A new HVAC system had been installed two years prior to the remodel, so in the spirit of sustainable reuse, the team removed, stored and refurbished it to service the original portion of the house. The home’s addition was equipped with a high-efficiency HVAC system including heat recovery units that preheat outside air using the home’s exhaust heat. The team conducted testing and balancing to determine how much insulation to incorporate, and the calculated addition of soy-based spray-foam insulation alone dropped the structure’s energy usage by 40 percent.
Although the renovation doubled the home’s size, the team achieved a 28 percent reduction in energy use resulting in an energy utility cost savings of $550 per year. The new homeowners save on water bills as well, thanks to low-flow plumbing fixtures and a 96 percent-efficient water heater with a recirculation system that provides instant hot water.
Wilson views every building as a system in which each item affects others in the environment. He asserts that having a builder who shared his passion went a long way, especially when it came to keeping costs in check. For example, the original design of the stairwell was taller with more glass and topped with a flat roof.
“Mark understood what the tower brought to the project and embraced the concept, but he explained that it was pushing us over budget,” Wilson says. “We collaborated to figure out which elements drove up the expense. Once I understood which features cost too much, I was able to reconfigure the tower to a shorter structure with fewer windows and a sloped shingled roof to make it work for the budget and meet the green intent of the design.”
Everything that went into the house followed LEED criteria. Homeowners benefit from better indoor air quality through features like heavy rubber membrane seals in the crawl space to keep the moisture down, sealed piers at the perimeter walls to prevent moisture intrusion and mold, and dehumidifiers in the basement to remove incidental moisture. Because an automobile can outgas for 45 minutes after it’s turned off, Wilson detached the garage to separate the fumes from the house. Operable windows and a fresh-air ventilation system circulate outdoor air throughout the house.
Materials were locally and regionally sourced, and the team educated subcontractors about on-site recycling efforts. The team also created a new demand for green building materials which influenced suppliers.
“We told one of our suppliers that if we are going to do business together we would need Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood. Now, that’s practically all they sell. And suppliers are better engineering deliverable packages for us with perfect cuts so there’s no waste,” explains Fenelon. “At first, a lot of companies pushed green building aside but now they are totally embracing it.”
The Nashville home has already received Energy Star Certification, and EarthCraft certification is pending. Fenelon believes in obtaining third-party certifications to verify his green building claims and assure owners that the homes will use less energy, have less impact on the environment and require less maintenance than conventionally constructed homes.
“Over the life of the building, the initial structure is only 20 percent the cost of the building, which shows that building a home is just the beginning — maintenance and repairs are a big part of the long-term equation,” Wilson says. “With the increased interest in green building practices and our economic situation, other builders are now responding to the demand for smaller homes built with better materials and higher overall quality to offer benefits over the life of the home.”
Fenelon wants to leave a worthy legacy for others to admire. “We are trying to build something that will last for at least 100 years. I want my daughters to drive by this house when she is 70 years old and proudly say, ‘My dad built that.’ We are leaving behind landmarks of ourselves,” he says.
KJ Fields writes from Portland, Ore., about remodeling and design.