A Sustainable Remodel Touches Many Parts of this Home
The airy, light-filled renovation of this 1930s stucco Spanish Tudor house in Georgetown, Massachusetts, is packed with eco-friendly features even though no green certification program was enlisted. A new bay, great room, patio, and garden completely transformed an awkward kitchen that itself had been a renovation of a two-door garage. Extensive landscaping, including a rain garden, brought the house back in tune with its natural surroundings.
Not just a kitchen renovation
With her children grown and (mostly) gone, Elizabeth had waited for what she wanted, and wanted it done well. The project embraced a renovated foyer, office, laundry, and bathroom, as well as a new driveway and trees. She’s proud of architect Juli MacDonald’s choices, ranging from an entry addition with graceful arching braces to energy modeling, blower door testing, and thermographic inspection for heat loss.
The bounty of re-use
Inspired by the owner‘s commitment to stewardship of the natural world, used materials and appliances were almost completely recycled on craigslist or freecycle.com. Concrete debris was trucked to a re-processor, used brick integrated into the new patio, and used tiles into the new roof. Wood was taken to a salvage yard, and items left curbside were all taken. New work similarly incorporated the seen-before: Some of the counters are Richlite, made of compressed recycled paper; floor tiles are recycled glass; and new driveway posts and steps are cut from old granite curbs. All cabinetry is locally made (with no-urea formaldehyde adhesives), as are the concrete counters, using fly ash from a local plant. Interior designer Lisa Kawski integrated artisan-made and commercial glass tiles on walls, both with recycled content. Construction sawdust was collected and sent to a local farm for animal bedding.
Going the extra mile
Some choices were easy: LED under-cabinet and cove lighting; Toto dual-flush toilets; no-VOC paints, finishes, and glues; and FSC-certified framing and trim. But some were sticklers. There was no way to insulate the existing peculiar hollow tile exterior walls, so Juli designed an extra wall to blanket the entire interior elevation and marry newer insulation and detailing at the bay. And award-winning builder Dave West replaced the existing concrete slab in the kitchen (remnants of an old garage) with a new one on top of proper insulation, with zoned radiant heat throughout.
Starting from the ground up makes it relatively easy to insulate structures like the 700sq.ft. addition included in this project. Retrofitting existing buildings is not always as straightforward. Together, Eric Doub of Ecofutures Building and owners John and Vicky Graham decided that wrapping the home with additional 2x4 framing and sprayed polyurethane foam would be the least intrusive method.
Landscape designer Matt Ulrich designed a native-plants rain garden (which, unlike its name sounds, is designed to absorb lots of water during storms) that resolved flooding and freezing at the building foundation. He also specified permeable surfaces in all hardscaping. There’s even a rain barrel that supplies water for Elizabeth’s laying hens.
Lisa and Elizabeth researched products with care to adapt to what was actually available — or not — in the burgeoning green marketplace. For instance, they swapped in counters from a different maker when they found the ones they’d chosen were only available in commercial quantities. Crucially, the team looked at the whole house, applying best practices not just to the addition. Elizabeth honed to the good design and excellent craftsmanship she knows will be treasured for many years. Most of all, the happy collaboration of a great team led to a superior experience and result.