Printer Friendly

A West Asheville bungalow is born again: New Life Journal's green home experts board takes a look at a 1925 home's green face-lift.

Older homes are no strangers to both cosmetic and structural enhancements. Not only are the charm and character of these homes worth preserving, but what's a more environmentally friendly statement than working with what's already there? That's what appealed to home owner/seller Miriam Allen and green-builder Marcus Renner who took on the project of not only renovating a much-in-need-of-TLC 1920's West Asheville bungalow but greening it as well.

The duo worked with the preexisting site and structure by building the deck addition off-center to preserve an old box elder tree and keeping the metal roof as well as vinyl siding intact. While vinyl siding on its own may not be the most sustainable choice, Miriam sites the detriment of simply throwing it away with no possibility of reuse. Needed structural repairs did require removal of some siding; however, after repairs were made, the siding was puzzle-pieced back together in order to reuse as much original material as possible. In addition to, siding, other elements of the existing structure were reused, in the home and in other community projects. "We never even got a dumpster," Miriam says. "The bricks from the chimney and foundation went to another builder for his patio, the doors were re-cut, refinished and used again, the heart-pine floors were refinished, the trim was reused where possible and given away to various people in the community for various projects, 2 x 4's were de-nailed and reused, deteriorating bead board was used as aesthetic patchwork around the house, and a slew of materials were donated to other projects."

The home's crumbling foundation could not be salvaged, though, and it was replaced to ensure the longevity of the renovation. In the process of moving from a brick foundation to a new block one, the home's crawl space was sealed in plastic and a sump-pump installed to keep any possible moisture away from the home. The sealed space increases the home's efficiency, as the space is now air-sealed where the framework meets the foundation.


A strong presence of insulation and an "air-tight" dry wall approach also increase the home's efficiency. Recycled cellulose insulation was used in the wall cavities to a value of R-14 and attic up to an insulation value of R-40, and the home's floor was insulated with formaldehyde-free fiberglass insulation up to R-30. Cracks and holes in the home were also sealed with caulk and spray foam, and holes created by electrical boxes were sealed as well. Gaskets were used where caulk could not go to seal around electrical wires.

A monitor heater was chosen to heat the home. At the time of its installation, monitor heaters were candidates for running on biodiesel fuel, or Bioheat; however, biodiesel is currently not being used in these types of heaters. For supplement heat, Marcus created hand-built passive solar thermal air panels that he affixed to the home. The panels are tightly constructed boxes with two chambers in them. One chamber has glass to capture the sun and metal to absorb the heat. The other allows indoor air to be brought into the box at a bottom vent. Then, metal transfers the solar heat to the indoor air, and as the air rises it exits the panel back into the home. This process continues as long as the sun is striking the panels.

Windows in the home were upgraded to high-efficiency windows to, like other renovation measures, ensure a tight envelope. The low-e, Energy Star certified windows serve to minimize heat loss, and their low solar heat gain coefficient works with the position of the solar air panels to limit heating of the home's interior during the summer months. All plumbing and electrical aspects were updated, and a new hot water heater and pipes as well as an Energy Star refrigerator were installed.

Additional kitchen appliances were reclaimed from preexisting structures along with the kitchen cabinets, tiles and lumber used in the home. Original interior doors were used in the remodel, and most of the home's original heart-pine floors were salvaged. Where the pine floors could not be restored, bamboo flooring was installed, and where original trim required replacement, sustainably harvest FSC certified wood was used.

Indoor air quality was also addressed in the remodel. Only low- and no-VOC paints and adhesives were used, with heavy attention paid to moisture control to keep mold and other potential allergens out of the home.

Marcus and Miriam site the sealed crawl space, metal roof and other renovations as a move to keep this already 80-year-old home going for at least another 100 years before renovations are needed. "Having been involved in the demolition and remodeling of homes in the area for the last few years, we realized that when people buy a home that has been remodeled, they are usually buying a home that has been carelessly put together with little or no insulation in the quickest way possible, so that the builder can 'flip' the house and make a quick profit," Miriam says. But, she notes, "sustainably remodeled homes will appraise and sell higher because they last longer, and so do the people who live in them!"




