Follow Our LEED - Part 1 / by Mary Beth Grealey

Follow Our LEED

LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – is the US Green Building Council standard that allows buildings to be rated for “green-ness.” We want to use this project to help educate Chapel Hill about green building.  Follow this site to watch this old house jump 100 years into the state-of-the-art present.

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Where We Started

The Bahnsen-Herzenberg house was built in 1915 and was an identical Aladdin kit home to the neighboring house at 8 Cobb Terrace. Located in downtown Chapel Hill, it is close to UNC and Franklin Street, public transportation, farmers markets, great restaurants and many cultural opportunities, while being located on a quiet street with open woodlands in its immediate view. 

The home was purchased while half-way through the last owner’s renovation, demolished down to bare studs with no plumbing or electrical in sight. Our desire was to create a healthy, energy efficient and environmentally friendly home, as appropriately and respectfully as possible. We are on track to certify the house as LEED for Homes at the Silver level. We are striving to achieve LEED Gold.

The certification process involves a good team; the lead members include architect Sophie Piesse, builder Trip Renn ofActual Size Builders and the homeowner Melissa McCullough. We are guided by the LEED provider and green rater, which in our project are the same, Southern Energy Management.

This home is also in the Franklin-Rosemary historic district of Chapel Hill. This meant that our first hurdle was to get through the Historic District Commission. Since our plan was to renovate the home in keeping with its original style and integrity, this turned out to be a pleasant experience. The Board seemed delighted that we were really trying to preserve and restore as honestly as possible.

Aside from an 8’ addition along one side of the first floor by the previous owner, the house retains the original form.  The shell of the existing house will remain mostly intact. New aluminum-clad, double-paned, insulated, low-e windows will fill the original positions as much as possible while still complementing the updated interior.  Casement windows were chosen for a tight seal and their ability to direct natural ventilation. They have simulated divided-lights, so they look like windows typical for the architecture of the home.

The new roof is a light tan Energy Star rated 5V metal roof with high reflectance to help reduce energy bills by reflecting the sun’s heat without being so bright that it is a distraction to neighbors and passing motorists. Metal roofs have a very long life, are low maintenance, made from recycled materials and are recyclable themselves. 

A new EPA regulation requires renovations of pre-1978 buildings to be tested for lead paint, and if present, requires careful removal and disposal.  This is because lead is a potent neurotoxin, especially for growing children. Our tests found that the exterior did indeed have lead paint (the interior of the house was bare). The paint was pealing off the siding and the siding needed repair so we decided to remove all the siding in accordance with the EPA guidelines and re-side the house. This did give us the opportunity to significantly improve the insulation.   We wrapped the house in 1” Styrofoam for added insulation and a thermal break to the wall system.  (A thermal “bridge” is created when materials that can conduct heat or cold link outside to inside; the thermal break prevents that conduction.)   We were also able to put house wrap (Tyvek) on the house and furring strips behind the siding to allow for air-flow to ventilate the siding, which is great in our humid environment. The new siding will be smooth Nichiha siding, a fiber cement siding) with the same look as the original siding.

The brick foundation walls and chimney were also covered in lead paint. We used a non-toxic paint stripper to remove this. We could not sand blast the brickwork because of the toxic dust it would produce and although scraping and repainting was an option, taking the paint off completely would repeat the original look of the original brickwork and create a long-term low-maintenance option.

A big item in green construction is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood, which is certified to be grown and harvested sustainably. This was a tricky item for us. Since it was a renovation, the amount of wood required was somewhat unknown. To buy FSC certified wood, we needed to buy it in large quantities. This was not advantageous since we wanted to disturb as little of the site as possible and having large staging areas covered with wood was not a great option. We opted for local wood instead. We could buy in small quantities, getting just what we needed, when we needed it, while supporting local businesses. All the scraps are sorted and reused where possible for blocking etc.

It is our plan to restore the original beauty to this wonderful old home and to make it a real asset to the street and the neighborhood. We chose LEED as our guide for a holistic approach to green building. We wanted a thoughtful process using current building techniques, intelligent design and a creative team to revitalize this beautiful home.

Please follow us during this exciting process.