Remodel Project: Gut Rehab

Respect the Original, Reuse What You Can, and Update for the Next 100 Years

Tearing out everything down to the studs offers lots of green options.

Gutting a building down to its frame can be a good green way to get a fresh start while the walls, floors, ceilings and roof are opened up. Questions about insulation, air sealing, and utilities disappear once you can see everything. A green rehab should focus on bringing the interior up to contemporary standards for form and function while honoring how the building has survived.

During demolition, consider reuse, recycling and land fill options for all the materials that are removed from the house.

Look for the hidden gems, and beware of the hidden hazards

Reusing materials is normally a great strategy for conserving resources, but only if the result is a high-performance building — energy- and water-efficient, durable, and healthy. Environmental quality is a paramount concern both during and after a gut rehab because many older buildings contain hazardous materials.

Consider integrating existing elements into the new design

Old buildings tend to have many layers, so it’s easy to miss some of the gems from the original design that might be brought back to the surface. Not all older buildings have historical architectural features that are worth preserving, but it’s worth exploring the possibility.

Check for contaminants

Old buildings often conceal contaminants: lead paint, asbestosMineral fiber once commonly used in many building materials, including insulation, fireproof siding, and resilient flooring. Inhalation of invisible asbestos fibers can lead to chest and abdominal cancers as well as scarring of the lungs. The use of asbestos in some products has been banned by the EPA and the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission; manufacturers also have adopted voluntary limitations on its use. When found in older buildings (most commonly in floor tiles, pipe and furnace insulation, or asbestos shingles), the product's friability is a major determinant in how it must be handled during renovations. More information: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/asbestos.html, mold, pesticides, and coal dust. Finding out whether they are present, and safely abating them may require the help of a trained professional.

Search out moisture problems

Larger air leaks are usually obvious, and therefore easy to identify and fix. But older houses may have many smaller air leaks that are difficult to detect. In a drafty house, such leaks may cause building materials to dry out more quickly. But if a house is tightened up and insulated, the moisture equilibrium may be disturbed.

Integrate mechanical systems into the new layout and structural framing if possible

Opening up floor plans can change the dynamics of heating and cooling. Mechanical systems can also be affected by the orientation of floor framing, the dimensions of interior walls and chases, and the locations of bathrooms and kitchens. Create a plumbing core in the new floor plan by "stacking" bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. A more efficient building envelopeExterior components of a house that provide protection from colder (and warmer) outdoor temperatures and precipitation; includes the house foundation, framed exterior walls, roof or ceiling, and insulation, and air sealing materials. may allow for smaller or less heating and cooling equipment and more efficient duct and plumbing runs. It may be possible to replace outdated central heating and cooling equipment with less expensive and more efficient spot heating and cooling.

A Green Gut Rehab Case Study:

Case Study

Starting with the bare walls

As difficult as it is to become homeowners in New York City’s perpetually tight housing market, Alicia and David finally managed to purchase a brownstone in Harlem. The trashed and stripped structure needed a complete makeover, including a new roof, new windows, insulated exterior walls, interior walls, and new HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building., plumbing, and electrical systems. Despite a tight budget, the experienced green design team and actively engaged homeowners created an elegant, daylit townhouse with a spacious kitchen, low-emitting materials, and numerous green amenities.

Design Notes

The goal was a healthy green home.

Convinced of the value of building green, and with David having suffered lifelong allergies, the couple was invested in creating a healthy and environmentally friendly home. Both the contracting team and the homeowners accepted building green on a budget as a design challenge. The team viewed the whole process through the lens of environmental impact, carefully considering energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and environmentally friendly materials. In selecting each product, the homeowners took care to ask whether a greener product could be found.

Systems

Key Systems

General design and construction
*50% demolition and construction waste recycling

Building EnvelopeExterior components of a house that provide protection from colder (and warmer) outdoor temperatures and precipitation; includes the house foundation, framed exterior walls, roof or ceiling, and insulation, and air sealing materials.
*FormaldehydeChemical found in many building products; most binders used for manufactured wood products are formaldehyde compounds. Reclassified by the United Nations International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2004 as a “known human carcinogen."-free batt insulationInsulation, usually of fiberglass or mineral wool and often faced with paper, typically installed between studs in walls and between joists in ceiling cavities. Correct installation is crucial to performance.
*Modular green roofRoof system in which living plants are maintained in a growing medium using a membrane and drainage system. Green roofs can reduce storm-water runoff, moderate temperatures in and around the building (by providing insulation and reducing heat island effect), as well as provide a habitat for wildlife and recreational space for humans. When properly constructed, green roofs can increase roof durability because the roof assembly’s air and water barriers are buffered from temperature fluctuations and UV exposure.

