|Location: Greenwood, Seattle
Certification: Built Green Remodel and Zero Carbon Emissions Label
Checklist version: 2023 Remodel
Verifier: Balderston Associates
The artistic homeowners of this Greenwood bath and kitchen remodel viewed their home as the latest canvas for their artistic expression. Intention and personality shine through all the color, patterns, and small details. As artists, the homeowners’ goals were focused on the long-term livability of their home, showcasing their love of art and color, and limiting their impact on the environment. When Nathan Coons, of Coons Construction LLC, presented the idea of certifying their remodel with Built Green’s new 2023 Remodel certification, there was no hesitation.
Like many other homes in Seattle, their 1960’s split-level home was under-insulated, heated by a central, natural gas furnace with no A/C, and had partial remodels over the various decades. The kitchen remained mostly original while the bathrooms had attempted to be remodeled more recently.
To maintain the home’s livability for the coming decades the homeowners wanted to incorporate changes related to accessibility, indoor air quality (IAQ), and thermal comfort. The primary bath was fitted with a walk-in bathtub and grab bars were installed in the new shower. The low-flow bath and kitchen fixtures and water-smart landscaping was modeled and showed a 45% reduction in the home’s total water use over a standard home. A Moen-Flo Smart Water Monitor and Shutoff provides real-time leak alerts and protects the home from potential water damage. Low VOC and Greenguard Gold certified finishes, and natural Marmoleum flooring were used to support healthier IAQ. Air sealing and electrification were important components of the project scope to improve indoor air quality, comfort, and reduce their carbon emissions.
The homeowners communicated they did not want any walls to be removed, because they were an important part of displaying their art collection. Air sealing and insulating older homes is always a challenge. This is especially true when only a small portion of the home is being opened during the remodel, but it’s one of the most important and cost-effective ways to improve comfort and reduce energy consumption. Adding to this challenge was the 2:12 low-sloped roof. The initial blower door test resulted in 14 Air Changes per Hour (ACH). Coons maximized the insulation throughout the attic and garage ceilings to the current code minimum of R-49. Wherever they could access, air sealing took place, even if it was a single outlet in a room. Blueskin, a self-adhering air and vapor barrier membrane, was used wherever possible, including to create an air separation between the home and the attached garage. At completion, the efforts paid off, the new blower door test was 6.5 ACH, a 53% improvement! The home’s final ACH score may not seem impressive, when compared to the much lower ACH scores that are typically achieved in new construction or down-to-studs remodels, but imagine if this was done to all existing homes!
For this older home to be ready to exist in a future of electrified, zero carbon emission homes the homeowners were not satisfied with just removing gas at the meter. They had gas capped off at the street to ensure this was a gas free property. A Tier III heat-pump water heater and induction cooking range were installed. New wall-mounted heat pump mini-split units supply heating and A/C to the main living space on the upper and lower floors and are zonally controlled for maximum comfort. Bedrooms and bathrooms are supplied by a new forced-air heat-pump air handler and its ducting in the garage was insulated. The original electrical panel was replaced with two new 200-amp panels that are pre-wired with infrastructure to support installation of future solar panels and an EV charging station.
To keep materials out of the landfill and limiting consumption of new resources, reuse became a key strategy of the project. The homeowners spent a lot of time shopping at salvage and reuse suppliers. Elements and materials in the home that still had life and were saved and reused, including light fixtures, toilets, and doors. In the bathrooms two hand painted vanities had previous lives as commode dressers. Excess materials were donated to Habitat for Humanity Snohomish County. Nathan found that recycling debris had the biggest visual impact during construction because they utilized on-site separating of debris. The piles of debris being taken to recycling facilities, versus landfill, were enlightening. He noted the biggest challenge was creating the habit with crew members to separate debris on site, rather than dump it all into one bin. The project recycled 85% of demolition and construction waste. This project benefitted from a lot that provided room to easily facilitate the on-site separation. Nathan intends to maintain the crew’s new habit by source-separating recycling as much as possible of future remodel projects.
This was Coons Construction’s first Built Green certified remodel. Nathan found the keys to success on this project were planning, communication, supervision, and research. He recently presented this project at the 2023 Built Green Conference and told those considering a Built Green remodel, “There is nothing radical in building a green remodel. Most of the Built Green Remodeling requirements are likely to become standard within the industry as the building code is already starting to require these strategies.” He went on to share the resources available to learn about what materials to use, the benefit of using a third-party verifier and Built Green framework, and how networking was a great way to get good supplier and subcontractor referrals. While the initial learning curve required more time to be allocated during the planning stage, getting experience remodeling green homes now would give a remodeler a head start on what will be required to be built in the future.