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Green Building Curmudgeon

Green From the Start: Small Victory Department

Or, how my project made it through the historical commission almost intact

Image 1 of 4
Front elevation of approved home, with unapproved standing-seam metal roof drawn.
Front elevation of approved home, with unapproved standing-seam metal roof drawn. North elevation First-floor windows will need some auxiliary shading with sunscreens or shutters to keep out summer heat. Two-story porches will help shade west windows and doors from late afternoon sun, a necessity in my southern climate.

Well, it finally happened. My new house plans were approved by the local Hysterical Preservation Commission this week. Of course, there were a few hitches. I specified standing-seam metal roofing on the entire house and garage to allow for rainwater harvesting, but the commission and the neighbors pitched a fit about this particular finish selection. It seems that a nearby house recently was approved for, and installed, a corrugated galvanized roof on the front porch, which created quite a stir in the neighborhood, provoking a backlash against anything metal.

Minor victories

It seems that the powers-that-be would most prefer that I install fiberglass shingles on the house. However, they have seen fit to allow me to install flat-seam metal on the porches, as well as an alternative type of roof on the main sections—provided it looks like shingles rather than sheet metal.

I suppose I should be thankful that they aren’t requiring me to install fiberglass shingles — about the least sustainable product available — but somehow I can’t get that excited about being required to use flat seam, a practically obsolete, complicated, and expensive system. For the shingles, I will need to explore options such as metal, slate, concrete, and various plastics, all of which will likely be more expensive than that most vile of finishes — standing seam.

Onward and upward

Enough of my whining about the negatives. I have been approved to build a house that pretty much fits my needs, so it’s time to start selecting finishes and equipment, going through the permit process, and getting my financing in order. If all goes well, I expect to get started in December or January with regular posts on my progress.

I may avoid using spray and rigid foam insulation, and instead use a product like Owens Corning EnergyComplete, a flexible gasket combined with blown-in fiberglass, along with rigid mineral wool such as Roxul on the exterior as a thermal break. I am also considering a high-performance mini-split HVAC combined with a central dehumidifier, rather than a traditional ducted central system.

I’m looking forward to pushing the envelope a little and indulging my short attention span by trying new products and systems in this project. Stay tuned; I’m sure the ride will be interesting.


  1. Jesse Thompson | | #1

    Oi. Such fun we have in our
    Oi. Such fun we have in our business.

    Carl, how about a standing seam shingle, like what ATAS produces?

    The smaller length runs with horizontal strike lines break up the continuous field of metal, and HP might like their sales pitch: "Elegant in their style, standing seam shingles can be used to provide the look of the historic standing seam."

  2. user-659915 | | #2

    Ironically, because of the
    Ironically, because of the low pitch, the main roof will be invisible. Except from a helicopter

  3. J99aAMQzYo | | #3

    Have They Seen Pictures?
    I know I'm preachin' to the choir, but the aesthetic difference between corrugated galvanized and a high-quality standing seam installation is like the difference between a Yugo and a Lexus. Sure, they're both made out of metal, but that's about as far as the similarities go.

    I wonder if you showed them the "gallery" section for the product link Jesse included in his post what their comments would be. Most of those homes are clearly historic and those roofing systems look entirely appropriate. Maybe they just need to see some pictures to understand?

    Further, now that you've already got a provisional approval, maybe a gently picked fight might help your cause. Specifically, what might happen if a "nationally recognized green building expert" (you) wrote a letter to the local paper explaining how an "uninformed" HP committee was actually requiring LESS green and sustainable products which would only end up in the taxpayers' landfill that much sooner. Maybe once the light of day was shown on the "un-greeness" of their decision and some public pressure was brought to their doorstep, they'd reconsider?

    Or perhaps they'll just flex their muscle to cover their wounded egos and yank your approval...

  4. Peter Troast | | #4

    Carl--at least you got it through. I'm curious--did any of your arguments about sustainable materials and LCA resonate with the historic folks?

  5. Expert Member
    CARL SEVILLE | | #5

    No and no
    Historic is apparently only what my neighbors think and the historic commission is apparently afraid to defy the people who speak out at meetings. If they understand the difference between corrugated galvanized and standing seam, it didn't influence their decision. Also, the idea that I am trying to do something positive apparently has no sway when it comes to what my narrow minded neighbors think is historic. Still makes my blood boil.

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