Michigan GreenStar’s First Certified Remodel in Grand Rapids

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. Little House New Pic

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.

Back deck

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
    • R 38 Spray foam in attic – Foam had cane/beat sugar components
    • Closed-cell Spray foam rim band joist and 1/4 of basement wall
    • 4 inches of Rigid Cellulose called Eco-Cell on basement walls  
    • Drill n fill cellulose added in the empty wallsEE
    • Caulking and Air sealing the windows and trim
  • 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.EIEQ
  • 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 ductsWC
  • 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!)
  • SCPlan 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.

To see the entirely completed checklist, go here and download it or view it online 

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.

BrocGarden Image FullThey 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.

 

 

Wilcon Construction, Inc. – Project 3: New Home Bronze

New Home Bronze

Wilcon Construction

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:

  • 6-inch SIP walls, 10-inch SIP roof
  • Geothermal heating system
  • In-floor radiant heating
  • ENERGY STAR lighting and appliances
  • Onsite solar generation
  • Recycling program implemented during construction
  • All low VOC paints, sealants and finishes

For more information on this project visit wilcon-construction.net.

Benoz Homes: New Home Bronze

Benoz Homes

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.
For more information on this project call 612-508-7927.

Wilcon Construction, Inc. – Project 2: New Home Bronze

Mankato, Minnesota

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

 

Wilcon Construction, Inc. – Project 1: New Home Bronze

Wilcon Construction Inc.

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

JL Wageman Homes: New Home Bronze

MNGS New Home Bronze Logo

JL Wageman Homes

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

JL Wageman Homes - Fireplace  JL Wageman Homes - Kitchen

For more information on this project visit www.jlwagemanhomes.com.

Creek Hill Custom Homes: New Home Bronze

New Home Bronze
Creek Hill Custom Homes

When Rick and Adrienne Harrison contacted Michael Hillesheim of Creek Hill Custom Homes Inc. to build their new home according to MN GreenStar qualifications, Mike eagerly accepted the opportunity to learn more about “Green” building hands on.  Creek Hill Custom Homes has always built a great quality home for their buyer(s) but now the challenge was to build a home with respect to the future.

The building site/lot was formerly park land that had been used as a fill site.  Soil corrections were accomplished by using the soil on site.  The house was built with energy efficient walls.  A metal roof was used as well as other energy efficient fixtures and building materials.

Our subcontractors were made more aware of environmental impact and material conservation.  They have carried this awareness and conservation on into other new construction.  Our framers now use materials more efficiently and conservatively after building a MN GreenStar house.

The Harrison’s and Creek Hill Custom Homes Inc. are proud of the achievement of building a certified MN GreenStar home and contributing to a better future for everyone.

By Barb Fisher, Creek Hill Custom Homes

For more information on this project visit www.creekhillcustomhomes.com.

Lumber One Cold Spring: New Home Bronze

New Homes Bronze
Lumber One

I remember becoming very excited about the possibility of being included in the MN GreenStar pilot program.  Sustainability along with energy, water and resource conservation have always been a high priority for me and my family.  My background includes growing up on a farm in Southwestern Minnesota.  Learning how to best use natures resources was a high priority of my Dads.  I remember being proud of him when he was featured in a local farm paper for his soil conservation/preservation practices i.e. contour terraces to keep the soil from being washed into the local watershed.  Looking back he was well ahead of the EPA’s storm water programs.

My interest in science led me to St Cloud State University to study for a triple (comprehensive) major in biology, chemistry and physics.  Prior to working in the home building and remodeling business I taught chemistry, biology and physics.  While teaching I built my 2nd home utilizing advanced insulation techniques, one of the first 82% efficient furnaces along with one of the highest rated air conditioners being controlled by a set back thermos stat.

In 1982 I began my career as a new home salesperson with Lumber One Cold Spring.  Since then I have helped nearly 600 families build their dream homes.  From starter homes to executive homes to homes where families can age in place utilizing universal building techniques.

Working with everyone at MN GreenStar through out the planning, building and inspection and certification phases has been seamless.  I finished my home just in time for the Central Minnesota Spring Tour of Homes in the spring of 2008.  Since then I have had it open for the fall tour of 2008 and spring tour of 2009.  I have had approximately 3000 people thru the home.  When folks enter the home, I say welcome to my green built home.  I get two responses, that is why I am here or what do you mean?  A perfect opportunity to explain the complete process.  When asked how much the “green” features added, the universal response was wow, that is less than I expected.

Thanks again for the opportunity of working with MN GreenStar on my 3rd party certified home.  I look forward to utilizing as many of these concepts I can in all of my future custom built homes.

By Jim Green, Lumber One Cold Spring

For more information on this project visit www.lumber-one.com.

Pillar Homes: New Home Bronze

New Home Bronze
Pillar Homes

Pillar Homes goal was a stunning new retro house that takes you back to a nostalgic era with memories of family farms.  We wanted to purchase sustainable products, utilize energy saving systems and products, and minimize the footprint on the environment.  We created a home and separate out building that integrate together on the site creating a very inviting and usable relationship.

The exterior green parts of the home:

  • “Cool roof” (a galvanized aluminum roof)
  • An intensive long-term prairie restoration project
  • Rain garden for roof runoff
  • Vegetable and flower garden
  • Cement fiber board siding

Energy saving aspects are the geothermal heating and cooling system, closed cell insulation, off-peak utility service, light bulbs, dimmers, and the Warmboard radiant subfloor system with hot water integrated in it.  Radiant heat is also in the lower level.

The interior design is truly a showcase with a careful balance of the old mixed with new.  The interior product showcases are:

  • Reclaimed wood throughout:  Pine kitchen walls, antique Elm floors, fireplace mantles, fireplace doors, great room ceiling beams, and a suspended custom stairwell.
  • Hot water radiant floor heat on main and lower levels
  • Stained concrete floors in the lower level and main level
  • Cambria, Verazzo, Avonite, and Paperstone countertops
  • Enameled trim and MDF doors
  • Low VOC and no VOC paint
  • Master bedroom closet system with no urea formaldehyde

The end result gives our homeowner an updated nostalgic farm house reminiscent of the past with sustainable state-of-the-art products.  It is truly an environmentally smart building project.

By KC Chermak, Pillar Homes

For more information on this project visit www.pillarhomes.com.