Urban Natural Homes September 26, 2012

The Recycled House: Retrofitting & Renovating as the Ultimate “Greening” for Seattlites


I remember when I first got my green designation a colleague of mine asked, “So how does that work when there are relatively so few new builds in the area?” And I thought, hmmm…interesting. So even among agents, the perception of a “green” house is a modern-style home built from the ground up with all of the newest green technology and gadgets. But the fact is that we live in an area where the vast majority of homes are already built, with systems and conditions that are far from green. So the question is, “Can an already existing house ever reach green standards?” And the answer is, “Yes!" The key is returning to one of the core principles of the ecological movement: recycle & reuse. That’s right—we need to recycle our homes! We need to take the amazing advances in products and systems technology that have developed over the last number of years and retroactively fit them into the still-good aspects of our existing homes (solid construction, vintage charm, etc).

So what might that look like?

In terms of retrofitting, it might look like any or all of the following:

–Air sealing (filling leaks/caulking/weather stripping)
–Duct repair/replacement/sealing
–Ventilation systems
–Window and door replacement
–Replacing heating systems
–Programmable thermostats
–Possibly looking at renewable energy systems

In terms of renovating, it might look like any or all of the following:

–Replacing surfaces with health and earth-friendly products
–Reorienting the structure, or portions of the structure, to capture best light exposures
–Opening up living spaces to connect with natural areas and natural breezeways
–Restructuring living spaces with thought towards centralizing most-used areas for energy efficiency

Architects and contractors are available, of course, with guidance for renovation projects. But what you might not know is that there are a number of local businesses available to help guide you through all phases of the retrofitting process as well, including assessment, prioritizing and the actual contract work. Callie Ridolfi, Managing Director at ecoFAB, recommends that you start by getting a subsidized energy assessment through Seattle City Light which will run about $95. A retrofitting company like ecoFAB can then assist in helping you to decide what projects make the most sense for you, your priorities and your budget.

Callie Ridolfi, Managing Director