With its mission to minimize the impact on the environment using energy-conscious building practices, Go Green Construction (Go Green or GGC) has strongly committed itself to sustainability. To remain up-to-date with economic demands and current technology, I, as its owner, have followed up on Go Green’s Build-it-Green certification by pursuing a Building Performance Institute certificate. BPI sets the standards for energy efficiency retrofit work using an open, transparent, consensus-based process built on sound building science.
With BPI certification in hand, my team and I have joined utility companies like So Cal Gas Co. and So Cal Edison in bringing sustainable homes to residents in the Los Angeles region. This program, Energy Upgrade California, has led many area homeowners to reconsider their home remodeling projects.
One GGC client’s home in particular has achieved a remarkable improvement in energy savings. Meadowcrest is located in the hills of Sherman Oaks, an area of Los Angeles, shaded by several trees and well-positioned to receive natural lighting. The home was originally built in 1963 and has been subjected to several interior remodels throughout the years, resulting in instances of water damage and mold growth as well as poor insulation and considerable air leakage.
Our first task was to test the kitchen for mold as the clients had noticed a black stain growing around the kitchen cabinets. Mold from a refrigerator water leak had spread and contaminated a large portion of the drywall and cabinets. We removed any and all mold spores, removed the damaged cabinets and replaced the drywall.
Our contract called for remodeling a large portion of the Meadowcrest home: floors to be changed, a part of the roof repaired, walls moved, the unused fireplace removed and the kitchen redone. We also suggested the client employ the Energy Upgrade California program, which enables savings of up to 40 percent (as advertised) on the home’s utility bills and provides for rebates as much as $8,000.
Initially, we knew we could go above and beyond the advertised energy savings, but even we were surprised our methods of sustainable building resulted in a 72 percent energy savings.
During pre-construction, we performed an energy test to determine existing conditions. The tests included a blower door test for air leakage in the walls, doors, windows and ceiling, as well as a duct blaster test of the efficiency of the HVAC ducts. We also performed a combustion safety test on all the combustion appliances, such as the gas oven, dryer, etc. Employing a model derived from the Energy Pro program, we were able to compare the home’s existing conditions and a proposed condition model. The proposed energy saving calculations came out to 45 percent.
During construction, we used smart building techniques to maximize the home’s energy efficiency: meticulous air sealing of the building envelope; duct mastic used at all electrical boxes; fireproof caulking on all seams of recessed light housing; calculation of the specifics of the wall system to address any dew points that could cause problems with moisture in the wall; assuring the quality of the installation of ceiling and wall insulation; replacing the HVAC system using a Manual J, D, & S, which guarantees its proper fit and function; adding insulation in the HVAC ducts to prevent leakage and temperature change and promoting efficient airflow to the rooms.
Test-out procedures repeated the initial tests. We were able to compare the real post-construction results to the proposed results. Because of our workmanship, the home achieved a 72 percent energy savings.
Factors contributing to this number included air sealing the ceiling and walls and replacing the original 10 SEER 5-ton HVAC unit with a 1.5-ton 13 SEER unit. Adding R-38 insulation to the ceiling and R-30 insulation to the walls created a comfortable and balanced air temperature from room to room.
In a nutshell, our experience in sustainable construction, our application of the latest technical advances in rational construction and dedicated, well-conceived craftsmanship while employing only standard construction materials have enabled Meadowcrest’s current HVAC system to consume less energy than a typical hair dryer.
Founder of Go Green Construction, Northridge, Calif., Fernando Feldman has 40 years of construction experience providing consulting, design and construction services, as well as efficiency auditing, including energy performance evaluations. He is a licensed general contractor, as well as C-2, C-39 insulation and roofing, BPI, CGBP and EUC certified. His affiliates also include CHEERS, HERS, LEED, GPR-NH, CGP, CSBA certifications.