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Green Homes

A Two-Phased LEED for Homes Gut Rehab

In this photo, the Phase II gut-rehab section in the foreground is now high performance and integrates with the Phase I right hand portion of the home. Note the two-panel solar thermal system, which provides the lion's share of the home's domestic hot water needs. The vertical bare wood pillars in the foreground are part of a trellis-hand rail detail for the corner deck, still under construction.
Image Credit: Peter Yost
View Gallery 19 images
Here is the Newman-Slaughter home before either Phase I or Phas II renovation in the early 1990s. The photo shows the front of the house looking up the street with the Phase II portion of the home not visible but just off to the left of the photo margin.
Image Credit: Jim Newman
The existing addition really stands out in this photo; it's the white lap siding portion of the home in the foreground.
Image Credit: Jim Newman
In this photo of the street elevation of the Newman-Slaughter home, the split between the Phase I renovation on the right and the Phase II renovation on the left is very clear. The high glazing area of the Phase I renovation provides excellent solar gain daylighting but also presents a real energy efficiency challenge.
Image Credit: Jim Newman
This photo shows the original rear elevation of the home with the gut rehab of the Phase II addition being the right hand lapped siding portion on the right. The 1st floor Phase I kitchen and 2nd floor master bedroom are to the right.
Image Credit: Jim Newman
During the design phase of the Phase II renovation, the team (energy-LEED AP consultant, builder, architect, and client) hold an integrated design meeting using the LEED for Homes checklist to drive much of their discussion.
Image Credit: Jim Newman
This wintertime IR image shows a portion of the living room cathedral ceiling at the eave (blue represents colder temperatures and reds warmer). This Phase I ceiling will be re-insulated and air sealed at the eave by removing the soffit to bring the Phase I retrofit portion of the home up to LEED for Homes thermal performance standards.
Image Credit: Mark Price
This infrared image shows the living room ceiling (Phase I) looking out on to the back deck. You can see just a bit of yellow (cooler temperature) in the floor joist bays of the second floor near the band joist. Note the torchiere lamp in the foreground to the right.
Image Credit: Mark Price
This infrared image is of the living room ceiling looking out on to the back deck but with the blower door on and dragging cold air in across the ceiling. The dark circle just above the cross hairs in the center of the image is the culprit. Note the same torchiere lamp just below the cross hairs. Air sealing at the dry wall plane around all of these living room can lights will short circuit this air leakage.
Image Credit: Mark Price
This IR image shows one of the living room ceiling can lights with a hand raised toward the can for thermal contrast.
Image Credit: Mark Price
This photo shows the open floor framing of the stacked baths. The right hand interior wall separates the Phase II gutted and the untouched Phase I of the Newman-Slaughter home.
Image Credit: Jim Newman
This photo shows the second floor Phase I living space and looks into the Phase I attic. With HVAC ducts and equipment in attic remaining, the Phase I attic will be insulated and air sealed with spray foam at the roof line as part of the Phase II renovation.
Image Credit: Jim Newman
This photo shows the west elevation in the midst of reframing and sheathing exterior walls. Note on the right the interesting layers of siding at the existing power line to the house. Note also the row of drill holes in the sheathing boards where cellulose insulation was installed during weatherization in years past.
Image Credit: Jim Newman
This photo shows the exterior trim going up on the north and west sides of the Phase II project. Note that the spacer mesh went up in a continuous plane prior to the trim details so both the siding and the trim have a free-draining, backvented space between all the exterior cladding and the weather-resistive barrier (housewrap).
Image Credit: Jim Newman
In this photo, several water management-durability features are shown: copper flashing protecting the water table trim detail, housewrap covered with a free-draining/back-venting spacer mesh, factory-primed trim, and cornerboards held up and off of the copper flashing for a free-draining capillary break. But note that the copper flashing is reverse-lapped with the housewrap. Best practice would have been to tuck the vertical leg of the copper flashing behind the housewrap or, at a minimum, tape the top edge of the vertical leg of the copper flashing continuously to the housewrap.
Image Credit: Jim Newman
Everyone on the project team worked hard to minimize site disturbance in all phases of the project. this photo shows the cut for the excavation to rerun utilities from the house underground to the street. Note the hale bales used initially for erosion control and temporary storm water management and destined for reuse as mulch for site landscaping.
Image Credit: Jim Newman
The view in this photo is from the hallway delineating Phase I and II of the gut rehab project, looking into the back bedroom on the nothwest corner, 2nd floor.
Image Credit: Jim Newman
This Lennox Healthy Climate Solutions heat recovery ventilator (HRV) provides mechanical whole house ventilation per ASHRAE 62.2.
Image Credit: Peter Yost
In this image you can see the older attic batt insulation along a ceiling line and the new spray foam attic insulation at the roof line, pulling all of the attic space (and the HVAC ducts it holds) into conditioned space.
Image Credit: Peter Yost
In this basement photo, you can see the new spray foam insulation installed between floor joists, the new PEX piping for the hydronic heat delivery, and the new 120 gallon domestic hot water tank (upsized from the 40 gallon tank to accommodate the capacity of the new solar water panels).
Image Credit: Peter Yost

