Being the Executive Director at an organization that promotes and trains on residential green building, Brett Little decided to put his money where his mouth was and commit to green remodeling in his first home purchase. Brett and his wife Laura wanted to commit to the up and coming city of Grand Rapids Michigan, which was easy to do with all the past few years of recognition and grow (Most sustainable mid-sized city, beer city USA 12′ and 13′, top ten place to find a job, most LEED building per capital and etc etc. ). The project is a prime of example of how one can use GreenStar on a small remodel / weatherization job without being too invasive to the home.
The 2 story house circa the 1920s was aesthetically in great shape, had a newly remodeled kitchen, intact wood windows and trim, good paint, half finished the basement and very well kept landscaped (turf) yard.
What the house was missing was quickly shown in the inspection and energy audit. They revealed a lack of any decent insulation/air sealing, chuck full of incandescent light bulbs, inefficient water fixtures, noisy bath fan old and oversized heating/cooling systems along with a dinosaur of a water heater and no garden in the perfectly south facing fenced in backyard.
The target was LEED Silver certification through a Gut Rehab, but we quickly had determined that exposing the exterior or interior walls to air seal plus removing the shower and tub surround to add in a non-paper face drywall would go way over our budget. While LEED may fall more in line with a Deep Green Retrofit, we opted to do a Moderate Green Retrofit.
From there it was clear that the once called MNGreenStar program would make the most sense and they used it to document the existing conditions and come up with our goals to make the home better. As you can see in the initial energy audit in which they used was the HERS Model (think an MPG sticker for your house) and came out at 175. You can see a little more on results we got here. This number was on track with the old homeowners energy bills which we acquired during the audit. Their overall order of importance to the home upgrades was Energy Efficiency, Indoor Environmental Quality, Water Conservation, Landscaping and then Material Conservation.
They came across a unique financing that allowed them to do a lot of work in the up front while getting a longer return on investment, MI Saves had partnered with their gas company DTE to allow a $2,500 kickback to those who could show a performance plan of gas savings of 30% with an upgrade. Trane/WellsFargo also had a fantastic deal with a 0% 5-year loan that allowed other products outside of their brand to make up 50% of the costs.
Key achievements for GreenStar Certification
- Insulation + air sealing
- New Storm Windows
- New fiberglass energy star door + weather stripping old door
- 96% Efficient, modulating and right sized furnace with ECM
- 90% Efficient Hybrid 20-gallon water heater
- Sealed all exposed ducts and hot water pipes
- Programmable Thermostat
- Mostly LED’s, some CFLs with some Dimmers or Motion sensors
- Air changes per Hour (ACH): 5.1
- Final HERS: 65
- Final Energy Performance Score: 24,000 KWHe
- Home Energy Score: 10
- 181 Points in E.E
- Ultimate Air Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV)
- New Panasonic Exhaust Fan
- Closed Combustion Furnace & Water Heater
- Vented Hood Range
- No VOC Paint In Basement
- MERV 10 Filter
- Asbestos Removed from heating ducts
- Radon Test (negative)
- Whole House Carbon Water Filtration
- 46 Points in IEQ
- Water Leak Test
- .5 GPM Bathroom Aerator
- 1.6 GPM Water Sense Shower Head
- Niagara Stealth Toilet at .8 Gallons Per Flush (half of a normal toilet!)
- Plan to not water lawn during the day
- Reduced Turf
28 points in water conservation
- Installed Food Garden & Raised Beds
- High Walkscore of 80 out of 100
- Compost and Recycle almost all waste through the city & organic cycle
- 24 points in Site and Community Impact
Because this was a light remodel and weatherization they did not score too many material points. Materials are mainly for extensive work being done and refurbishment in existing homes.
Our blog details 1 years worth of utility date & costs associated with the project. It also features lessons learned. They will be keeping it up to date by monitoring the performance, durability, comfortably and maintenance.
They plan to achieve Silver Certification within 2 years by converting more of the backyard to a food garden and the entire front yard over to a mix of drought tolerant and native plant species along with raised bed food gardens. Adding rain barrels and fixing the gutters. We hope to achieve more points by painting the exterior of the house with carcinogen free no VOC paint.
Other current issues – No return ducts in the 2nd floor and some older ducts still panned in the joist may be causing temp swings in the second floor and higher summer humidity. We have an idea of opening up the kitchen to connect to the living and dining and during that time we could potentially add return ducts and seal the current ducts.
A trifecta of SIPS panels, solar panels and a geothermal system were the heavy-hitters used to achieve a HERS (Home Efficiency Rating System) score of 29 in this new home located in south-central Minnesota. This means that this house is projected to consume 71% less energy than a house built to just meet the 2006 IECC and 41% less energy than a typical MN code home. Actual results have exceeded expectations, and the homeowners are very pleased.
Site impact was an especially important consideration during the building process. The home is located near a lake, one of Minnesota’s most valuable natural resources. The orientation of the home takes full advantage of beautiful views and the benefits of natural daylight.
The Rivers’ home also won a building-excellence-award from SIPA (Structural Insulated Panel Association) based on the following features:
For more information on this project visit wilcon-construction.net.
Working with architect Phil Rader and builder Benjamin Akhigbe, the owners had several clear objectives for their new house in an established South Minneapolis neighborhood. The house needed to be accessible to people of varying physical abilities and be a house in which the present or any future owners could “age in place” if they so desired. Examples of universal design features in the house are a landscaping plan that provides an attractive stepless route into the house and from the house to the garage, wide interior doorways and corridors, and a main floor bedroom with a generous bathroom that includes a curbless, doorless shower. Closets are aligned to have the option of installing a personal elevator serving the basement, main floor and second floor if that need should ever arise.
