Sunday, July 27, 2008

Before and After Photos

Sorry, we’ve been lazy about keeping the blog up-to-date lately. The best excuse we can come up with is that we’ve been just enjoying our new house and neighborhood and trying to make up for some lost sleep over the last 6 months. .

Good News-----The best news this week is that we closed on the sale of our old house on Friday. As much as we loved that house, we are very relieved to not have another property to worry about.

I thought I’d do a little photo essay on “before” and “after” photos. Because we’ve so radically transformed this house, it’s sometimes easy to forget that this was an existing 1940’s house. Last week the former owner stopped by to pick up something that had been squirreled away in a closet and even he had a tough time remembering what it was like before. I'll do one on the interior in the future.

We changed the location of the front door and added a full 2nd floor.

We kept the gabled roof form on this portion (Kevin's studio) and just changed up the materials.

I wish we had that green grass now!

We will soon reinstall some of those brick pavers and dispose of the plywood sidewalk.

Part of our reason for doing a transformation such as this was simply to show that it can be done. We hope we've illustrated that you can make your current house (or an existing house) your dream house - and to do it in a way that is energy efficient, environmentally responsible and affordable (a subjective consideration, I know). You can be modern, Tudor or Victorian - the style doesn't matter.

It is certainly easier to start with an open lot and brand new construction than with an existing house, but one of the best things you can do from an environmental point of view is to keep existing structures in good repair and service. Living in the city is also good - we're utilizing existing infrastructure, neighborhood services, adding to density - all good things to keep our ecological and carbon footprint smaller.

It turns out to be a good economic decision as well. Certainly land costs are a little higher when buying in the city but overall, this project cost us less to build as a significant remodel than a brand new home on a new lot would have in spite of some of the extra surprises that remodels often yield. Most new homes are being constructed for $170 to $200 (and beyond) per square foot these days - just for normal construction - nothing fancy. When all is said and done, we will have spent under $125 per sf including all the "extras" such as high performance windows, super insulation, solar HW and PV systems and a green roof! I calculate that without all those extras we would have spent about $110 per sf. All those extras added a little more than 5% to our overall budget (the better windows and insulation, roofing, etc add only a little bit more than the usual suspects do) and offer an average calculated payback of less than 7 years - it would be lower yet but our solar systems increase the payback average considerably.

This project has not been an easy one for us financially. We are pretty frugal people and are not accustomed to spending this much money on anything. However, we realize that even though it will stretch our capacity and limits for a while, investing in our beliefs, our future, our children our neighborhood and our planet is the right thing to do. It would have been easy to always look for the cheapest alternative and least expensive option - but those choices often end up costing much more over the long haul. A building's first cost is somewhere around 6% of its total lifetime cost (assuming a 50 year life span) the rest of it is spent in operating and maintaining the building. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that spending a little more now to save a lot later is a pretty darn good value. If I can cut my operating expenses in half with a very modest increase in first cost, the savings will pay for themselves again and again. Call me a liberal if you want to, but that's conservatism at its best! Oh, and all that money saving happen to benefit the environment too, so you can still call me a tree hugger - its okay.


modernemama said...

wow, wow, wow that's so visually fantastic and it's sustainable too. Wear your liberal treehugger label with pride.

Daniel M said...

Contratulations on your great results. We are in the early planning stages of a similar project in which some self-described green architects said there was nothing worth saving of the 1000 sq ft existing house. I'm going to send your link to our current architect. DM

SmilingJudy said...

Bravo to you for living by example! I am so tired of people knocking down a perfectly good 'starting point' to build a brand new green home. They're clearly missing the point about 'reuse'. And look! You've already made a difference based on daniel's comment above!

Of course, I would've been fine with the original house, but I don't have kids to escape from. :)

Kevin & Roxanne said...

Thanks for the comment. I checked out your blog and you have AMAZING flowers. I'm full of garden-envy!

Kevin & Roxanne said...

Daniel- Good luck with your project and your architect. It's often messy and not as glamorous to reuse an existing house- so you might run into more resistance along the way. These days no one can afford to NOT be labeled as "green" in the building industry, so it's definitely a "buyer-beware" type world out there. Best of luck!

Kevin & Roxanne said...

smilingjudy- Thanks for your comment. Our original Cape Cod was indeed a cute classic, but in our neighborhood, they're hundreds of them. Once we made the decision to build up, it meant losing the Cape Cod style. I looked at your blog and it looks like your have your hands full with a major renovation of your own... I'll have to post some pictures of our wood floor that was salvaged and reused so that you can imagine your end game! Roxanne

Damon said...

I was wondering if you could drop me an email. It is

I have some questions I wanted to ask you about your Hardie Siding.

I am remodeling (rebuilding) a house very much like you guys did. This blog has been a real motivation.

You can check out my blog (which I have no time to update) at


Anonymous said...

What's a wonderful, comfortable design and energy save as well.

Tony Wang