Tuesday, October 1, 2013

making the Green Triple Decker real

once we were awarded one of the five pilots to take our 1905 triple decker from HERS 135 (or worse - the lower floors had even worse HERS ratings than we did on the 3rd floor) to HERS 65 or better, we needed a plan.  we sat down and developed some ideas about how to cut energy consumption while at the same time improve the living conditions of the building and make it a more comfortable home.

in a case like this we were trying to balance wants versus needs and think about the project as individual components and as a whole.  wants versus needs is a tough one for anyone doing design and construction work.  we needed to make a proposal and define a scope of work that would hit HERS 65 and there were some general guidelines set forth by the City which included specific targeted items such as insulation and systems as well as some bare minimums we needed to attain, but the specifics were up to us.  we could, if it made sense financially and otherwise, choose a completely unique route to get from 135 to 65.  that route could be replacing some or all of the systems, replacing some or all of the exterior of the house, insulating some or all of the house, etc.

not only were we choosing our own route, we were also working as three individual condo owners deciding what to do to our entire house.  it might be that what makes sense for one floor makes less sense (or even no sense) for another.  for example, the third floor had recently been renovated to add new electrical and all of the interior walls and ceilings were intact.  the first floor was part way through a gut renovation that included removing all interior plaster.  this meant that blowing insulation from the inside could be "easy" for the first floor, but would create havoc on the 3rd.  similarly, we needed to insulate the roof.  blown insulation was chosen as the best solution, but we (the 3rd floor) did not want to poke a hole in every single joist bay in every ceiling of our condo.  so we had to develop a strategy to achieve the insulation value we needed/ wanted without unnecessarily inconveniencing any one specific unit owner and making unnecessary work (patching holes in poorly done popcorn ceiling is pretty much impossible and expensive).

the project strategy was simple: aim for the most valuable (energy wise) items first.  scope items with big impact on energy reduction are more valuable than lesser (or more expensive) ones.  for example, super insulating the house (built in 1905 with almost no insulation) is a huge improvement in energy need in both summer and winter.  it's not glamorous, but it gets the job done.  after tackling the biggest items (basically the exterior/ shell of the building), we aimed inward at the major systems (heating, cooling, hot water, etc).  the third and final category of our project would be the interior and the users (this includes everything from ceiling fans to dual flush toilets and low flow fixtures to CFL or better bulbs).  approaching the project in this manner (from big to little and from outside to inside) helped us make important decisions about where to invest our resources.

now that we've painted a bigger, overall picture, I will start to talk about specific strategies and scope of work, focusing first on the shell and exterior of the building.  stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Hi! You seem to have stopped posting on this, but I live on the 3rd floor of a JP triple decker, too, and would love to hear more about the energy efficiency work you've done on yours. Hoping to get in touch or otherwise hear about your project!