Plumbing
*Dual-flush toilets

HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building.
*Whole-house fan and ducted air-conditioning system
*Kitchen and bathroom exhaust
*Radiant floor heating system throughout
*High-efficiency hot water and space heating, including Flat plate hot-water radiator, which collects solar radiation that heats a coolant, which in turn heats water or the home

Lighting
*Extensive daylightingUse of sunlight for daytime lighting needs. Daylighting strategies include solar orientation of windows as well as the use of skylights, clerestory windows, solar tubes, reflective surfaces, and interior glazing to allow light to move through a structure.
*Compact fluorescent lighting
*Automated controls

Equipment
*Energy StarLabeling system sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy for labeling the most energy-efficient products on the market; applies to a wide range of products, from computers and office equipment to refrigerators and air conditioners. appliances

Wall and Ceiling Finishes
*Bamboo and natural slate flooring
*Low-VOCVolatile organic compound. An organic compound that evaporates readily into the atmosphere; as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs are organic compounds that volatize and then become involved in photochemical smog production. caulks, paints, and adhesives
*Fasteners (not adhesives) to minimize VOCsVolatile organic compound. An organic compound that evaporates readily into the atmosphere; as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs are organic compounds that volatize and then become involved in photochemical smog production.
*Zero-VOC clay finish made from reclaimed stone, natural pigments, and soy binderGlue used in manufactured wood products, such as medium-density fiberboard (MDF), particleboard, and engineered lumber. Some binders are made with formaldehyde. See urea-formaldehyde binder and methyl diisocyanate (MDI) binder.

Furniture and Fittings
*Recycled-content countertop

Lessons

Sweat equity cuts costs

Like many homeowners on a budget, David and Alicia did the demolition work themselves. Although the structure was filled with moldy drywall and trash, it was free of lead paint and asbestosMineral fiber once commonly used in many building materials, including insulation, fireproof siding, and resilient flooring. Inhalation of invisible asbestos fibers can lead to chest and abdominal cancers as well as scarring of the lungs. The use of asbestos in some products has been banned by the EPA and the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission; manufacturers also have adopted voluntary limitations on its use. When found in older buildings (most commonly in floor tiles, pipe and furnace insulation, or asbestos shingles), the product's friability is a major determinant in how it must be handled during renovations. More information: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/asbestos.html; improper abatement of these hazards can pose ongoing problems.

Info/Finance

Team and Process

The design-buildCompany that handles house design and construction. Since both services are provided by the same firm, integrated design can often be more easily achieved. team and the homeowners worked closely together throughout the project. David and Alicia researched green products.

Location: New York City
Homeowners: Alicia and David Basche
Design-Build Team: Robert Politzer, Hanna Purdy, and
Nick Moons of GreenStreet Construction, Inc.
Area affected: 3,500 ft2

Finance

The homeowners knew it would be a challenge to tackle this extensive gut rehab on a budget. How to creatively address budget constraints while achieving their aesthetic and green goals was a major component of the conversation from the start. Their answer to budgetary surprises was to pitch in even more of their own labor, rather than compromise on quality. Partly for this reason, the project took two years to complete.


SEE ALSO

Attics
Double Stud Walls

DRAWING LIBRARY CONSTRUCTION DETAILS

Remodeling Details

REMODELING STRATEGIES

Gut Rehab Strategies

green points

LEED for HomesLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED for Homes is the residential green building program from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). While this program is primarily designed for and applicable to new home projects, major gut rehabs can qualify. Gut rehabs are eligible to pursue LEED Home certification; many points are easier to earn, e.g., points in MR2.2 (Materials & Resources) for salvaged materials.

NGBSNational Green Building Standard Based on the NAHB Model Green Home Building Guidelines and passed through ANSI. This standard can be applied to both new homes, remodeling projects, and additions. -Remodel Refer to the ANSIAmerican National Standards Institute. National nonprofit membership organization that coordinates development of national consensus standards. Accreditation by ANSI signifies that the procedures used meet the Institute’s essential requirements for openness, balance, consensus, and due process. standard and follow the appropriate path based on conditioned floor area involved in the remodeling or addition project and the year in which the original home was built. NGBS

MORE ABOUT GUT REHABS

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Design strategies for a gut rehab should include minimizing demolition and construction waste, choosing more durable materials, installing an effective air barrierBuilding assembly components that work as a system to restrict air flow through the building envelope. Air barriers may or may not act as a vapor barrier. The air barrier can be on the exterior, the interior of the assembly, or both., and testing for hazardous materials. If existing ductwork is reused, seal it off to keep it free of contaminants during construction.

Foundation
If necessary, install a radonColorless, odorless, short-lived radioactive gas that can seep into homes and result in lung cancer risk. Radon and its decay products emit cancer-causing alpha, beta, and gamma particles. mitigation system. Insulate the floor slab and foundation walls.