197 Michigan Avenue in West Asheville


Miriam Allen, original owner/seller, and Marcus Renner, Appropriate Building Solutions

Size 730 square feet

Price tag List price of $186,900 (Sold)

Completed August 2007

Top Green Points


Existing home renovation in urban neighborhood

Exterior siding and metal roof kept on home

Sustainably harvested FSC certified wood trim

Recycled doors, tile, cabinets and lumber from previously existing structures

Bamboo flooring


Sealed crawl space with sump-pump for moisture control

Zero-VOC paints

Low-VOC adhesives

Formaldehyde-free structural wood


Solar thermal air panels

Recycled cellulose insulation

Low-flow fixtures

Low-emissivity windows

Compact fluorescent bulbs

Energy Star[c] refrigerator

Michael Figura with Eco Concepts Realty: "I like the reuse of an existing building and the greening of a structure that's in a transitional neighborhood. I am impressed with the number of items that the owner/seller improved upon. such as adding cellulose insulation in the walls and ceiling, sealing the crawl space, and air sealing the building. And, the hot-air walls that Marcus Renner built prove to be a fantastic way to take advantage of solar energy while sticking to a budget.

Clarke Snell of Think Green Building: "I'll be blunt. I'm not a fan of remodeling houses for quick resale (sometimes called 'flipping'}. Truly conscientious green building requires a long-range viewpoint that sees beyond immediate financial expense. However, if we accept the concept of 'green flipping,' there's good to be found. The typical 'flip' would not include such attention to detail in the insulation, not to mention the homemade passive solar collectors! These collectors are a low-tech inexpensive way to bring some solar heat gain into the building. This is a great example of something many homeowners could do as a retrofit on their existing home to increase their access to free solar heat."

Marcus Renner of Appropriate Building Solutions: "I'm happiest with the feel of this project. Knocking out the wall between the kitchen and living room made the house feel bigger and enabled more use of the space. I also like the fact that there is no 'new house smell.' That's because products with low- or zero-VOCs were used."

Michael Figura: "With approximately 115 million existing homes in America, 56 million of which were built prior to 1960, our nation faces hard work in remodeling old energy hogs to become more efficient. Remodeling older homes is less glamorous than building state-of-the-art green homes, but it is something that needs to be done if our nation is to have a sustainable energy policy. I commend this owner for undertaking a green remodel of this building, and I hope that she serves as an example for other home remodelers.

One Step Further

If time and budget weren't of concern, the Board could envision options that were not explored with this remodel that you may want to think about for your own green renovation or build.


"I think that the large back yard is an attractive feature of this house. The seller added a back porch, which helps connect the house to the back yard. However, covering rear porches can ease a transition between the indoor and outdoor environment, in turn, further connecting the house with the outdoors, Outdoor living is important in any home, but it is especially important in a house such as this," Michael Figura notes, referencing the small square footage (which adds to the home's small footprint).

A covered back porch also resonates with Clarke Snell, who notes that the west-facing deck could bring hot summer sun into the kitchen without an awning of some sort.

Marcus Renner suggests that a loft in the smaller, second bedroom could have been or could be installed in the future to create more useable space for residents.


In this home, almost all of the original bead board was covered with drywall to stop air infiltration, which Clarke Snell notes did sacrifice a beautiful, existing finish and required a lot of materials (drywall, adhesives, caulks and paints). "I think I would have left the bead board alone and tried a true dense pack cellulose installation or perhaps poured Icynene[R] first. Afterwards, a blower door test would tell us how successful we'd been in stopping air infiltration. If we weren't satisfied, then the decision could have been made whether or not to do the drywall installation."
COPYRIGHT 2007 Natural Arts
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007, Gale Group. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Dec 1, 2007
Previous Article:What keeps a cynical environmentalist going? Heather Rayburn delves deep to figure it out and shines a hopeful light on our present situation for the...
Next Article:Q&A: sustainable materials and fibers.

Related Articles
From bikes to building: bio-wheels' green mission: this Asheville store's new downtown location is both bike- and eco-friendly, Maggie Cramer...
Green homes + green space = green community: New Life Journal's Green Home Experts Board takes a look at Hudson Street's charming and conscious...
Q&A: green home remodeling.
Spotlight on a green remodel: water conservation/site drainage and efficiency: New Life Journal and our Green Home Experts Board walk you through a...
Greening WNC's MLS: area eco professionals are up for the task: Maggie Cramer shares how this group is working to make buying or selling your...
Is it really "Green" or just green washing? New Life Journal's Green Home Experts Board helps you spot signs--from exaggerations to falsehoods--a...
All in the details: New Life Journal's Green Home Experts Board explores the craftsmanship and green features that intertwine in the details of this...
The sacred green home: Torin Kexel shares how just a little time and thought can help us strengthen our connection with our homes and surroundings.
A risky remodel looks toward the green light at the end of the tunnel: Marcus Renner shares some not-so-friendly eco bumps he's encountered with you...

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters