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www.heritage.com September 30, 2010

A Green
Dream House
Solar house remodeled to near net zero energy
By Jana Miller efficient makeover, because the project also
Heritage Newspapers maintained an 1870’s farmhouse and kept the
architectural continuity on the addition.
An architectural gem in the Manchester “This project was very difficult,” Walters
community just got better and greener for one said. “It was less efficient economically (to
farming family. Hal and Katherine Walters just maintain the architecture), both in terms of
completed a major remodeling project of their finances and in terms of space. But we really
19th
19th century historic Italianate farmhouse, did feel like it was better stewardship to keep
and it is being featured on this year’s Showcase the old farmhouse in tact and not touch a hair.
of Homes and Remodelers Home Tour. It’s made out of all virgin timber. You go down
The project included an addition—which into the basement and see these big, thick wal-
brought the living space up to 4,000 square feet nut beams, and you can see where the original
from 2,700 square feet—as well as several green builder has literally cut down walnut trees on
building techniques. our property to build our basement.”
The end result is a home that is very nearly Architect Keith Fineburg of KSF Architects
at net zero energy. worked closely with the Walters to replicate
“For the nine years we lived in the house, the details.
we noticed that there were drafts,” Hal Walters “It took about a year to design and 16
said. “No matter how hard we tried we could months to build,” Fineburg said. “We have
not achieve a high level of energy efficiency. definitely imitated and replicated many of the
We even tried putting all new windows in the details and ornate trim work. We also intro-
house and re-insulating them. But we found duced some new things which were consistent
that the energy bill was just as bad. So from with the period.”
the very beginning, we wanted to have a home It isn’t always easy to get architects and
that was more energy efficient and respon- contractors to work together on historic, yet
sible.” green, projects. However, the Walters couple
Of course, historic homes can be problem- was extremely pleased with its remodeling
atic in that way. As beautiful as they are, they team. That’s part of the reason the couple is
often can be leaky, uncomfortable and waste so happy to be on the Remodelers Home Tour,
energy. To correct those problems, project con- because of the recognition for their contractor
tractor Doug Selby of Meadowlark Builders and architect.
in Ann Arbor went straight to the core of the “If we can go through (a remodeling project)
existing structure. like that for two years and still not only like
“We did a retrofit installation with sheet them but think the world of them, then we
rigid foam on the outside and reinstalled all want our architect and builder to benefit from
new siding and trim,” Selby said. “Almost all that,” Walters said. “Keith Fineburg’s patience
of our projects are highly energy efficient.” and expertise and Meadowlark Builders’
The Walters’ home is also a working farm. expertise and willingness to make everything
While Hal is working as a children’s heart fit together in terms of energy efficiency and
surgeon, Katherine oversees a sheep and hay architectural styles were not easy to do. It’s
farm. A working farm requires lots of power. extraordinary to find people to do that and to
“We were able to get real close to net zero be able to call them a friend after two years of
energy,” Selby said. “To me that’s a real signifi- hard work.”
cant accomplishment.” Fineburg said that he is asked to do these
Walters was in agreement. In the months types of projects more and more.
since moving back into the home, he noticed “Five years ago there was more resistance
the changes immediately. because it was more expensive at the outset,”
“We really enjoy it,” he said. “Every day I’m he said, “but with the incentive programs
home I just notice it. We’ve never even really offered now there is a lot more interest in
done a serious remodeling before. We built this it. We have a new energy code that has sort
house to fit our needs and tastes, and living in of required us to say to the client, ‘maybe
a house that you’ve designed for yourself has you don’t want to spend this money, but code
been a real privilege and we’re grateful.” requires it. So while we’re doing this why don’t
The home was essentially wrapped in four we make a slightly greater effort and make it
inches of foam with taped seams, adding a even greener?’ There has been a lot more activ-
tremendous amount of insulation. It also has a ity in that direction.”
Southern exposure (which captures solar ener- The Walters worked with Stein Electric
gy), insulated concrete forms, efficient water Company in Manchester for all electrical work.
heating, solar panels, geothermal heating and Typically contractors work with the same
cooling, radiant floor heating, an energy recov- groups over and over, but the Walters insisted
ery ventilator, structural insulated panels, on Stein Electric and Meadowlark Builders
advanced building envelopes, and a polyethyl- were receptive to the idea.
ene manifold water delivery system. “They just did a gorgeous job of it,” Walters
The house is now one of the most energy said. “Meadowlark had never used them before
efficient homes in the entire country. and were willing to listen. We really did want
“We’ve completely weaned ourselves off of to use a local company if we could.”
propane,” Walter said. “We also hope to supply With the completion of the project, the
most of our electrical needs by the new solar Walters are now enjoying their home and look-
panels.” ing forward to enjoying an energy-efficient
Meadowlark Builders are no strangers home during the winter months.
to green home remodeling either. Of the “We moved to this farmhouse nine years ago
eight green homes featured on the from Plymouth and have never looked back
home tour this year, Meadowlark or been sorry,” Walters said. “We’re happy to
Builders built five of them. The tolerate the longer commute. We love living
company is also currently in the beautiful farmland. This is a wonder-
working on three other ful community, and we really enjoy living in
green projects. Manchester. We couldn’t imagine living any-
But the remodel where else.”
was more than Copy editor Jana Miller can be reached at
just an energy- (734) 429-7380 or jmiller@heritage.com.