Green Home, Healthy Home

The word “home” is synonomous with many things, both physical and emotional. Home is shelter. Home is family. When Allen Associates came across the Doering family, they knew how important it was for the two to come together, a beautiful, healthy place to house their entire family — and they did this with being very environmentally aware.

Transforming the Doering’s typical, older Santa Barbara tract home into an exemplary “green” remodel was the major challenge of this project. Built in the 1950s when neither energy efficiency nor indoor air quality was even considered, this house, like many others similar to it, had opportunities to be transformed into a comfortable and healthy home with a low operating budget. The construction budget was limited so cost-benefit issues drove the planning and decision making.
The solutions that the “green team” — client, architect Thompson Naylor Architects, and contractor Allen Associates — came up with improving energy efficiency, creating a healthy environment and staying within the alotted budget.

One of the goals of the project was to improve the energy efficiency and overall comfort of the entire house. In keeping with this strategy, the team decided on filling all walls with polyicynene insulation. It is a nonozone depleting, spray-in foam that fills every little void in a wall, resulting in an airtight building envelope. “Icynene is not used much in California because it costs a little more, but its performance is significantly better than other choices, and it is ideal for a retrofit project,” explains Karen Feeney, Green Resource manager for Allen Associates. The new exterior walls built using studs at 24 in. on center both to save on lumber (20 to 25 percent) and to accommodate more insulation.

The attic was insulated to R-30 with cellulose insulation — a recycled product that creates an excellent barrier to sound and temperature penetration. In an effort to further reduce heat gain in the building, radiant barriers were installed under the rafters. Radiant barriers deflect up to 25 percent of summer heat gain — an excellent investment that will add only a small increase in cost over using traditional roof sheeting. A new whole-house attic fan removes most of the remaining heat and keeps summer indoor air temperatures at a comfortable level. The fan has insulated doors that automatically close when the fan is not in use. All of the bedrooms will have ceiling fans as a final element on the menu of cooling strategies.

The final element in the conservation package is the glazing. New French doors and operable windows add natural light and promote circulation of fresh air. The windows are energy efficient, Low-E with a fiberglass exterior. Their fiberglass exterior — which expands and contracts with the glazing itself — makes the product very durable and will require minimal maintenance. The glazing configuration is different for each compass orientation so as to get good thermal gain in winter through the south facing units. In addition, radiant barrier paint with a vacuum microsphere additive was applied on the underside of the roof to reduce summer heat gain.

The above steps create a thermos like shell for the house — minimizing the need for space heating and completely eliminating the need for air conditioning. The minimal space heating that will be required is supplied by an on-demand water heater with two ports — one for domestic hot water and the other for space heating. The space heating port is linked to two fan coil heat exchangers, an inexpensive but effective heat delivery system. A passive solar water heater on the roof will serve as a preheater to the on-demand backup heater.

Another measure for improving the energy efficiency of this home was the use of high-efficiency residential LED lights in the kitchen, hallway, closets and front patio. LED lights are three to four times more efficient than halogen and incandescent lights and last for 15 to 20 years.

Since the family has two small children, creating a healthy indoor environment was another top goal. A conscientious decision was made to avoid all carpeting to greatly improve the indoor air quality and create a healthier home. The existing oak floors were patched and refinished with a non-out-gassing, water-based coating. The two new bedrooms have bamboo flooring, selected for its low VOC glues and finishes. Recycled content ceramic tile was used in the kitchen, utility room and bathrooms. All of the interior walls were finished with zero VOC paint.

Painted wheatboard cabinets have been selected for the kitchen, bathrooms, utility room and living room along with wheatboard trim to be used around the doors and windows. An old and unsafe acacia tree on the property was removed and its wood used for cabinet trim, shelves and a window bench.

Other green features include concrete containing 50 percent fly ash, a waste product from coal fired power plants. Every ton of cement that is manufactured produces a ton of carbon dioxide, making the production and use of concrete one of the largest contributors to global warming, accounting for about 8 percent of global CO2. Fly ash is a direct substitute for cement in concrete mixes, greatly reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

All new framing wood came from sustainably harvested forests or is reclaimed timber. This increases the cost of framing material for the project somewhat but is offset by the greater savings generated from using the 24 in. on center advanced framing strategy mentioned earlier.

