Sustainable Ranch Renovation Keeps Mid-Century Style

Visible changes blended with hidden additions make this home sustainable from top to bottom.

Photos by Robert M. Cain, Architect

Call it a case of age before beauty. When a 1950s ranch-style home just outside of downtown Atlanta began to show its years, the owners decided it was time for a “redux.” The 2,100-square-foot dwelling was completely gutted and renovated to include several sustainable features and eye-catching design work on the interior and exterior.

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The remodeling—a combined effort of local architecture firm Robert M. Cain and contractor Pinnacle Custom Builders Inc.—transformed a bland, outdated house into a dignified work of modern architecture.

The front of the home features additions of a garage and master bedroom, which creates a distinct entrance courtyard that is further defined by low stone walls. The home’s original eaves wrap horizontally around the exterior of the house seven feet above the floors, a thoughtful homage to the horizontal design of traditional 1950s homes. Garapa decking, warm-toned stucco, natural stone and landscaping stone help the remodeled components of the outdoor space blend almost seamlessly into the property’s natural elements.

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“This [renovation] satisfies the owners’ desires to bring order to a chaotic plan and open the home to the beauty of the deep-wooded lot,” the Robert M. Cain firm notes on its website. “[It respects] the style and contributes a highly visible example to the community of how similar ranches can remain true to their roots and yet be adapted to current lifestyles.”

Welcome to your new (EarthCraft) home

With all renovations completed, the structure is now an EarthCraft-certified home. Such properties typically feature energy-efficient appliances and lighting, resource-efficient building materials, high-quality indoor air and an emphasis on water conservation. Homes are required to pass diagnostic tests for air infiltration and duct leakage standards. Meanwhile, homeowners are educated on all of the home’s sustainable features to ensure proper use and maintenance.

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This home’s new sustainable components include insulating and de-venting a crawl space to allow a vapor barrier, radon venting and installation of insulated ducts. Spray foam insulation in the roof and exterior crawl space walls and blow-in spider insulation in the exterior walls makes the home airtight. ClimateMaster’s TEV038 geothermal heat pumps and an energy recovery ventilator were added to the crawl space to improve ventilation.

Additionally, three 200-foot-deep vertical geothermal wells were installed below the driveway and front yard for more-efficient HVAC and hot water heating. This ground-source heat pump system connects to the basement and utilizes the Earth’s temperature to provide consistent heating and cooling, with minimal energy needed from the machines. During the winter, heat from the ground is extracted and pumped into the house. In the summer, heat from the home is removed and absorbed back into the earth.

Waste Not, Want More

The homeowners demonstrated their dedication to sustainability and conservation in several other ways. While their home was gutted during renovation, original oak flooring and brick veneer were salvaged for reuse in the project. High albedo (reflective) metal roofing was installed to reflect solar rays away from the home, helping to keep the interior cool. In addition, materials with low- or no-volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were used in the renovations and finishes throughout the house.

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At the homeowners’ request, extensive glass was added to the house wherever possible to allow maximum amounts of natural light in, reducing the need for electric lighting during daytime. When the sun sets and natural lighting is no longer an option, the homeowners illuminate their interior with LED lamps.

The windows also offer unique views of the large, wooded property’s unusually deep slope. As avid gardeners, the homeowners wanted to highlight their gardens, so a deck was added off of the main living area facing the landscape to provide the best views possible.

Thanks to Atlanta’s mild climate, the deck also serves as a functional expansion of the living space. After dark, LED lights in the eaves brighten the driveway at floor level.

More information about this project from Robert M. Cain and Pinnacle Custom Builders is available at


Architect: Robert Cain, Carmen Stan and Juliann Tompkins with Robert M. Cain, Architect
Builder: Marlin Brackett, Pinnacle Custom Builders


Appliances: Energy efficient
Cabinets, Shelves, Millwork: custom teak veneer
Building Envelope: Zip Wall, vapor barrier and 3-coat system stucco
Waterproofing: cold-applied, water based, liquid waterproofing membrane with no VOC content
Countertops: quartz and downstyle materials that are not brand names
Decks: Garapa decking
Door/Windows/Hardware: YKK thermally broken storefront system  with low-E coating and solar heat gain coefficient; custom solid wood teak veneer pivot front door
Electrical: LED fixtures throughout the home
Exterior Finishes: Garapa horizontal boards garage door, 3-coat system stucco and stone
Flooring: reused existing oak wood floors; new oak floor to match existing in the addition
Furniture: owner’s mid-century existing furniture
Garage Doors: DoorSmith (; is 20 feet wide, with 2-by-6 garapa boards finish
HVAC/Ducts: geothermal heat pumps with 200-foot-deep vertical wells and an energy recovery ventilator
Insulation: spray foam insulation in the roof and exterior crawl space walls, and blow-in spider insulation in the exterior walls
Lighting: LED fixtures
Paints and Stains: low- or no-V.O.C. materials and finishes throughout.
Pavers: Reused existing salvaged brick
Renewable Energy System: ERV system
Roof: high-albedo metal roofing was installed to reflect solar rays away from the home
Water Heating: geothermal