Case Study: Cruickshank home makes green attainable for others
October 29, 2010
Case Study: Cruickshank home makes green attainable for others
By Morgan Zenner
The project started out as a green pilot program for Brad Cruickshank, CR, president of Cruickshank Inc. based in Atlanta. But by the end, all those involved considered it an important learning experience and knowledge builder in the world of green remodeling. Knowledge that Cruickshank and his crew could pass on to existing and future clients.
Cruickshank also got a new, energy-efficient house out of the deal. His nearly 90-year-old home was due for its third remodel, but this time Cruickshank was going to do it the right way—using sustainable materials and building practices.
A 90-year home history
The home’s original condition was not anywhere near efficient. “There was no wall insulation, it ran on a steam heating system and the home had a double-hung windows that relied on weights and
sashes,” Cruickshank says. Years later, he added two heat pumps
with an electrical back-up to ensure his family would survive the cold, but that, too, was inefficient compared to today’s sustainable alternatives.
The first remodel was basic. Cruickshank had just purchased the house from an elderly man and upgraded a bathroom and kitchen with new appliances and installed 2 heat pump systems. During that remodel, Cruickshank was surprised to find a note on the wall behind the original wallpaper with a name and date of the person working on the home. The man humorously referenced the unbearable conditions he was forced to work under during the summer. The note was dated August of 1921.
Then in 2001, the Cruickshanks decided to expand. They added 1,200 square feet onto the home out the back, adding a small family room, guest room, bathroom and study on the first floor.
Green pilot program
It was time for another addition by 2008, and this time it was going to use sustainable building practices—in fact they set their sites on achieving an EarthCraft certification.
“We took on this project as a pilot program for green building so we could know firsthand what it takes and what the experience is like,” Cruickshank says.
One of many goals, the home needed to be larger, and the first floor needed a corridor to connect the family room with the living room. They replaced the sistered floor joists on the first floor that had termite damage and dug out a basement underneath the living and family room to add a wine cellar and exercise room. Finally, an outside entertainment area was extended and includes a newly configured fireplace.
On the second floor, the new master bedroom resides on top of the new first floor family room, and another corridor connects the new master bedroom with the his-and-her bathrooms and relocated laundry room.
This is a dual-functioning remodel—meaning Cruickshank’s home is to become more efficient and at the same time add square footage while adapting to green building techniques. This particularly challenging project required Cruickshank to follow the EarthCraft green certification program to be sure he was doing things right.
“The EarthCraft program is spread across the Southeast region and lists its own set of requirements to be labeled an EarthCraft project,” Cruickshank explains. He says that most of the EarthCraft projects are new home construction, but remodelers in the Atlanta NARI chapter are working with the organization to increase its prevalence within the remodeling community.
Similar to other green certification programs, EarthCraft provides assistance from a techincal advisor to assess the home and make recommendations. All homes are inspected at least once during the process and require third-party verification at completion to measure energy reduction. Homes are rated on a point system and based on the scope of work and project type, which determines points earned and qualifies them for certification.
The EarthCraft focuses on energy efficiency, indoor air quality, durability, water conservation and waste reduction of the home during and after the remodel.
Green building practices put to work
Cruickshank got rid of the inefficient heating systems and added two three-zone HVAC systems in the home. This is in combination with the Icynene spray-foam insulation that covers 70 percent of the new addition and accounts for half of the home makes for increased efficiency. The caulking around HVAC boots and wall plates, windows and doors and the attic keeps all of that heat or cool air from leaking.
“Some areas of the home that were remodeled previously do not have Icynene foam insulation because it wasn’t available at the time, but all of the new areas of the home, including the foundation, are insulated,” Cruickshank says. A blower door test revealed a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index of 77, which falls under the EarthCraft certification standards.
(For reference a HERS Index of 77 means that the home is 23% more efficient than the HERS Reference Home—which is scored at 100. A zero-energy home has a HERS Index of 0.)
There was also a good amount of reusing of materials and salvaged materials in the project. The mantel located in the master bedroom was made from marble dust, while the flooring in the new living and family rooms was made from salvaged heart pine flooring.
An inefficient chimney system in the home was torn apart and upgraded during the remodel, but the bricks were reused in the basement to create false columns and dummy mantel.
Outside the realm of materials and use in the homes was a measure of best practices. “Part of the program requires a central cut area, where the framing contractor cuts and stores end cuts of wood for re-use,” Cruickshank says. “Also, our crew recycled their plastic bottles and cans onsite.” Many of these practices are now part of Cruickshank’s company culture.
Digging becomes biggest challenge
Despite the documentation and details necessary to earn an EarthCraft certification, the biggest challenge by far was digging a basement out from under an already-standing two-story home.
When you’re adding a basement onto an existing structure, it turns more into a balancing act—having to make sure every main structural pressure point is securely met.
“It took us one-in-a-half months to dig out the basement and pour new foundation in,” Cruickshank says. “During that time, we had weather elements to deal with, and the site conditions that made it less than ideal to work with.”
For one, it was hard to keep the rain from filling up the hole. Huge plastic covers were used to keep the hole from getting wet before the foundation was poured. Next, the site conditions were extremely tight. One side was the neighbor’s yard and the other was the already existing patio that was not to be destroyed but expanded by the end of the project.
“The site conditions made if very difficult to work there as we had very little room to maneuver digging machines and foundation pours during critical areas of the site,” Cruickshank says.
Green dream home
Their dream home came to life with an eat-in family room, outdoor entertaining area, master bedroom suite with his and her bathrooms, an exercise room and new basement, all using sustainable building techniques.
In addition to having a beautifully remodeled home to come home to every night, Cruickshank now has a starting point to getting his company to build green.
His crew now knows sustainable building techniques. If a client wants to re-use materials from their original home, Cruickshank can be sure his crew knows how to deconstruct the home carefully to extract those materials carefully. He can also count on his crew to recycle materials as they go along, like second nature.
“I feel confident now that I can give clients advice about green materials or products, having used them myself and see how they work and what it’s like to live that way,” Cruickshank says.