Your mother was right. When you leave the back door open, you are bringing in all the heat from outside. And if your air conditioner is running while your door is open, you are letting out all the cool air while using additional energy to cool the warmer air youve just allowed to enter the house.
If you understand this concept, you are already on your way to a more sustainable home.
Treasure Valley homeowners are discovering how to make better choices when remodeling or building, and Green Remodelings Josh Bogle is helping to educate them through a workshop series that covers sustainable energy topics (see page 31 for more information).
Homeowners decide to remodel or build a new home to match shifts in their lives, such as keeping up with their growing familys needs or repairing and updating an aging home. Two of Bogles recent projects illustrate the different ways homeowners choose to incorporate the concept of sustainability into their own lifestyles.
Rebuilding with responsibility and respect
Rochelle Johnson and her husband, Don Mansfield, work hard to live by the practices they teach as professors at the College of Idaho. Johnson, who teaches environmental humanities and American literature, helped found the environmental studies major at the school. Her passion for teaching was recognized in 2010, when she received the Idaho Professor of the Year Award from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Mansfield teaches biology courses and is the chairman of the environmental studies program.
The familys previous home was in Caldwells historic district. They wanted to downsize and wanted their new home to be roomy enough to be functional, but not excessively large.
We wanted to use every space every day, Johnson says.
They found a property in Northwest Boise that had nearly everything on their wish list: a great location near good schools for their 4-year-old daughter, Wren, plus lots of mature trees on a three-quarter-acre lot loaded with potential. The spacious yard had a garden space, chicken coop and pond already in place.
This house had been so loved and had such a good feeling that we knew it was right for us. It had a really great spirit, Johnson says.
The home was built in 1951 and was one level with 1,500 square feet. Johnson and Mansfield knew it would require some remodeling to meet their needs as a busy family. Both Johnson and Mansfield wanted offices, and they would add a third bedroom to have room for Mansfields two grown children when they spend time with the family. One of the offices added in the remodel also doubles as a fourth bedroom, so Ethan and Anna Mansfield (ages 24 and 21) can each have their own room during visits.
It was important to Johnson and Mansfield to make the upgrades environmentally responsible. As they interviewed potential remodelers, Johnson was surprised how often potential contractors would dismiss her questions. When she discovered Green Remodeling, she knew she had found the right company for the project.
I teach environmental studies, and I want to practice what I preach. And I care about the environment and have a small child, Johnson says. Josh (Bogle) and Jon (Jonathan King) were the only ones with whom I talked who would say, Well, of course, when I would raise concerns about environmental impact and sustainable practices.
They bought the home in August 2011. The remodel began in January 2012 and was finished in May. But there was a surprise early on that ended up being a game-changer for the original remodel plans.
It turned out the house needed more than a few upgrades. The foundation was in bad shape, and Bogles crew determined the best approach was to take the home down to the studs and rebuild. A second floor was added because the family didnt want to build out on the lot they fell in love with. But Bogle went out of his way to avoid harming the trees surrounding the home. He built the second floor and the new roof without the use of a crane.
The former homeowners lived there for 40 years, and Johnson says that detail was important as the team planned the remodel. That respect for the former homeowners was maintained throughout the project, she says. Some of the former homes features (plus a neighbors hand-me-down) live on in the rebuilt home.
Wood from the old home was repurposed and used as the end cap of the bannister post on the staircase. When we put our hands on it, were touching the history of the house, Johnson says.
A claw foot bathtub upstairs in the master bath was salvaged from a neighbors home. They refinished the tub and gave it new life in their remodeled bathroom.
The original kitchen stove is still being used in the new kitchen. Why throw it out when it still works?
The original garage/shop is also still on the property.
A green wish-list was honored and even improved upon by Bogle as the remodel began to take shape. The family wanted wood floors instead of carpet because of the toxins that are released through carpet flooring. They also wanted fiberglass windows because vinyl windows offgas, meaning they produce toxins that can contribute to poor indoor air quality (wood windows are another good choice but are pricier than fiberglass). Bogle was sensitive to the familys environmental concerns in addition to their budget. He suggested fiberglass windows instead of the costlier wood option, and they chose wood flooring rather than wool carpeting (although, it is a healthier choice than some other carpet fibers) because it was more affordable and because the wood was sourced from Idaho forests. (Buying locally often is considered a more sustainable choice. Among other factors, its better for the environment because of the reduction in fuel used in shipping.)
The homes two levels total 2,200 square feet with the four bedrooms (including the one used as an office/guest room), two bathrooms and another office. Bogle describes the overall build of the home as normal bungalow style, but the sustainable choices they made as a team put this project behind the typical range.
We paid attention to details, he says.