All countertops are “Vitrazzo,” a mix of colored, recycled glass chips embedded in a masonry binder creating a terrazzo-like look. A final green element is the installation of dual-flush toilets, which reduce total water usage by about 30 percent.
This project is a great example of how to keep with the goals, strategies and budget of the entire “green team.” It also showcased what is needed to transform any small, leaky old house into a tight state-of-the-art energy conserving, resource frugal, and nontoxic house that promotes the health and well being of the environment and most importantly, the family.

Fast Facts:

  • Contractor: Allen Associates, Santa Barbara, Calif.
  • Architect/Designer: Thompson Naylor Architects Inc., Santa Barbara, Calf.
  • Sq. ft. before: 1,200
  • Sq. ft. after: 1,800

Project Details

Project Site Sustainability
  • All mature plants were saved
  • Drought tolerant landscaping
  • Owner to remove the existing front lawn — the goal is no turf grass
  • Original concrete block patio, brick from fireplace and outdoor tiles saved and made into an outdoor bench along new back patio
  • Old, unsafe Acacia tree on neighbor’s property removed and used as mulch to amend soil and moderate moisture evaporation

Water Efficiency

  • Water efficient whole house filtration and water softening system does not require electricity or use of salts
  • Roof runoff collected in drywell allows water to slowly percolate back into groundwater
  • Two dual flush toilets
  • Water efficient bathroom and kitchen fixtures
  • Tankless (on-demand) water heater

Energy & Atmosphere

  • New passive solar features include increased amount of south window area to allow natural sunlight; new overhangs and trellis reduce heat gain on south side of home
  • Owner found “radiant barrier” paint additive that helps reduce heat gain when applied to underside of roof
  • Owner found paint product with ceramic particles that increases the insulation and thermal mass capabilities of walls
  • Gas fired “on-demand” water heater — EF of 82
  • Solar hot water heater
  • Energy efficient, Low-E2 windows with fiberglass clad exterior
  • Icynene insulation in all exterior walls to limit infiltration losses
  • Cellulose insulation in ceiling
  • Whole house fan helps cooling interior
  • New walls constructed with 2 by 6 framing to increase insulation capacity
  • Skylight provides natural lighting
  • All new exterior doors are being installed to reduce air infiltration
  • Compact fluorescent lights and new LED technology installed throughout house
  • Standard outdoor lighting will be replaced with fluorescent and LED super low wattage lights
  • Infrastructure for photovoltaic panels provided for future installation.

Materials & Resources

  • Comprehensive construction demolition plan implemented with goal of diverting 95 percent of project’s waste; actual diversion 85 percent (equal to 93.6 tons of waste diverted)
  • Product reuse: five windows given to neighbors; doors, furnace, and appliances donated to Salvation Army; eight doors, toilet, pedestal sink and wall heater donated to Habitat for Humanity; four windows, shutters, and fireplace mantle bought by antique dealer
  • Existing oak flooring sold for reuse on local Craig’s list
  • Owner reused old kitchen cabinets, bookshelves, and closet shelving
  • Reusable materials used for construction fences; will be used for drywell fencing
  • Locally harvested Acacia tree milled in San Luis Obispo used for cabinet trim, shelves and a window bench
  • Owner used unused bathroom sinks, faucet hardware and vanity light fixtures from Orange County construction project
  • Sustainable building materials including bamboo flooring and wheatboard cabinets, and cellulose insulation (recycled newspaper with a class-1 fire rating)
  • Natural linoleum in bathroom and utility room
  • 20 percent of framing lumber FSC certified
  • 50 percent fly-ash used in cement mixture
  • Exterior of house finished with color integrated stucco and fiber cement board reducing long-term maintenance
  • Roof has an expected life of 50 years

Indoor Environmental Quality

  • Wheatboard and formaldehyde-free melamine shelving and cabinet materials
  • American Pride zero-VOC paints and coatings from Livingreen were used on the interior of the home. Dunn Edwards Eco-Shield paint was used for some interior finishes.
  • Nontoxic sealants, adhesives and oils used
  • Operable window promote circulation of fresh air.
  • No carpet used in the home
  • Water filtration system provides clean fresh water for the residents

Innovations & Special Features

  • Owner conducted preremodel analysis of home’s energy usage and monitored energy demand after remodel complete to determine effectiveness of energy efficiency improvements
  • High efficiency residential LED lights installed in kitchen, front patio, hallway and closets meet Title 24 standards. LED lights are 3 to 4 times more efficient than halogen and incandescent lights and last for 15-20 years.