Minnesota builders do right by the environment
They began contemplating an addition, keeping in mind their commitment to environmental responsibility. “We wanted to do a green remodel,” says Lauri, who focused on how building-material chemicals and construction dust might affect Jamie, 3, and Jason, 1. She and Larry began to search for information about how best to do a healthy remodel.
Their work was simplified by Minnesota GreenStar, a new collaborative effort of the Builders Association of the Twin Cities, the Minnesota chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, and the Green Institute, an environmental nonprofit.
With help from architect Jeremiah Battles, principal at Acacia Architects in Minneapolis, and builder, Mike Otto, founder of Mike Otto Construction of Minneapolis, the Krafts’ project became one of 60 Minnesota GreenStar pilot projects.
The need for a local program aimed at builders and homeowners became evident about three years ago, says Michael Anschel, principal of Otogawa-Anschel, a Minneapolis design-build firm committed to green construction in urban settings. “There were small rumblings out there,” he says of nascent consumer demand. “How do you define green?”
By the fall of 2005, representatives from the building and remodeling industry, government, academia, and environmental advocates convened to begin developing standards for both remodeling projects and new homes that would give real meaning to the idea of environmentally aware building practices. “They took off their special-interest hats and said, ‘Let’s do the right thing here,’” Anschel says.
With a $50,000 grant from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the GreenStar program took shape. To participate, builders and homeowners must complete an 8-hour GreenStar class that costs $350. Projects are awarded points for ways in which they conform to a checklist of green techniques, materials, and systems. Checklists for remodels and new homes (available online at www.mngreenstar.org) are easy for homeowners and do-it-yourselfers to navigate. GreenStar fees are $100–$200, plus 10 cents per square foot (not including the cost of testing or inspections).
In the Krafts’ case, their commitment to ensuring a healthy, sustainable, and durable home snowballed as the remodel got underway. “At first it was a tangential conversation,” Battles says. “But as we went further, and got involved with GreenStar, Lauri especially began to push to make green a big component.” In the end, they installed a radon remediation system and used closed-cell spray foam insulation, advanced framing techniques, formaldehyde-free cabinetry, passive solar design, and finishes and paint that would protect the inside environment. Materials such as bamboo flooring and paper countertops gave them extra points toward their green certification. “We also looked at things like water efficiency that we hadn’t even considered,” says Lauri.
Photo by Danielle Gernes
Greg Putnam’s remodel of the World War I-era house in south Minneapolis he inherited from his parents is another recently completed GreenStar pilot project. He worked with Mark Benzell, designer at Heritage Builders in St. Louis Park, on a plan to move the kitchen and add a family room and a half bath on the main floor. Upstairs, he would get a new bedroom, laundry area, and larger bathroom. At the same time, Putnam wanted to minimize the environmental impact of his project.
Benzell’s crew saved lumber through advanced techniques that reduce framing members used throughout without sacrificing strength. Use of engineered lumber also saved resources, as did salvaging and reusing items, such as a sink, tile, flooring, and more. A geothermal system provides heating and cooling; it was expensive to install, but should pay for itself in seven years, Benzell says.
“When GreenStar first introduced the pilot program we jumped on it,” says Benzell. “You can’t open a newspaper or turn on the TV without hearing about green these days. It will be the wave of the future.”
Greg Breining is a St. Paul freelance writer.
For more information on featured products and suppliers, please see our Buyer's Guide.