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Green architecture – 19 Fourth St. NE carbon neutral renovation

By Damir Beciri
26 February 2010

19-fourth-st-ne-3GreenSpur Inc., a design/build firm specializing in carbon-neutral building, and TriCon Construction, which specializes in air sealing and insulating, have worked together to retrofit a Civil War-era home on Capitol Hill to match the LEED Platinum-level standards. Renovating the residence at 19 Fourth St. NE (which dates to 1852) required working in a difficult physical environment, as well as meeting high regulatory standards.

“We wanted to show people that you can build a green home with a high level of energy efficiency without breaking the bank or reinventing the wheel”, said Nick Cioff, director of construction for GreenSpur. “Too many people say that green building is too difficult or too expensive, and we wanted to take away those excuses.”

Because the home is located just four blocks from the U.S. Capitol, oversized building supplies needed to be inspected for security reasons. The builders also were required to meet strict historical standards so the facade would closely resemble the original structure.

Mr. Cioff said the property was in far worse condition than they anticipated, requiring that more than 20 Dumpsters of dirt and debris be removed by hand. The project was particularly challenging because of the tight building conditions.

“We discovered that the exterior had siding on top of stucco on top of cladding, most of which was rotting”, said Mr. Cioff. “We ended up using modern green materials to replicate the original facade.”

GreenSpur wanted to double the size of the home while maintaining the original footprint of the property. Increasing 84 square meters (900 square feet) into 205 square meters (2,200 square feet) on the same lot involved adding a three-story warehouse-style wall of glass to the back of the home. Now this home has four bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths. The house uses 60-80% less energy than a standard home in the same area.  The rest of the power needed will be sourced from the local utility provider.

Green features include a geothermal heating and cooling system, dual-flush toilets, low-flow fixtures, recycled Energy Star roof, permeable paving system in the backyard, Energy Star appliances, on-demand tankless water heating, abundant natural lighting inside, and LEDs and CFLs throughout.

GreenSpur used the Owens Corning Energy Complete insulation system for the home, energy-efficient windows, solar tube lighting, Energy Star appliances, and an ethanol fireplace. The home has a Smart Home System, which calculates the power being used at all times. The builders reused old house timbers and reclaimed heart-of-pine flooring from a textile mill in Virginia. The kitchen cabinets and counters are made from partially recycled materials, and low-flow shower and vanity fixtures were installed.

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