Friday, January 1, 2010

Direction for 2010

In recent months my work has centered around energy retrofits, and I have been able to discuss alternative approaches with an energy efficiency team while working on proposals for a Sustainability Training Center in New Bedford. I also imagine testing these different approaches at the Center.

The overwhelming experience in 2009 was the ultimate comfort of a well insulated space in the New Bedford townhouses. I never believed it was possible to feel completely warm when its well below freezing outside. In the past I have specified foamed in place insulation in two attics, but never got to experience the space during a deep freeze. 

One of those projects was done five years ago, and the top of the line insulation was not the most important part of the design-build. Instead the luxurious aspects of a master bedroom-bath suite got all of the focus. Those days are now long gone, and I've been thinking a lot about what may take its place. Let's face it our homes need upgrades, but at a smaller price tag and with a return on investment that improves our comfort and reduces fossil fuel consumption. 

After feeling the comfort and knowing the energy savings of a deep energy retrofit, I can think of no reason why we don't gut the interior wall finish of exterior walls and get them fully sealed and insulated. True it may seem like a big mess, expense, and hassle, but it's nothing like the disruptive renovations of past years where added space and fine finishes were the priority and thermal performance was an after thought . Even the idea of freshly painting an outside wall that hasn't been properly sealed and fully insulated seems an incredible waste and a sentence to enduring cold winters. I truly believe now is the time to get over the sense of disruption or added expense (really for how long and for how much?? a couple days and a couple $K) to achieve well sealed and insulated outside walls.

It is exciting to think of design-build on a room by room basis for deep energy retrofits for a relatively small investment.  Of course even more exciting is the project that includes a needed renovation while kept on a tight budget with performance and form as priorities over glamour and charm.

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