A demonstration renovation in Pittsburgh offers building professionals, scientists, and the public a place to view energy-saving upgrades to an older home. The house was remodeled for the Affordable Comfort Inc. (ACI) Home Performance Conference, held in April 2008. The goal of ACI, a nonprofit organization in Waynesburg, Pa., is to improve the comfort, efficiency, and affordability of new and existing housing.
ACI’s director of communications, Nancy Hawkins, says that the nonprofit’s broad scope of membership allows for knowledge transfer between different audiences. “This was the first show house to demonstrate techniques that we teach at our conference,” she says. “We wanted to show that we can renovate existing building stock to meet today’s energy challenges.”
BRIDGING THE GAP
Renovation of the 1930s 1,300-square-foot house included both cosmetic and energy-efficient upgrades. ACI’s executive director Helen Perrine worked with Larry Zarker, CEO of the Building Performance Institute, in Malta, N.Y., and Bill Asdal of Asdal Builders, in Chester, N.J., to organize the project.
Asdal actually purchased the house so the team would have complete control during construction. He says he wanted to participate in the demonstration house to bridge the gap between construction and science and to fill the need of builders and remodelers who want to ramp up their skills and get more technical, unbiased information.
Remodeler Milo Orsini of Milo Services, in Pittsburgh, says he received a crash course in green practices and products while working on the project. A large part of this, he adds, was learning to “follow the air” to seal leaks and to insulate to create a tighter building envelope.
TAKING IT FURTHER
MaGrann Associates, an energy auditing firm in Moorestown, N.J., measured pre- and post-renovation energy use and offered suggestions for improvement. The show home’s final energy use is one-third the original consumption. “It is a terrific accomplishment,” Hawkins says, “but we can go further.” The project is a springboard for a more ambitious ACI program (see “Deep Energy Reduction,” below).
Orsini says he has used what he learned from the show house to help his clients improve their projects’ energy efficiency. He believes that requests for energy audits will increase as homeowners research green options. However, exact energy savings can be difficult to measure, so Orsini also stresses the increased comfort derived from these practices.