Planning ahead, using the same design team, and comprehensive whole house performance evaluation all keys to this unique 10-year LEED for Homes project

Don’t all major home renovations span decades?

Jim Newman and Sarah Slaughter bought a rather pedestrian Cambridge home in 1996 and began full renovation in 2001, recently completing the metamorphosis in 2010. They have always taken the long view on both the environment and their own home’s performance. As building professionals in their own right, Jim and Sarah worked closely with NPS Studios and their contractor on the energy and resource efficiency aspects during BOTH phases of their whole-house renovation.

Can the Newman-Slaughter two-phase gut rehab LEED for Homes qualify?

“It’s a special project that will qualify,” says Mark Price, Senior Sustainability Specialist with Steve Winter Associates, a LEED for Homes AP and rater. Mark feels pretty strongly that there are five aspects of this project that justify treating this two-phase project as a single one:

1. Existing comprehensive documentation – “Jim and the design/construction team took detailed and numerous photos of open-cavity walls and roofs, had a full set of plans, and specifications for Phase I,” says Mark. “If I can verify everything from Phase I, I can count it.”

“I think we spent three straight hours pouring over the photos and nailing down just exactly where the building envelope (thermal barrier and air barrier) was, how Phase I and II elements lined up,” says Jim.

2. Same design firm – “We always had a two-phase plan with NPS Studios,” says Jim. “We just did not know exactly how closely (or not) Phase II might follow Phase I. And since LEED for Homes did not exist during Phase I, it was a really interesting opportunity to see if what we had accomplished in Phase I could dovetail with Phase II to make the whole project eligible for LEED for Homes.”

3. Extensive performance testing of Phase I – Working with just an infrared camera to start, and then adding steady depressurization of the home with a blower door to exaggerate thermal and air barrier short circuits, Mark and Jim carefully identified places in Phase I that would need to be addressed as part of Phase II. “There were not a lot of them, but they were significant,” explains Mark. “But Sarah and Jim made the commitment to pull the entire home’s performance up to the LEED for Homes standards.”

4. Conservative assessment – Jim agreed with Mark’s decision to essentially give all of the Phase I details, such as quality of insulation, a conservative rating (grade II – a less than perfect installation).

5. Phase I changes as part of Phase II – Sarah and Jim went through the LEED for Homes rating system line by line with Mark Price. For example, when they got to the existing masonry fireplace, Mark was unsure about how they would feel about adding operable doors, a LEED for Homes prerequisite. Jim relates,” Actually, we had wanted to add airtight doors since we put the fireplace in and all we needed was this push.”

Not all of the resolutions required were quite that easy. When the performance testing indicated that air sealing and insulating on Phase I living room eaves would mean taking down the soffit and spray foaming that whole area, that is no small project. “It’s not easy to pile on that sort of effort and expense,” remarks Jim. “But the question is: is it worth it? And we decided the answer was yes because it made our home more energy efficient, comfortable and durable.”

Mechanical serendipity

During Phase I, NPS defined a zone heating and cooling system, and the HVAC contractor decided to install two 3.5-ton AC units. One services the downstairs with ducts and air handler in the unconditioned basement, and one services the upstairs from the unconditioned attic. Seven tons of cooling for less than 3,000 square feet in a cold climate! Problem or opportunity?

“Good question!” quips Jim. LEED for Homes requirements would mean eliminating the ducts and air handler in the unconditioned basement. Could the upstairs unit (now inside the insulated unvented cathedralized Phase I attic) provide sufficient comfort throughout the whole house, directly conditioning the upstairs and indirectly the downstairs? “After the Phase II improvements, the whole house loads can now be served by a single unit,” adds Mark.

“We have now had some real-world testing of just the upstairs delivery and it does fine for the open areas (living room, dining room, and kitchen) but more tweaking is probably needed to provide sufficient comfort in the two separate downstairs rooms (library and bedroom),” says Jim. “The redistribution accomplished by the whole house ventilation system is key to this. Probably just use the second 3.5 ton compressor as an in-place spare,” Jim says with a smile.