Building envelopeExterior components of a house that provide protection from colder (and warmer) outdoor temperatures and precipitation; includes the house foundation, framed exterior walls, roof or ceiling, and insulation, and air sealing materials.
Control bulk moisture--the flow of water through holes, cracks, and other discontinuities into basement walls. Air-seal the building carefully. Superinsulate the walls from the inside or outside, and use formaldehydeChemical found in many building products; most binders used for manufactured wood products are formaldehyde compounds. Reclassified by the United Nations International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2004 as a “known human carcinogen."-free insulation. If necessary, replace existing doors and windows with energy-efficient versions. Minimize materials with advanced framingHouse-framing techniques in which lumber use is optimized, saving material and improving the energy performance of the building envelope. practices, and specify the use of FSCNonprofit organization that promotes forestry practices that are sustainable from environmental and social standpoints; FSC certification on a wood product is an indicator that the wood came from a well-managed forest.-certified framing, sheathingMaterial, usually plywood or oriented strand board (OSB), but sometimes wooden boards, installed on the exterior of wall studs, rafters, or roof trusses; siding or roofing installed on the sheathing—sometimes over strapping to create a rainscreen. , and siding.

HVAC
Design mechanical systems for efficient distribution. Specify high-efficiency appliances. Avoid ozone-depleting refrigerants. Vent all combustion heaters.

Plumbing
Reconfigure plumbing to distribute hot water efficiently, and insulate hot-water lines. Consider an on-demand, tankless water heater.


Image Credits:

  1. Julia Jandrisits/REGREEN
  2. Robert Politzer/REGREEN
  3. Mark Piepkorn/REGREEN
Tags: , , , ,
6.
Sun, 08/07/2011 - 19:33

Edited Tue, 08/09/2011 - 20:49.

response to martin
by kirk marcussen

Its brick veneer, Well, its been a real job doing this but, I like doing it. The house is almost 48' x 24' it was built in stages at different times. I am supporting the roof with 10' jack posts and going to have a crane lift off the roof in sections next month. In one section I already have the old roof sitting on new walls that are on the new floor. So far I have had no problems with anything, than a lot of work. O, maybe missing footers for the mudsills in the center section, that I redid and are matching with the new floor. On the walls I think they call it parging its the coating that Iam putting on the brick I got an Ideal from a friend to put some fiberglass in the mix. I knock off the weep on inside to make a smooth wall when I coat it, I sprayed closed cell foam on some walls in the crawl space area and didnt take off the weep, that was a mistake because it created pockets of air and indifference when spraying and it didnt go on very smooth. With the weep knocked it should make a real nice diff. I was wondering if anyone had done any projects like this before? Can I put in some pics? thanks kirk


5.
Sun, 08/07/2011 - 11:41

Response to Kirk Marcussen
by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor

Kirk,
We need to know more information.

Is this a load-bearing brick wall or brick veneer?


4.
Sun, 08/07/2011 - 11:23

gut rehab/rebuild
by kirk marcussen

Iam working on a fifty's build house with brick ext. and its in miss. and has had severe termite/water vapor damage. Everythings going except the brick ext. Going to close up all the vents in crawlsp and put new TGI's for flooring and fac truss's with a storage pl for furnac and h2o htr. My question is if I cover the inside of the brick with 3/8-1/2 mortar and spray foam and put insulation in the walls and attic and vent the attic like Dr. Joe says and have a conditoned space for the furnace. This would really keep things driy and possibly put a dehum in cwlsp? I plan to put in hvr system.


3.
Wed, 09/15/2010 - 12:48

CML Rehaps and going Green
by Andrew Lodge

I am a neophyte to this but am embarking on a renovation and reuse of a 1926 era Masonic Lodge and Theatre in NC. My tentative non-green rehab budget only approx. $500k. However, am very curious and interested in rehabbing completing green (or as close to 100% as possible). I think it would be a key differentiator and large step to convert a historic theatre as a green building. Perhaps it is not possible but I am trying to source information from anyone that can help. Please email me if you have suggestions for where to look, funding sources, ideas, suggestions, criticisms. THANK YOU
Andrew


2.
Mon, 09/06/2010 - 11:46

sounds interesting and
by Anonymous

sounds interesting and promising. I'd say small homes perhaps methane, solar and wind energy.

Food gardens permeable surfaces maybe a building for making things to sell... ceramics cloths ect


1.
Tue, 04/28/2009 - 06:12

Advice on a new development
by Michael Holmes

Hi there , I have 16 ha of rural land which I am trying to develop. There are no services in the area because of its location and electricity supply is an issue . So I am looking for some advice on building a whole sustainable village from the design stages .

Mike


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