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"The Sign of Renovation in Your Neighborhood

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Green homes not just for GRANOLA set anymore

Green Remodeling

Tom Barry, Contributing Writer May 2004

Green was the theme two years ago when architect Glenn Cartledge remodeled his home in Buckhead. At the time, environmentally friendly construction was a growing trend with new homes in Atlanta, thanks to EarthCraft House, a joint program between the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association and Southface Energy Institute.

But green remodeling was in its infancy, and what better debut project than a classic 1950s ranch-style home in Buckhead, occupied by the then-head architect of SawHorse Inc.?

After all, SawHorse -- a design/build remodeling firm based in Sandy Springs -- was in the forefront of efforts to include renovation projects in the EarthCraft program.

Flash forward to 2004. Thanks to the six-month, $300,000-plus renovation, the Cartledge home has two stories rather than one, five bedrooms and four baths, compared with the previous three and two.

Despite the larger structure, Cartledge's monthly electrical bill has dropped because the house now is tightly sealed and energy-efficient. The heating bill is up, but only because of soaring gas prices. Usage (therms) has fallen.

"We've been very pleased with the results," said Cartledge, now project manager for Associated Space Design Inc., an Atlanta architectural firm that specializes in commercial projects. "Not only does the house save on utilities, it's more comfortable, too."

In today's remodeling world, green is hot. Or, to put it another way, cool.

"People can get frustrated living in an older home," said EarthCraft House Director Jim Hackler. "There are problems with comfort, and energy bills seem to keep going up and up. Gas bills in particular have been outrageous."

SawHorse, with 25 employees, has been a leader in green remodeling. Founded in 1980, the company does about 75 projects a year in the north metro area, 25 percent to 30 percent of them green. Annual revenue is about $6 million.

"Green remodeling involves treating a house as a system," said Sawhorse Vice President Carl Seville, who chaired the committee that created the EarthCraft House remodeling program.

Seville now serves on a panel developing national green remodeling standards.

"The idea is spreading," he said. "Once it was considered sort of a Mother Earth thing to do, but it has become much more mainstream."

First and foremost, a green house is tightly sealed, with a state-of-the-art ventilation system designed to bring in fresh air from the outside. By contrast, older homes often are drafty and susceptible to changes in temperature as the weather changes, home builders say.

Besides top-of-the-line heating and air-conditioning systems, "green" houses typically employ double-paned windows, foamed-in-place insulation, energy-efficient appliances, low-vapor-emitting paint and sustainable building materials such as engineered lumber. Doors and windows are tightly sealed.

While costs are higher on the front end, significant savings can be realized on utility bills over the long haul. "Depending on how leaky the house was, energy savings can be between 10 and 50 percent," Seville said.

Since its debut in 1999, more than 1,500 new homes have been certified under the EarthCraft House program, which describes itself as "a blueprint for healthy, comfortable, affordable homes."

"Over 100 home builders are now participating in the program," Hackler said.

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