Bright-Minded Home-March

BrightMindedHomeBRIGHT MINDED HOME-March 2011

by Melissa Coleman

Q+A with Rick Renner

Every month in this column, MH+D follows up with the owners of energy-smart homes to find out how they’re faring.

Q+A with Rick Renner

One of the big uncertainties about green building is how well the new practices will perform over time. To find out which systems and techniques are proving smartest, I’ve been asking the owners of notable projects around the state what they’ve learned.

Rick Renner is the principal of Richard Renner Architects, a Portland firm with a focus on environmentally responsible design. Renner lives and works in a late-1800s brick building on Pleasant Street that he retrofitted to LEED Platinum standards in 2007, with architectural offices on the ground floor and personal living quarters upstairs.

Q: What’s been the most successful component of the building?
A: The effort we put into creating as tight a building envelope as possible from an existing structure was critical and very effective. We used closed-cell and cellulose superinsulation and Accurate Dorwin triple-pane fiberglass windows. As a result, the 1,400-square-foot loft apartment costs only $320 a year to heat.

Q: What’s been the least useful?
A: We were surprised to find that appraisers didn’t give as much value as we expected to a building’s efficient features. This is something that will change as the market, and therefore appraisers, become more familiar with green buildings.

Q: What’s new on the horizon?
A: Using a theater fog machine, we’ve started testing the integrity (air tightness) of building envelopes earlier in the construction process, before the final blower door test. Instead of pulling the air out and noting weak areas with a thermal camera, you push fog into the building to see where the fog is escaping, then tighten up those areas.

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