I recently traveled back to my home state of Iowa. On the way, I stopped to visit a friend who lives in an old Victorian house. She just had completed her winterizing rituals: covering her windows with plastic, weather stripping doors and stacking straw bales around her foundation. When I was a kid, my family practiced these same rituals around our drafty farmhouse. I never thought twice about this routine when I was growing up. Farmhouses are old, and wind whips freely across barren fields and pastures; of course you have to put effort into keeping your home warm.
Today, however, I'm practicing these same rituals (minus the straw bales) in my recently renovated Chicago condo. Since being elected to my condo association's board, I'm learning all the things our developer did (and didn't do) during the building's gut rehab five years ago. One thing he neglected: insulation. There is very little in the walls and none between the floors.
During my interview with Doug Selby, chief executive officer of Meadowlark Builders, Ann Arbor, Mich., for this issue's "Master Design Solutions" article, I learned my under-insulated home isn't unique. "Some of the worst offenders are houses that have been built in the last 20 years," he said. "Old un-insulated houses are tremendously inefficient, but it's not like insulating has become a priority until very recently. If you're going to go for first cost, you're going to get an inefficient home and that's the bottom line."
This issue of Qualified Remodeler demonstrates how you can assist in making the existing housing stock more energy efficient. In addition to "Master Design Solutions," which provides unique ideas for the budget-conscious, such as reusing materials and tapping into free energy, take a look at "Building Science". The article outlines Home Performance with Energy Star, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes. By becoming a Building Performance Institute- or Residential Energy Services Network-certified contractor, you can complete the energy-efficiency improvements for a home to be certified under the program.
In addition, San Francisco-based Efficiency First advocates policy that will create a maintainable home-efficiency retrofit market. The organization has a number of objectives that will assist the remodeling industry. Read an interview with Efficiency First's Chair, Greg Thomas.
Several other articles, as well as a multitude of green products, in this issue can help you achieve a green and/or energy-efficient remodel. I see a natural fit between what remodelers do and the opportunity to improve our existing housing stock. In fact, while attending NARI's Fall 2010 Business Meeting, I overheard remodelers talking about a bumper sticker one of them recently had seen. It said, "Remodelers re-do it right." Each time you enter a home you have the opportunity to improve a home's performance, minimize its footprint and care for its occupants' health.
I can't think of anything more right.