Going green not easy in older, unique homes
by Jackie Norris
Angie's List member M. Scott Tedrick says his home and others in the cozy Worthington, Ohio, neighborhood of Rush Creek Village followed Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian design principles: homes modest in size that blend in with their surroundings and are built of locally sourced, common materials.
"It's what I call honest construction," says Tedrick, an architect and Rush Creek resident since 1999.
While a fundamental eco-friendliness inspired the late 1950s and 1960s era homes, the floor-to-ceiling windows - a unique characteristic of mid-century modern design - as well as lack of insulation in the roofs and concrete walls often pose challenges for homeowners who want to go green.
Despite the extra time and money it takes to update the homes in Rush Creek Village, Tedrick says it’s worth it. “There’s a kindred spirit among the residents,” he says. “For us, it’s fulfilling.”
"These can be some of the most inefficient homes," says Kevin Eigel, owner of highly rated Ecohouse, an energy audit provider in Galloway.
Shortly after moving in, Tedrick decided to add on and update the 700-square-foot structure. "The home was drafty, so the inefficiencies were pretty evident," he says.
He focused on improving the energy efficiency of the windows, doors and roof. That included replacing the original 1957 single-pane glass windows, which offered little protection against Ohio's extreme temperatures, he says.
Replacing windows and doors in these types of homes cost considerably more, says Kathy Snyder, co-owner of highly rated Palmer Builders in Hilliard, Ohio. "The original single-pane windows were custom made," she says. "So they have to order custom-sized windows to replace them."
Both Tedrick and his neighbor, Angie's List member Pete MacKenzie, hired highly rated Trio Insulated Glass in Columbus to replace their windows with double-pane, low-emissivity glass. "It was really a simple fix," MacKenzie says. "But it was a financial challenge."
While replacing windows with more energy efficient glass is beneficial, Eigel says it's the most expensive solution, sometimes costing $20,000 or more. He suggests that homeowners get the biggest benefit from adding insulation to the house's envelope, specifically any concrete block walls. "You're likely to see a 50 to 70 percent savings when you insulate the roof and walls," he says.
Tedrick upgraded his roofing insulation and even added a cold roof over the entire home, but it also came at a price. "The budget had to increase as we went through construction," he says. He declined to give a final price tag for the project, but says he eliminated some expense by hiring his own labor.
Besides the extra costs, both Tedrick and MacKenzie say they've had some difficulty finding qualified service providers to work on their mid-century modern homes. "The homes do scare some contractors because they're different," MacKenzie says. "As a result, we've developed our own little version of Angie's List in the neighborhood.