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Less is more GREEN: LemonDrop Addition on the Seattle Green Home Tour

April 18, 2012

We are excited to be a stop on the Seattle Green Home Tour this Saturday and Sunday (April 21st and 22nd). The LemonDrop Addition is a great example of an affordable green addition, starting with a tiny yellow “warbox” and adding a passive solar addition with a green roof. The difference in the comfort of the home and how it works for our lifestyle is immense. There will be lots of green building strategies and products on display, so stop by if you are in the area.

I have been writing through this blog about LD Arch Design’s philosophy of “less is more GREEN” – in other words, designing with less space, less new stuff, less toxic stuff, less energy, and less water. I make the point that this approach often costs less in construction costs as well. Additionally, some recent articles point out the environmental benefits of retrofitting homes lightly (which is also in line with the mission of “thrifty and thoughtful design for a small planet”).

Reuse is greener:

A recent study by Preservation Green Lab compares the environmental impact of retrofitting an existing building for better energy efficiency vs. tearing down the building and replacing it with a new green building. It turns out that there is significant “embodied energy” in existing homes (i.e. all of the energy that it took to build them in the first place) that is wasted if the home is destroyed. As the report says:

Carbon payback times vary considerably by climate and building type, but the new report shows that reuse, even without energy performance improvements, almost always trumps demolition and new construction.

Of course, best is to find that “sweet spot” where you are achieving significant energy improvements in an existing building.  As Jason McLennon, CEO at Cascadia Green Building Council says, “Existing building reuse is an incredibly important part of a strategy for energy reduction. It needs to be at the top of the list.” Read more about it at: Retrofits (Usually) Greener Than New Construction, Study Says

Reuse should be done strategically:

Martin Holladay with the Green Building Advisor points to a recent study that tracked deep energy retrofits to existing homes in Utica, New York. It turns out that the retrofits typically cost around $100,000 and reduced energy use by 60-65%. This was good information because it shows that the simple payback period for these retrofits was 139 years. He compares this to putting the same money into a solar electric system, which would generate five times the amount of energy saved. Again, there appears to be evidence that preservation of existing buildings is a good option, particularly if the energy retrofits can be done strategically, and perhaps in combination with energy generation. Read more about it at: The High Cost of Deep-Energy Retrofits.

And smaller homes are cool again:

It turns out that there are currently 40 million big suburban homes that are no longer wanted. An article in Grist points out a new study by the Metropolitan Research Center, which shows that we do not have enough attached homes and small homes. So it makes sense to design for efficiency in a smaller home, with less fear that you are doing something that is not as marketable. Read more at: America has 40 million McMansions that no one wants.

So, check out the LemonDrop Additon for strategies for making your existing home more environmentally sustainable. This research suggests that “less is more GREEN” indeed.

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