Some of the other features that make this home green include:
- The nontoxic sealant and finish used on the flooring
- Low-or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint
- Sun-reflectant composite shingles on the roof
- Marmoleum (an eco-friendly floor covering) in the mudroom
While many of the green features are visible, most of the benefits extend beyond what you can see. The shingles dont absorb as much heat as traditional roofing shingles, and that contributes to the homes cooler temperature in the summer. Even during Boises string of 100-plus-degree days throughout July, air conditioning was rarely needed. Another factor? The home is airtight. It scored exceptionally high on the blower door test, which is used to measure the tightness of a home and to identify how quickly (and where) air leaks from the home. It tested 10 times tighter than an Energy Star home, Bogle says.
Weve done so many things that are cutting edge that to go back to something basic like this and see how tight it could be was very gratifying, he says.
While the highest priority was an environmentally responsible remodel, there were plenty of opportunities to make the new home beautiful as well as smartly efficient. The colorful ceramic bathroom sink on the main floor of the home is a style known as Mexican Talavera. The same company was the source for the tile backsplash above the kitchen stove. I just like handcrafted things, Johnson explains.
The family also admires Craftsman style, and that interest is especially reflected in the chandelier they selected for the dining room.
The familys influence is reflected throughout the home. Johnsons Swedish heritage influenced the overall design: We value light, wood, openness and simplicity. Light spills in from the windows in the main living space and inside her office.
Mansfield, a botanist, can appreciate the yards rich and diverse features. The family has made the most of the large garden space that was already in place when they purchased the home.
Now they enjoy fresh lettuce, peppers and other home-grown produce in addition to the numerous berries they can pick throughout the spacious yard.
The remodel was a positive experience for the family. When the project was finished, the family hosted a large barbecue for every person who worked on the remodel.
You always hear people say how stressful a remodel is, but this wasnt stressful at all, Johnson says.
Sustainable and ready for the future
As a real estate agent in Seattle, Will Kemper had the opportunity to sell properties for a builder who had created some of the first LEED-certified townhomes in the city. He took workshops similar to those offered by Josh Bogle, and that experience fueled his passion for the concept of sustainable building.
Kemper and his family wife Daphne Huang and children Perry and Noe, ages 8 and 6 selected a lot in the North End when the family decided to move to Boise. The location was ideal because it was walking distance to a nearby park, a grocery store, schools and Downtown. And Kemper grew up in a home near 17th and Alturas streets. This, to me, was the best place to be, he says.
The challenge? The home didnt exist yet (there was no home on that perfect lot). The family had to purchase a home that had been converted into apartments in order to get the open lot they wanted next to that house. Kemper worked with Bogle and his Green Remodeling team to build a sustainable home, and after it was finished in summer 2011, the home ended up on a tour for Bogles last sustainability seminar series. Kemper has also attended Bogles seminars, and Bogle considers Kempers home an ideal example of sustainability.
I brought people there and then sort of stood back while Will walked through all the principles we had gone over in class, Bogle says.
The house is 2,100 square feet and has an additional 700 square feet in the basement. Solar panels on the roof provide enough power to heat much of the water that is used by the family. (Between April and mid-November, those solar panels provide more hot water than the family can use.) There is no need for air-conditioning, thanks to the concrete flooring on the main level that helps keep the house cool, along with the air-tight construction that maximizes the homes efficiency. (See the photos and captions for more examples of the homes efficiency.)
The better your house is insulated, the better job it will do maintaining its temperature, Kemper says.
In addition to the many building techniques that make Kempers home green, it is also green in a different way: This home is a serious multitasker. The office doubles as a guest room. The bedroom Perry and Noe currently share was constructed so that a wall can later be added when the children get older and want their own space. And later, when the children leave home, the wall can easily be removed if Kemper and Huang decide they have more use for the single space rather than two divided rooms.
A similar concept is in place in the main bathroom the family shares. While Kemper values the idea of a shared family space, he also understands the importance of resale value because of his real estate background. The bathroom was built to allow it to easily be converted into a master bath if a future buyer wants to customize the space.
This was made to change, Kemper says. There is a thoughtfulness for how youll use it in the future.
Putting some home improvement projects on pause reduces the amount of construction and waste down the road, Kemper explains. For now the house is ideal for the way Kempers family lives: smaller bedrooms (including the master) and shared spaces.
As they grow, because of the planning they did during construction, the home can gracefully transition with the family.
We hope to be in this house for 50 years, he says.
Our world is not set up to look 10 or 20 years down the road. We look at tomorrow, Kemper says. I wanted a house that would work for me in the long term.
Chereen Langrill, a graduate of Boise State University, has been a journalist in Idaho for more than 15 years. A freelance writer, she enjoys covering all aspects of Idaho and its friendly Idahoans. Chereen loves walking in the Foothills with her dogs, Lulu and Murphy, and her husband, Idaho Statesman sports reporter Chris Langrill.