Using LEED for Homes: point chasing or informing the process?

For Jim Newman and Sarah Slaughter, there is just one way to use any rating system. “It informs, not drives the process,” states Jim. “We developed a package of water, energy, and resource efficiency features for our home renovation and used the LEED for Homes prerequisites and credits as just a double check. The points and rating are what they are.”

But if you look at the extensive features in the project detail sidebar, Sarah and Jim ended up with a high performance home; it just took a while to get there.

Lessons Learned

Jim and Sarah are generally pleased with the way their two phase renovation has worked. Jim summed it up this way. “We did what we could at each stage, living pretty much in each section of the house as the other was gutted. We could have ended up with lots of disconnects because of the two-phase approach, but the upfront time spent on planning and sticking with the same design firm really paid off.”

That said, Jim identified three main issues he would have liked to do differently or get a second strike at with hindsight.

The flashing details
Without the details drawn up or mocked up ahead of actual construction, the inevitable job site pressure meant that some details were either created or just simply installed on the fly. “Even the best of us sometimes needs breathing space to chew on what we are doing, and we missed that,” says Jim.

The A/C and ducting issues
Jim again: “We absolutely should have hammered this out before we started Phase II work. It worked out ok, but more by happenstance than by design. We could have saved a lot of grief and head scratching if we had dealt with the issues of loads and duct runs and equipment location ahead of construction.”

Planning for water harvesting
While Jim and Sarah knew they wanted to set up a rain water harvesting system (to fill the pool and eliminate irrigation needs), they needed to know much earlier in their planning about just how much space is required to store the amounts they get off of their roof. “It’s easy in the wet northeast to treat water harvesting as a bit of a late term add-on. But while it is easy to take the amount we get or granted, STORING it is NOT something to take lightly!” says Jim.

When asked about the LEED for Homes experience, Jim does not hesitate: “Definitely worth the time and the effort and the expense. We have a much better home because we went through the LEED for Homes rating program and process. The documentation is definitely a pain in the butt, but it’s part of the process that connects design, materials and construction, in a good way.”

General Specs and Team

Location: Cambridge, MA
Bedrooms: 5
Bathrooms: 3
Living Space: 2860
Cost: 250
Additional Notes: This cost is for the Phase II work, approximately 1200 square feet.

Project Leader: Jim Newman, BuidlingGreen Builder: Fenton Inc. Custom Builders Architect: Next Phase Studios Solar: CAPCO Energy Supply LEED for Homes & Energy Consultant: Mark Price, Steven Winter Associates


Basement: Concrete block, Icynene open-cell spray foam between floor joists
Above-grade walls (Phase I): 2 by 6, 5.5-inch fiberglass batt, 3/4-inch Polyiso rigid exterior insulation
Above-grade walls (Phase II): Various thicknesses of exterior and interior rigid EPS and 3.5-inch Icynene cavity fill
Attic: 7.5-inch Icynene rafter cavity fill insulation + 4 inches of interior EPS rigid board insulation (plus 2 by 4 strapping)


Cavity Insulation: Icynene spray foam
Rigid insulation: EPS
Attic R-value: 41
Above-grade wall R-value (Phase I): 24
Above-grade wall R-value (Phase II): 27 - 30
Basement R-value: 22
Windows: Accurate Dorwin Fiberglass (U-value=0.21; SHGC=0.26; VT=0.45)

Energy Specs

HERS score: 80
Heating Degree Days: 5200
Cooling Degree Days: 1050

Water Efficiency

Toilets:Toto throughout
Faucets & showerheads: Delta WaterSense lav faucets and Symmons showerheads (with flow restrictor) throughout
Clothes washer:Whirlpool h-axis clothes washer
Dishwasher: LG
Irrigation system: none
Rainwater harvesting: Berg Pillow Tank (under back deck)

Indoor Air Quality

Mechanical Ventilation: Lennox Healthy Climate Solutions HRV-3 200
Spot Exhaust Fans: Energy Star Panasonic
Interior Finishes: Benjamin Moore Natura; SafeCoat PolySeal floor finish
Contaminant Control: block off HVAC during construction, walk off features at entrances, shoe storage

Green Materials and Resource Efficiency

Reclaimed: foundation, floor framing, interior & exterior wall framing, cabinetry, finished floors, interior trim, roof/wall/floor sheathing
Jobsite Recycling: > 75% (wood, rubble, carboard, metals)
Framing, Sheathing, Siding and Trim: FD Sterritt FSC-certified wood building products

Alternate Energy Utilization


USGBC LEED for Homes Silver (pending)


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