Building green has its challenges. First and foremost, the biggest challenge for many people is simply a shift of thinking in how they approach their home design and attention to detail. With new construction, however, those challenges are easily overcome. That’s because, in reality, the challenge to make a home more efficient and healthy than a conventional home is really more of a call to action to take simple but smart measures that create drastic improvements. Beginning with design phase and following through to the last coat of paint, the process for green building sets a smooth plan to maximize efficiency and health demands. But what if your home was built-in the late 40’s just the same way as every other home built at that time. Is it easy to “green” an existing home? Does it make more sense to start over?
One Kittery couple (prefer to be anonymous) doesn’t think so, nor does the green building community. Working with existing homes, improving them and if necessary, adding on (with updated measures) is a net plus for the environment. The home overlooking a small creek off the Piscataqua River in Kittery is a perfect example. The greening of their home began last January when they needed to replace old, worn out floors in their office. Taking their choice to the limit, the owners installed stylish, contemporary Eco Timber strandwoven poplar flooring made from recycled shavings reclaimed from furniture factories. In June they followed that with a floating cork flooring that installs without the need for glue or nails. Additionally, their cork floor uses an organic oil/wax finish, free from petroleum additives (uses plant oils) that provides a natural finish; far healthier than the typical urethane finish applied to cork flooring.
This fall began the real “meat” of their project with an addition that incorporated a renovation of an existing breeze way and the north end of their small cape home. When faced with the need for more space, this couple considered a new home “out of town”, but ultimately decided on working with their existing “in-town” home. It was the appeal to maintain a lifestyle that took advantage of walks to downtown and Portsmouth that dominated their decision. One walks to her local business and they other just a short commute away. The new addition includes south facing windows that overlook the creek and dense packed paper cellulose insulation in the walls. Working with builder Marc Hovde, the homeowners recognized the superior performance and health values of paper cellulose. Plus, the product, made from recycled newsprint is manufactured only
120 miles away. Other features going into the renovation include an updated, tailor fit mini-split HVAC system that can be plugged into a solar system array down the road if they choose. And a Richlite countertop on custom cabinets made by local wood worker Bob McGrath. When the project is all said and done, this will be one of the most eco-friendly old homes in Kittery. Perhaps, though, the greatest benefit, regardless of the improved home efficiency, will be the quality of life that includes a short walk to Kittery’s blossoming restaurant scene and Portsmouth beyond that.