It was important for the scale of the house to fit as much as possible in with the built-up neighborhood, and so it has a one-and-a-half story presentation like most of the other homes nearby. Through various structural choices, such as using TJI joists rather than wide open trusses, the house’s overall height was kept to a minimum while still allowing nine-foot ceilings and ample room for two bedrooms and baths on the second floor. With a wide mix of architectural styles in the immediate neighborhood, the owners felt the freedom to draw on their Asian and Scandinavian heritages to result in a design that might be described as craftsman-influenced with clean lines, wide overhangs, generous square-jointed trim, and an open floor plan. Thanks to placing windows in sets of two or three in most rooms along with keeping the garage slightly detached, interior rooms receive abundant light and ventilation, with views of the streetscape and the nearby community garden.
In order to avoid maintenance of gutters, roof runoff is channeled via the four roof valleys into ground level catchment beds where heavy flows are directed through below-grade piping away from the house and to a rain garden. Plantings are primarily native plants, shrubs, and trees. A minimal amount of turf remains from erosion control during construction, and it is being replaced with slow-grown fescue mix and with non-turf groundcover. A front porch was important to the owners, and to enable a sloping roof that does not interfere with second story windows, a curved design is used, with traditional beadboard porch ceilings. The roof design is repeated on a smaller scale above the back and garage doors.
With a generous amount of maple trim on the interior, a challenge was use of low VOC finishes which were more difficult to work with than traditional finishes. Kitchen countertops include granite from a quarry near Isabella, Minnesota, and a commercial butcher block which one of the owners personally salvaged from a restaurant demolished to make way for the K-Mart centered “urban renewal” at Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue in South Minneapolis. Toilets are dual flush, the water heater is sealed combustion, and other features such as a mechanical air exchanger and generous insulation help to keep energy costs at a minimum.
While a lot of design attention went into the “green” and “universal design” features of the house, most visitors are oblivious to those features, simply enjoying the house for its comfort and attractive design.
This multi-level home qualified as the first Minnesota Green Star home in the Mankato area. Residents of the home enjoy a lovely view of a large retention pond in the Sakatah Fields subdivision in Mankato. The home has the following eco-friendly features:
1) Energy Star windows, doors, furnace, appliances and air-conditioning.
2) Low-flow faucets, toilets and showers.
3) Eco-friendly grass is drought resistant and requires 50% less mowing.
4) Over half of the floors are hard surface contributing to improved indoor air quality.
5) South facing windows provide ample natural daylight and reduced winter heating costs.
This home demonstrates energy efficient, eco-friendly homes can still have excellent curb appeal and spacious family living space.
By Wilcon Construction
The first GreenStar certified home built by Wilcon Construction, Inc.
Saint James, Minnesota
This MN GreenStar BRONZE certified home was designed to be energy efficient and provide open light-filled spaces and healthy indoor air to the residents. The design features locally manufactured Lindsay windows that allow natural day lighting and passive solar heat gain during the winter. When the sun is high overhead during the summer, overhangs provide shading to minimize solar gain. The home features geo-thermal heating and cooling, Water Sense certified plumbing fixtures and Energy Star appliances.
Efforts were made to use local and sustainable building materials including concrete mixed with fly ash, and Kasota limestone from a nearby quarry. Recycling and reduction of construction waste and reusing construction scraps was an important part of the building process. Interior finish selections made from recycled products include Shaw Epic engineered wood floors and Shetkastone countertops (manufactured from old paper in LeSueur, Minnesota) in the master bath. Other products which contribute healthy indoor air quality include Marmoleum flooring and countertops, Cambria countertops, formaldehyde-free cabinets and low VOC water based finishes.
Outside the home, the landscape includes native drought tolerant plants, fruit-bearing bushes, and a small vegetable garden. Three rain gardens planted with native grasses and flowering perennials capture water run-off from the roof.
By Wilcon Construction
For more information on this project visit www.rottlundhomes.com.
J.L. Wageman Homes, a true custom Builder, is now experienced in achieving the MN GreenStar standards with building of this certified home. Planning from start to finish is the main key to incorporate the 5 elements of building green. The energy efficiency of geothermal heating system, the resource efficiency of the reclaimed granite countertops in the kitchen and baths, indoor environmental quality of low voc paints and hard surface flooring, the water conservation using low flow toilets and faucets, rain gardens, and native plantings in the landscaping and the site and community impact of restored prairie lands and maintained excavated soil to reuse on site. These are just a few of the highlights that makes this home energy efficient and durable now and being sustainable in the years to come. Let J.L. Wageman Homes expertise work for you.
By Jerry Wageman, JL Wageman Homes
For more information on this project visit www.jlwagemanhomes.com.
Green Home Institute
PO Box 68164
Grand Rapids MI 49516
Tel: (616) 458-6733
Toll Free: (888) 533-3274
- Arts and Crafts Goes Green – ADA and LEED – Midland, Michigan
- Prokopp Residence – LEED Silver – Lake Angelus, MI
- First ever certified GreenStar Homes Multifamily improves occupant health
- Building a Sustainable Garden Shed | Jessica Bliss of shedplans.org
- Come See the GHI Executive Director, Brett Little, Speak at the Net Zero Build Summit in Novi, Michigan on March 24-25, 2020