October 26, 2010

Small Steps Towards a Sustainable Remodel

by: Taz Loomans

1 Comment

A few months ago, when the rental unit at the Blooming Rock duplex 3 Palms became available, I got a call from a woman named Theresa who was very interested in the place.  But she stipulated that she needed the lease to be on a month-to-month basis because she was moving here from Chicago and wanted to buy a house for the long term, instead of renting.  Normally I wouldn’t entertain the idea of a month-to-month lease, but I was intrigued when she told me that she just got a tenured position at a university in a very interesting field.  I, of course, immediately looked her up and my search confirmed my suspicion that Theresa is a very cool person!  So we decided that yes, we would do the month-to-month lease to have Theresa next door to us for a little while.

Well, the time has come for Theresa to move out of 3 Palms.  She’s bought a house, and a great one at that.  It’s a 1952 “tract house” with 4″x8″ block construction and some beautiful red wood siding in a lovely Central Phoenix neighborhood.  Though we’ve lost a great tenant, we’ve gained a client.  Theresa was so impressed with our renovations at 3 Palms that she hired Blooming Rock for our design services to help renovate her new house, which she has named The Flamingo.

Over the past few days Theresa and I have been shopping for her new house.  And this brings me to the point I wanted to share with you today.  At Blooming Rock, our goal is to make every project that we’re involved in a sustainable project.  This doesn’t mean we have plans to add solar photovoltaic panels to The Flamingo, nor does it mean we’re going to be replacing its windows with triple-pane high-performance windows.  It does mean that with every step we take, we’re going to look for the most sustainable option that is available to us, an option that fits in with the budget and the schedule.

Small steps towards water-efficiency and energy-efficiency

This weekend, while we shopped for plumbing fixtures for the new bathroom at The Flamingo, in addition to looking for the cool stuff, I also looked to make sure that the toilet, faucets and shower head had a WaterSense label.  WaterSense is the EPAs water-efficiency label and it signifies that the product is 20% more water-efficient than it’s conventional counterpart.  It’s similar to how the Energy Star label ensures a certain level of energy efficiency for electric appliances.  Speaking of Energy Star, I made sure to recommend that Theresa get an Energy Star refrigerator for her kitchen.  WaterSense fixtures and Energy Star appliances are readily available at home improvement stores plus often times, they cost no more than their water and energy-hogging counterparts.  The only reason that someone may buy a conventional appliance is because they just don’t think about it.  Next time you go shopping for a new toilet or a new washing machine or whatever it may be, make sure to buy a product with WaterSense or EnergyStar on it.  Another small step towards sustainability is to make sure to buy Energy Star-rated Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) rather than the incandescent light bulbs for your light fixtures.  A CFL uses a whopping 75% less energy and lasts 10 times longer than an incandescent.

Small steps away from the landfill

Since we’re replacing many of the plumbing fixtures, appliances and light fixtures at The Flamingo, where are all the existing ones going to go?  Well first, we’re keeping some of the vintage items that work well and look great.  This is the first step toward sustainability – don’t replace something that works perfectly well with your house.  But if it’s got to go, whether it’s in disrepair or just doesn’t fit with your house any more, make sure it doesn’t end up in the landfill.  The thing to do is to keep your old items aside and call Stardust Building Supplies and they will come pick them up.  Sometimes Stardust won’t take everything, so the next organization I call is Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and they will come pick up too.  If you’re still left with items that neither Stardust or ReStore wanted, another way to recycle is to leave your old items in your alley.  These items will almost always be picked up within a few days and be reused.

Small steps towards good indoor air quality

Another very small but significant step in being environmentally responsible in a remodel is to use no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints instead of the conventional paints that off-gas toxins into your home.  I usually specify Olympic Premium Zero-VOC paint that is available at Lowes.  Not only does this paint Green Seal-certified, but it is also very affordable and the same price as conventional paint.  Plus it performs just as well as conventional paint.  Another way to make sure your indoor air quality isn’t compromised is to choose flooring that won’t off-gas.  I’ll explore the topic of flooring further when we get to the phase in the Flamingo.  But meanwhile, read my previous posts on flooring to see what some good non-toxic options are.

Don’t be afraid to go green!

People think it’s more expensive or at least more difficult to go green when they embark on the already expensive and difficult process of remodeling their home.   But as you can see, small steps go a long way.  Going green is just a matter of being thoughtful, doing a bit of homework and making the right choices.  Often, if you’re smart, it won’t cost you a penny more up front and you’ll end up saving money in the long run.

Stay tuned for more updates on The Flamingo remodel!

Photo Credit: Our shopping cart at a home improvement store. Photo by the author.

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One Response

  1. Steve Shinn says:

    This is a great down-to-earth article about practical efforts in green remodeling.

    I appreciate the perspective of reusing and recycling everyday items left over from a remodel. I have not only donated to Stardust Building Materials for years, I have bought numerous unique items to be incorporated into my remodels. There are things for sale there that you will not find in your everyday stores.

    I applaud Taz for taking the time to outline the Small Steps we can all take to further green in remodeling.

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