Skip navigation.

Going Green

Green Renovation of the Meeting House
By Roy H. Taylor III, RA, LEED AP

It's time to renovate. You've heard that you should be doing it 'green'. Just what exactly does that mean, and how do we do it? Unfortunately, there is no one prescriptive green recipe for your project. The process calls for many choices, and each often come down to cost versus benefit. If you are about to invest any serious amount of money in your facility, it is a good idea to get a professional involved. Check to see if there is a Green Builder's Association, Sustainable Energy organization, or green architect in your area that can help you.

First things first, make a critical analysis of the total building. This will reveal the most cost effective places to spend your money. Plans and elevation drawings of the building are very helpful. Does anyone in the Meeting have a copy of them from the original construction or a previous renovation? If not, a sketch, with dimensions, that indicates the layout of rooms and shows window and door locations will do.

How large is the building? What kind of construction and type of windows, insulated glass or storm? Type and amount of insulation in the walls and roof? What type of roofing? Is it built on a crawl space or slab? Basement? Interior finishes? How old is the building and each of the components? What kind of mechanical system does it have? Fuel for heating? Does it have air conditioning? Have the toilets been replaced since the early nineties to low flush models? Age, condition, and complaints of each area will establish a set of needs. Sometimes a particular event has revealed a weakness in the building — a leak during a storm — or the HVAC system just can't make the space warm (or cool) enough to be comfortable. Other times someone notices the wear and tear, and no one can remember when something was last installed. Armed with all of this information, it is time to assess priorities and feasibility.

The priorities for renovation are as follows:

  1. Keeping outside out and inside in: water and air. New roofing, repairing broken glass, caulking around windows & doors, weather stripping doors, and painting.
  2. Insulation: How can more be added? Is there access to an attic to permit blowing in a few more inches? Has the crawl space been protected? If the walls of the crawl space are insulated, and the floor covered with a waterproof membrane, the ventilation required is next to nothing. In older buildings, where little or no insulation exists, holes can be drilled and insulation blown or pumped into the cavities.
  3. Openings - Tighten up windows, add storms, or replace leaky old windows with more energy efficient multi-pane windows with higher R-values and minimal infiltration.
  4. Mechanical systems - Regular maintenance, cleaning, and servicing are means to get the maximum efficiency available from your existing system. If it is time to replace your equipment, it's time to upgrade. 80% efficient heating equipment can be replaced by 90% + heating equipment. Inefficient air conditioning systems should be replaced with 13 SEER or greater-rated systems. Was the system ever designed to introduce fresh air into the system?
  5. Water Conservation - Water can be conserved with low flush toilets: if the toilets were installed before the early 90's, they are using too much water. Install 1.6 gal/flush models. Men's room urinals can be replaced with waterless urinals that connect to the same plumbing. Placing rain barrels at the base of your down spouts will yield water that can be used for irrigating your landscape areas.

Bringing in a professional can lead to unexpected savings. The combination of a variety of suggestions can lead to significant cost savings. If the old mechanical system needs to be replaced but has been adequate until recently, tightening up the envelope, replacing drafty windows, and adding additional insulation could yield a tremendous savings in being able to downsize the new HVAC equipment.