What environmentalist doesn’t love to see new life breathed into a 1960s tract house, like this one in Goleta, Calif. There are so many of them in the United States, and this example shows how an older inefficient home can be transformed to a near net-zero energy house.
In fact, tells project manager Bryan Henson, the most exciting thing about the project was when the owners got their first electric bill—for $3. The home was remodeled to accommodate a mother and daughter. The mother, though independent now, wanted a home where she could age in place, while offering enough room and privacy for her daughter and visiting family members. A mere 260 square feet was added to the home’s footprint by Paul Poirier, an architect with Poirier & David Associates. And the whole house was opened up to add light and a feeling of spaciousness.
The green requirements included overall energy efficiency, which was achieved by maximizing the use of insulation, increasing natural light to reduce the electrical load, LED lighting, solar hot water heating for the swimming pool and the domestic water. In addition, the project only generated 2% waste, used salvage and local materials, and low-VOC materials.
“We were able to open the house up,” explains Henson. “We vaulted two areas and added nine skylights and solartubes, so you don’t have to turn on the lights. In fact, once I went over there and it was raining and [the owner] was reading without lights on.”
For Henson, one of the exciting things about this project was vetting products. For this project, Henson particularly liked the Tyvak Attic wrap, energy recovery ventilator, and Icynene insulation. For down the road, he’s ready to move into newer technologies like the Huper Optik USA ceramic window films that add only $10 a square foot to the cost, but block solar heat gain that gets through high-performance windows.
“If you go by the rule of thumb, no one will get better. Well-thought-out ideas and systems in the built environment means we have to take some risks, but mostly it works. We build better and we’re all better for it.”