Demonstration homes are a staple of the International Builders’ Show, and in February 2012 in Orlando, Fla., visitors will have a chance to see not only new construction projects, but also take a tour of a home that was remodeled in an innovative and non-intrusive way. The Cool Energy House, a show home produced by the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America Retrofit Alliance (BARA), will demonstrate how to take an existing home and improve energy efficiency by nearly 50 percent with little disturbance to the home’s charm and existing features.
The Team and House
BARA is one of the Building America teams charged with developing innovative, real-world solutions that achieve significant energy and cost savings for homeowners and builders. For more information about Building America and the BARA team, visit ForResidentialPros.com/BuildingAmerica to read “What Is Building America and the Building America Retrofit Alliance?” by Stacy Hunt and Craig Savage.
This remodeling project was selected by BARA because of its comprehensive nature and the opportunity to interject significant energy improvements in a “traditional” remodeling process. The remodeling work is being paid for by the homeowner with technical and communications support provided by DOE’s Building America program and other project contributors.
The Cool Energy House was built in 1996, a time when energy efficiency was just beginning to gain ground but was still not a major concern during the design and construction of new dwellings. However, the project is not just about gaining efficiency. “This project is really about showing affordability, not just possibilities,” says Craig Savage of Building Media Inc., a Seattle-based provider of online training programs for the construction industry and part of the BARA team.
The 3-story, 3,600-square-foot, four-bedroom brick house features a full-width second-story veranda overlooking a pool. The first floor walls are 2- by 6-wood frame, and the second and third floor walls are 2- by 4-wood frame. The third story of the home is divided between finished and unfinished attic space.
The homeowners requested an addition consisting of a three-car garage with a live-in unit above the garage. The homeowners employed architecture firm Winter Park Design Inc., Maitland, Fla., to design the remodel and addition, and Orlando-based Southern Traditions Development, a custom-home builder focused on home performance, to complete the renovations.
As a first step, an initial energy audit was conducted by another Building America team, the Consortium for Advanced Residential Buildings. The audit revealed fair to poor insulation in the exterior walls, resulting in an R-value between 10 and 12 in the first-floor walls and an R-value between 7 and 9 in the second- and third-floor walls. The ceiling areas had 4 to 6 inches of filthy blown fiberglass insulation, resulting in erratic R-values between 15 and 18. Substantial gaps between the insulation and the wall frame also were noted. These gaps allowed airflow inside the walls.
Windows were aluminum-framed, double-paned in most of the house with the exception being the single-pane windows on the lower back of the house and leaky wood French doors.
Once the building was evaluated, all the data gathered about the home’s current energy use was entered into BEopt, the DOE’s Building Energy Optimization software that rapidly does building costs versus energy-savings analysis. The software analyzed the data and generated a report of various home improvements specific to the climate. Anyone can download and use BEopt by visiting beopt.nrel.gov.
BEopt is especially helpful in retrofit projects because, according to Savage, “It essentially allows you very quickly to determine in your area what energy efficiency measures to apply to your home to get the biggest bang for your dollar.” These measures include insulating, air sealing and duct sealing. Building America is producing guidelines for these measures at a rapid rate to help support builders and remodelers as the learn how to make projects more energy efficient.