Friday, November 30, 2012

Q+A with Jesse Thompson on his Deep Energy Retrofit

Architect Jesse Thompson and his wife searched for two years for the perfect beat up and inexpensive house within walking/biking distance to schools, work, and restaurants that they could retrofit and expand for their primary residence. The resulting home won an AIA Merit Award in 2012.
Photo courtesy Jesse Thompson.
Q: As an architect, why did you want to retrofit an old ranch instead of building new?
A: In greater Portland, if you want to walk the kids to school and ride your bike to work you need to be flexible in your land search. We sought an inexpensive house that needed new siding, and didn’t have historic character or significant toxicity issues. The resulting “building lot” came with a free foundation, garage, utility connections, and a first floor.

Q: What were the most successful aspects of the project?
A: We were able to add 800 square feet and update the insulation and siding of the original building to improve the envelope by 90 percent, which helped reduce heating costs from approximately $3,000 a year to $400. All this at $85 per square foot.
Architect Jesse Thompson. Photo by Winky Lewis.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges?
A: The salvaged foam insulation wasn’t flat product and the framers had to shim the strapping to make it work. However, we paid only $2,500 to cover the house in 6” of insulation (see

Q: What’s next?
A: We’re adding solar photovoltaic panels this year. PV electricity has come down in price and is now only $0.14 per kWh if you spread the cost of buying the panels over 25 years, which is their minimum lifespan. That’s cheaper than Central Maine Power, and that’s BEFORE the 30 percent Federal Tax Credit for Energy Efficiency.

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