Green is more than a color; it’s a building philosophy. For

Peter Michelson, CEO of Renewal Design-Build of Decatur, Ga., building

green is also the way he helps his clients live healthier, eco-conscious

lifestyles, save money on utility bills and make the world a greener


“Green homes incorporate sustainable materials and design

ideas aimed at protecting the environment by promoting energy

conservation,” Michelson said. “The more you are doing to your

house, the more of an opportunity you have to replace inefficient

equipment with high-efficiency equipment and materials.”

Renewal Design-Build won a 2010 southeast regional CotY award from

the National Association of the Remodeling Industry for a whole-home

remodel it completed Decatur, Ga. The company is dedicated to building

energy-efficient homes in an effort to help reduce climate change. Their

plans incorporate a number of strategies that are meant to increase a

home’s energy efficiency by 30 percent, conserve water and reduce

storm water pollution. By promoting recycling and the use of durable,

low-maintenance, recycled, and rapidly renewable materials, Renewal

Design-Build helps to ensure homes conserve natural resources and

protect ecosystem biodiversity.

The firm’s award-winning remodel began as a 900-square-foot,

1930s cottage with two bedrooms and one bath. The original floor plan

was dated, inefficient and no longer fit the modern needs of a growing

family. The homeowners were dedicated to achieving a total green

renovation, and worked with architect Eric Rawlings and the Renewal team

to incorporate innovative, sustainable building practices, materials and

technologies into both construction and the interior design of the home.

The remodeling team first deconstructed most of the home’s

original structure down to the foundation. They then expanded the living

area of the home to 2,100 square feet. “We reused everything we

could reuse from the original house, which was challenging if you saw

how tiny the original house was,” Michelson said.

High-efficiency and sustainable building were top priorities for

the project. The team used SIP, or structural insulated panel,

construction instead of traditional stud framing. SIPs are made by

sandwiching a layer of rigid polystyrene foam between two pieces of

oriented strand board (OSB). SIP construction is stronger than

conventional stud frames and it takes less time to erect. It also

creates an airtight, draft-free envelope for the home, which saves

homeowners money on their energy bills.

“An important thing to consider in green renovation is

allowing the house to mechanically breathe,” Michelson said. When a

house is built very tightly, it can increase the chance for mold or air

quality issues without the proper use of ventilation. In this case,

energy recovery ventilators helped to reduce the costs of heating and

cooling by transferring heat from the warm air inside with fresh (but

cold) air from outside in the winter. In the summer, the inside air

cools the warmer supply air to reduce ventilation cooling costs.

Energy Star-rated exhaust fans in the bathrooms and cooktop vents

in the kitchen helped to reduce the chance of mold growing in more humid

areas of the home. In addition, the remodelers placed a 40-millimeter

thick vapor barrier in the home’s crawl space and added an Energy

Star-rated dehumidifier so that no ground moisture could seep up into

the house. “The tighter a house becomes, sick home syndrome becomes

a bigger issue,” Michelson said.

New geothermal heating and cooling, high-efficiency windows and

doors and a tankless water heater cut down energy costs. In another

strategy to save on cooling, the team incorporated deep roof overhangs

to provide shade for the windows. Another savvy addition was the water

harvesting system, which was hidden inside the home’s exterior

stone columns. The cisterns collect up to 600 gallons of rainwater that

the family uses to flush toilets, wash cars and as landscape irrigation.

Upon completion, the new prairie-style home featured four bedrooms,

three baths and a spacious modern kitchen. Careful consideration was

taken in choosing interior finishes. The homeowners opted for Forest

Stewardship Council-certified hardwood and bamboo flooring throughout

the house. “Since we built this house so tight, so we had to pay

close attention to off-gassing and make sure that all of our finishes

were low- or no-VOC and non-formaldehyde,” Michelson added.

The builder said that the initial cost of building green pays for

itself over time. For example, an additional investment of $10,000 will

typically cost a homeowner about $65/month on a standard loan. If the

energy savings meets or exceeds $65/month, then it becomes a great

return on your investment. “A typical green project adds 10 to 15%

to the construction cost,” said David Michelson president of

Renewal Design-Build. “However, as the price of energy continues to

go up, the payback accelerates when people build green homes and they

can see dramatic decreases in their monthly utility bills.”

NARI Green Certified Professional (GCP) remodelers can help

homeowners plan eco-conscious remodels that will save you money and

reduce your environmental footprint. Log on to

to find a remodeler in your area.

For green remodeling information, please visit

About NARI: The National Association of the Remodeling Industry

(NARI) is the only trade association dedicated solely to the remodeling

industry. The Association which represents more than 8,200 member

companies nationwide-comprised of 63,000 remodeling contractors- is

“The Voice of the Remodeling Industry.”(tm)

To locate a local NARI chapter or a remodeling professional, visit

NARI’s Web site at, or contact the

national headquarters, based in Des Plaines, Illinois, at 800-611-NARI.