition, seeing if there were any usable materials. For example, we used the old roof sheathing and roofing for a temporary access path,” he notes.

The owners had salvaged brick for years in anticipation of the project. “A couple of times, I had to say to them, ‘Are you sure you want to reuse that?’” Closterman jokes. The team used floor joists to make trellises for the windows, reused pine flooring, and reused lumber for braces and batter boards. This frugal sensibility is part of the reason the project stayed within its budget.

“From a design standpoint, it was great to have engaged in reuse,” says Paul Thompson, a project architect. “We had to make it as much like a ship as possible so functionally it works great—but it doesn’t have a spare square foot of fat.”
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Topics: Residential Retrofit

Small Wonder

Posted by Christina B. Farnsworth

May 14, 2014 12:47:00 PM

Photos by Neil Kelly

NEIL KELLY DESIGNER Michael Mahoney had his work cut out for him with this Bend, Oregon bath remodel.

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Topics: bathroom, Residential Retrofit, salvaged materials, Oregon, Recycled Products

Condo Kitchen Reborn

Posted by Christina B. Farnsworth

May 14, 2014 12:34:00 PM

Photos by Darren S Higgins, DH Photography

ALAN ABRAMS HAS been building green for decades, starting with a modest adobe he built by hand in New Mexico. The motto of his Maryland-based company, Abrams Design Build, is “sustainable design for intentional living.”

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Topics: kitchen, Greenguard, FSC Certified Lumber, Residential Retrofit, salvaged materials, Maryland, Recycled Products

Serene Green in a Hurry

Posted by Christina B. Farnsworth

May 14, 2014 12:22:00 PM

Photos by Twist Tours

FOR THIS PROJECT, Austin interior designer Robin Colton envisioned literally bringing the outdoors in. Creative custom touches and organic materials combine to create a serene, spa-like environment.

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Topics: bathroom, water saving, Residential Retrofit, Texas

Boston Firehouse Kitchen

Posted by Christina B. Farnsworth

May 14, 2014 11:54:00 AM

Photos by Robert Knight

GREEN SOMETIMES STARTS with the building choice. In this case, Tom Dowers and Kate James turned a decommissioned firehouse into a home. With the help of Cambridge-based S+H Construction, the family took on the daunting task of repurposing the building. The firemen’s kitchen was already gone, so they turned their attention to the 370-square-foot space adjacent to the fire engine bays, which had served as a lounge.

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Topics: kitchen, natural daylighting, Residential Retrofit, Green Appliances, Massachusetts, Recycled Products


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