Tale Of A Deep-Energy Retrofit
Q&A with Production Manager Cador Pricejones
When Byggmeister's Cador Pricejones
talks about the latest energy-saving
techniques, he sounds a little like a
surgeon talking about the latest life-saving
techniques. It isn't far off the mark because
a Byggmeister retrofit project can give a
home a new lease on life, and in this case,
even bring a family closer.
Deep-energy retrofit sounds like some
sort of extreme makeover. What is it and
why would a client want to do it?
The standard for a deep-energy retrofit
is to reduce a home's typical energy
consumption by 50 percent or more. We
recently worked on a project in Belmont
where the homeowners bought a two family
house that needed a lot of work, and
energy efficiency was a priority for them.
National Grid provided generous financial
assistance for this project. (For more
information on their incentives, visit www.
While Byggmeister has always been
energy-efficiency minded, the last couple
of years we've taken it to a much higher
level with retrofits where we do better
than 50-percent reductions. Residential
housing accounts for 20 percent of our
country's energy consumption and we feel
as builders we have a responsibility to help
our clients decrease their carbon emissions
substantially. Besides, by remodeling,
you are really giving your home a whole
new lease on life in the order of 50 or 100
years, so you should give it the best you
This house was built in the 1930s. How
do you increase energy efficiency by more
than 50 percent in a house that old?
Well, when you buy the worst house on
the block, you can make a big impact. This
house wasn't the worst, but it was in poor
condition and the homeowners knew it
was going to take a lot more than just
weatherization to make it energy efficient.
So, it takes more than just rolling out the
There were a lot of details like a solar
thermal system that preheats the water
going into their hot water tanks, exterior
doors and window replacement, and
changing the heating system from a boiler
to a furnace that is 95 percent efficient. Of
course, insulation does make a very big
difference in sealing the house as tightly as
possible, which we did by blowing dense
cellulose into the exterior walls and then
using rigid insulation as well under new siding. By the way, we didn't use that fluffy,
Can you seal a house too much? We need
to breathe fresh air, right?
Absolutely. When you seal a house that
well, you need a ventilation system, but
you don't want to have cold air coming in,
so we use an energy-recovery ventilator
that exhausts air from inside the house and
as that air flows out, it transfers its heat to
the fresh air coming in from the outside.
What were the goals for updating the
The layout was typical 1930s. It wasn't
very open and there was a funny hallway
that ran down the middle of the house.
We removed walls and took out two
chimneys to make it much more open and
Isn't open space less energy efficient?
What about heat zones?
That concept of heat zones doesn't work
to help efficiency much. You want to keep
the whole house a constant, comfortable
temperature. So, if you keep a seldom used
room colder, that is just going to be
siphoning off warmer air from the rest of
the house, which creates drafts and does
little to save on heating.
There was a family component to
"greening" this project wasn't there?
One of the reasons these homeowners
bought a two-family was to have the
grandparents live on the first floor and
the immediate family would live in the top.
They embraced the idea of going from two
homes to one, which reduced the family's
overall carbon footprint.
Were there any big hiccups along the
In the eight months it took, there was
nothing serious, but with all the choices
between the two units: five bathrooms,
two kitchens, all the living spaces, six
bedrooms, heating systems, appliances; the
number of decisions that had to be made
was really pretty mind blowing.
More from Our Viewpoint
Learn more about us
Meet the crew
Recognition, Affiliations, & Community Involvement