Take It From Me: Green Remodeling Advice

Sage advice from architects, builders and homeowners about ecological remodeling.

| September/October 2004

  • Architect Rick Harlan Schneider, owner of Inscape Studio, and his wife, Julie, did a green renovation on their Washington, D.C., townhome—built in 1929—that included enclosing the back porch and making it into a sunroom. They used the U.S. Green Building Council’s national standards for energy use, materials, and water as guidelines.
    Photo by Dan Redmond
  • Charles Kingsley and his family chose to sustainably remodel their house in Portland, Oregon, in order to honor the home’s traditional roots while equipping it for today’s modern lifestyle.
    Photos by Mike O’Brien/Courtesy Portland Office of Sustainable Development
  • Charles Kingsley and his family chose to sustainably remodel their house in Portland, Oregon, in order to honor the home’s traditional roots while equipping it for today’s modern lifestyle.
    Photos by Mike O’Brien/Courtesy Portland Office of Sustainable Development
  • Passive heating and cooling systems work so well in this home—built by Lightworks Construction of Boulder, Colorado, when David Johnston was the company’s president—that the homeowners first thought the heating, ventilation and air- conditioning system didn’t work because it wasn’t turning on.
    Photo courtesy What’s Working
  • When David Johnston added an office to his home, the eco-remodel included structural insulated panels, engineered wood for all large structural beams, durable fiber cement siding, large overhangs to protect the siding from moisture, recycled plastic decking, low-E windows, a ceiling fan, plenty of natural daylight, and Interface carpet.
    Photo by Kim Master
  • When David Johnston added an office to his home, the eco-remodel included structural insulated panels, engineered wood for all large structural beams, durable fiber cement siding, large overhangs to protect the siding from moisture, recycled plastic decking, low-E windows, a ceiling fan, plenty of natural daylight, and Interface carpet.
    Photo by Kim Master
  • Architect Rick Harlan Schneider, owner of Inscape Studio, and his wife, Julie, did a green renovation on their Washington, D.C., townhome—built in 1929—that included enclosing the back porch and making it into a sunroom. They used the U.S. Green Building Council’s national standards for energy use, materials, and water as guidelines.
  • Architect Rick Harlan Schneider, owner of Inscape Studio, and his wife, Julie, did a green renovation on their Washington, D.C., townhome—built in 1929—that included enclosing the back porch and making it into a sunroom. They used the U.S. Green Building Council’s national standards for energy use, materials, and water as guidelines.

Remodeling your home may be one of the most satisfying things you ever do—and one of the most challenging. If you add the “green” element to the project, both the joys and frustrations can be intensified. Fortunately, you can learn from those who’ve gone before, minimizing your trials and maximizing the pleasures.

Why should I consider eco-remodeling in the first place?

“We wanted to honor the roots of our traditional 1909 house while integrating it with the lifestyle and technology of today—in the greenest way that’s affordable. We spent half our home-purchase budget on the renovation because it was a mess and nobody had lived in it for years. However, we found remodeling easier than new construction because we weren’t working with a blank slate. We could look beyond the bad paneling, crummy carpet, and cheap fixtures, and see that the basic bones of the house were pretty good.”

homeowner Charles Kingsley, Portland, Oregon

How is eco-remodeling different?



“Ecological remodeling requires forethought. Sourcing most green materials takes longer than just going down to the local building-supply store.

You need to be really clear about what your goals are. If you clarify your priorities at the outset, it will be easier to make good decisions in a timely manner.”

architect Kelly Lerner (see “From Ugly Duckling to Sustainable Swan")






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