Thursday, February 17, 2011

Q+A with Rick Renner About His Retrofitted LEED Loft in Portland, Maine

From the March 2011 Bright-Minded Home column in Maine Home + Design:

One of the big uncertainties about green building is how well the new practices will perform over time. To find out which systems and techniques are proving smartest, I’ve been asking owners of notable projects around the state what they’ve learned.

Architect Rick Renner's Pleasant Street Loft
Rick Renner
Rick Renner is the principal of Richard Renner Architects, a Portland firm with a focus on environmentally responsible design. Renner lives and works in a late-1800s brick building on Pleasant Street that he retrofitted to LEED Platinum standards in 2007, with architectural offices on the ground floor and personal living quarters upstairs.

Rick Renner
 What’s been the most successful component of the building?
The effort we put into creating as tight a building envelope as possible from an existing structure was critical and very effective. We used closed cell and cellulose super insulation and Accurate Dorwin triple pane fiberglass windows. As a result, the 1,400 square foot loft apartment costs only $320 a year to heat

What’s been the least useful?
We were surprised to find that appraisers didn’t give as much value as we expected to a building’s efficient features. This is something that will change as the market, and therefore, appraisers become more familiar with green buildings. 

What’s new on the horizon?
Using a theater fog machine, we’ve started testing the integrity (air tightness) of building envelopes earlier in the construction process, before the final blower door test. Instead of pulling the air out and noting weak areas with a thermal camera, you push fog into the building to see where the fog is escaping, then tighten up those areas.

Let us know what you think about this project and please suggest others you think we should look at.

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