Archive for March, 2009

Ready…Reclaim…Renovate! (Part 1)

March 20, 2009 3 comments

Larson House @ 6 WeeksWe are fortunate to be able to follow Justin Larson, founder of JCL Architecture Inc., and his wife Sandra as they undertake a very eco-friendly home renovation and expansion project here in Old Town Fort Collins.  Over the next several weeks, we’ll be doing a series of posts as we track their progress updating this 100-year-old home.  We hope you’ll follow along.

Sandra and Justin are sustainability-minded folks, so there will be lots of green building elements to their project.  One of the most unique is the extensive use of reclaimed building materials, which they have sourced from careful deconstruction of existing walls in their own home, from salvaged construction materials specialists in the region like Uncle Benny’s and The Lumber Guy, from mis-ordered materials at various construction sites, and yes, even from Craig’s List (actually, quite a bit of their reclaimed building supplies were found via Craig’s List).  You can get an initial sense for the scope of their project and the use of salvaged materials in the video below. 

Using reclaimed building materials to this extent requires a great deal of energy, creativity and commitment.  Being an architect doesn’t hurt either.  Perhaps Sandra sums it up best in commenting about the time and effort she put into removing nails from deconstructed studs, verses the alternative of throwing them away and purchasing new pieces for $2 each…

It’s not about the $2 per piece.  What saving the pieces does is let us know that the original roots of the house remain the “bones” of our renovation.  I think it’s extraordinary to realize that “sticks” from 1906 will help our house for another 100 years…

Plus, I am a methodical task junkie.  Justin knows me all too well, and he’s wise to put me on the not-so-skilled part of the labor that nonetheless requires “doing and drive”.  Put my hands to work on repetitive, pretty simple stuff, and it lets my mind wander to how it will all look when it’s finished, or, the project quandary I haven’t been able to solve in my office at work.

So yes, we recover far more than $2 a board!

While most of us don’t have Justin’s expertise, certainly we can take a que from these two to engage more deeply in our own green home projects.  They are bound to be even greener if  we do.


Remodel with Reclaimed Building Materials: Thrifty and Green

March 8, 2009 2 comments

Tile RoomYour local reclaimed building materials store is a great place to get ideas for low-cost, eco-friendly home projects.  By wandering around ReSource, the salvaged construction materials outlet in our community, we got inspired to refresh the very dated fireplace surround in our living room when we discovered 10 brand new tiles that were left over from a recent new home construction project in town – exactly the number we needed to redo the hearth.  We also found a half-full carton of matching grout.  The tiles cost $1 each, and ReSource charged us $2 for the grout.   

I used some leftover adhesive from a previous tile job at home, and was able to leave the original red “kitchen tile” hearth in place underneath this new tile to achieve a good grade match with the new cork floor we had installed a few months prior.   Lara had the great idea of using some of the remaining low VOC paint leftover from painting our living room walls to liven up the grungy brick-n-mortar portion of the fireplace wall and really accentuate the original woodwork on the upper wall.  See pictures here.

For $14 out-of-pocket, we were able to move from a decidely dated mid-century look, to something much closer to mid-century modern.  Moreover, we generated virtually no waste with our little project (just a few sliver cuts from the tile).  And, we put to good use tiles, grout, adhesive and paint that might otherwise have gone to waste.

ReSource and your local reclaimed materials store are businesses whose primary mission is landfill diversion.  Riverwired has some sobering statistics that speak to the importance of this mission.  One critical data point – 136 million tons of construction waste and demolition debris are generated each year in the U.S.   Obviously businesses that help us keep as much of this tonnage as possible out of the landfill have an important mission!

You’ll find the folks who work at reclaimed building materials outlets to be passionate about the environment, and full of creative ideas for reuse, recycling and upcycling (into furniture, art, greenhouses – even chicken coops) the building materials they salvage and stock.   Check out our video tour of ReSource with Regional Manager Kendol Gustafson below as an example.


Finally, if you’re interested in remodeling with reclaimed materials, now might be a good time to subscribe to our blog, as we’ll be starting a series of posts shortly on an extensive reclaimed materials remodeling project that architect Justin Larson and his wife Sandra are doing at their home here in Ft. Collins.  





Virtual Tour of a High Performance Green Home

High Peformance Green HomeA great way to get ideas for making your home more eco-friendly, or building your dream green home, is to tour other green homes.  So I couldn’t resist the opportunity to make a video tour of a beautiful home that Barry Schram, owner of Lamar Valley Craftsman, just completed for one of my clients (video at bottom of this post). 


Barry’s business is founded on a strong environmental ethic, a passion for creating high performance structures, and a special talent for building homes that satisfy the soul.  Like us, he was and still is inspired by Sarah Susanka’s Not So Big House body of work.  Fortunately for the planet, more and more builders are starting to think and operate like Barry as more and more of us start to demand homes built with sustainability in mind.


My clients were an excellent fit to work with Barry.  They had very specific desires for their dream home’s feel, performance, and environmental footprint.  Some highlights of the home that they collaborated to create include:

  • Concrete floors with in-floor radiant heat and Buderus high efficiency boiler.
  • Heat recovery ventilation system.
  • Passive solar design and Tamarack whole house fan to eliminate the need for air conditioning.
  • Energy efficient appliances and lighting.
  • Sierra Pacific aluminum clad exterior low-e windows.
  • Optimized natural lighting including Solatube Daylighting System.
  • Lots of thoughtful Not So Big details including a special window detail for growing herbs, built in bookshelves and window seats.
  • Other sustainable building materials including locally sourced beetle kill pine for exterior soffits, MDF trim to minimize use of harvested timber, and recycled content decking.


It is also worth noting that this house is an infill project in Old Town Fort Collins on a lot previously occupied by a 1920’s-built cottage that was beyond rehabilitation.  


The home has a great open floor plan, with 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, plus an office/away room.  It has about 3,100 total square feet – about 2,100 above ground with another 1,000 at a “garden level”.  It also has a detached 2 car garage with alley entry. 

So I hope you enjoy the video tour and hearing more about this great home from the builder himself.  If it whets your appetite for some in-person touring, the American Solar Energy Society now facilitates a nationwide grass roots solar tour, and the Parade of HomesTM events around the country are getting greener every year (just Google green parade of homes).


Don’t miss your chance to build the green home of your dreams at Midori – a new green neighborhood in Fort Collins.