All Projects Belmont, MA

Gaining Living Space While Saving Energy

Bathrooms Energy Efficiency Interiors Whole House

This 1960s ranch house featured a large, open living room with a central chimney. There were two small bedrooms off the side, and a kitchen, den and porch off the back. The owners reached out to us because their home—despite its generous square footage—felt small and cramped. Their teenage children shared a bedroom and had no place to hang out away from their parents.

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Our solution...

While we always strive to meet our clients functional needs by reconfiguring existing spaces, in this case we saw no alternative but to add on.

Dividing up the living room wasn't an option, both for structural reasons and because the owners wished to preserve its openness. And there was no way to fit an additional bedroom into the existing footprint. At the same time we didn’t want to increase the home's energy usage and were hoping that we could actually reduce energy usage. The key to accomplishing this was early-stage energy modeling. As we developed the space plan, we analyzed various insulation and mechanical strategies;.eventually we settled on a plan that we estimated would yield annual energy savings of 25%.



We built two small additions, providing an additional bedroom on the main level, a new stair, and a guest bedroom, full bathroom, and laundry area on the lower level. The existing basement, now easily accessible from the main floor, became a kids’ hangout room.The new spaces are spare and bright, replicating the mid-century aesthetic. Every detail—from the open stair, to the light maple floors, to the bathroom vanity—echoes the original character.

Saving energy...

We superinsulated the additions and substantially improved the efficiency of the existing house: insulating the basement and attic, adding exterior insulation to the walls; and installing triple-glazed, high performance windows.

We replaced the furnace with a high-efficiency unit, installed ductless minisplit heat pumps in the additions, and added whole-house heat recovery ventilation. After two years of energy tracking we determined that we have in fact lowered energy use. While electricity use went up, largely because of the heat pumps and ventilation system, the envelope improvements and furnace upgrade resulted in even greater gas savings. In the aggregate the owners are using 20% less energy annually than they were before.