Team Spirit: A Thorough House Renovation Gets Green with a Little Help from a Lot of Friends

Posted on September 21, 2010

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Best Green Houses
Jay DeChesere, AIA, LEED AP
By David Sokol,Via:greensource.construction.com 

It was a case of bad timing. In 2008 Jean and John DeChesere, the elderly parents of Jay DeChesere, AIA, LEED AP, had reached a point in life where they would be better served by an independent living facility. But mired in a downward-spiraling economy, their Wilmington, North Carolina, home lingered on the market. Dad felt particularly anxious about paying the bills, so Jay and his wife Heather agreed to remove the financial burden and purchase the property.

The economy also forced the next move. Freshening up the early-1980s, 1,250-square-foot house cosmetically and then flipping it, DeChesere figured, required $60,000. That would have priced the residence well above comparable homes; even if a buyer were interested in acquiring the property, that person would need enough cash to make up for the mortgage shortfall.

The younger DeCheseres decided to make 3404 Talon Court their own…

Best Green Houses: Talon Court
Photo courtesy Jay DeChesere
 
Best Green Houses: Talon Court
Jay DeChesere, AIA, LEED AP
… Surprisingly, they sold their nearby condo in just one day. Equally notable, the architect spent seven months gut-renovating his parents’ former place to the highest standards of the LEED for Homes program. In April the project earned Platinum certification. DeChesere’s AIA chapter and other groups have been conducting tours through the spring. For those who couldn’t visit in person, last month local television station WWAY aired a piece about the transformation.

Best Green Houses: Talon Court
Photo courtesy Jay DeChesere
 
… DeChesere one-upped the LEED for Homes protocol for undertaking the project. In addition to assembling an integrated design team from the outset, he matched those members—himself, plus a civil engineer, energy rater, general contractor, interior designer, landscape architect, and two green raters, all members of the Cape Fear Green Building Alliance—to an advisory team comprising an appraiser, land surveyor, and mortgage and real estate brokers. “We wanted to look at how the market might respond to sustainable moves that differed from conventional homes or people’s expectations,” DeChesere explains…
Best Green Houses: Talon Court
Photo courtesy Jay DeChesere 

… Now measuring 1,648 square feet, 3404 Talon Court includes a geothermal heating and cooling system, and a 3-kilowatt ground-mounted photovoltaic array located in the backyard…
Best Green Houses: Talon Court
Photo courtesy Jay DeChesere

… That backyard, too, has shrunk: Turf takes up a mere 15 percent of the building lot; due to the accompanying reduction in maintenance, DeChesere’s go-to appraiser, the most conservative of his advisors, championed that downsizing in particular…
Best Green Houses: Talon Court
Photo courtesy Jay DeChesere 

… Indeed, the supplementary group both vetted and tweaked the designers’ decisions. It okayed the addition of a green-roofed carport…
Best Green Houses: Talon Court
Photo courtesy Jay DeChesere

… Yet it also refined DeChesere’s plans for removing the original fireplace and installing a skylight at the top of the articulated chimney, making sure that the old hearth was transformed into a new, highly saleable entertainment center…
Best Green Houses: Talon Court

Photo courtesy Jay DeChesere

… And the advisory team simply would not allow DeChesere to turn three smaller bedrooms into two…
Best Green Houses: Talon Court
Photo courtesy Jay DeChesere 

… Proving the advisors’ astute balance of sustainability and marketability, two other homeowners in this neighborhood are now removing their old fireplaces in order to admit more daylight into their interiors…
Best Green Houses: Talon Court
Photo courtesy Jay DeChesere

… The renovation of 3404 Talon Court does not include the installation of wind power, nor graywater recycling. DeChesere says those decisions did not require advisors. “We didn’t do any wind because the trees surrounding the house create a wind break, and we didn’t recycle graywater because we have enough rainwater harvesting to take care of irrigation and toilet-flushing.” …
Best Green Houses: Talon Court
Photo courtesy Jay DeChesere 

… DeChesere does note that he employed all other sustainable strategies with an eye to legibility, since he had intended to make 3404 Talon Court a demonstration house. That bounty of rainwater, for example, is not only stored in a 1,750-gallon underground tank, but also in a 200-gallon cistern located at the side of the house for everyone to see…
Best Green Houses: Talon Court
Photo courtesy Jay DeChesere 

… Part of the roof also drains into a rain garden, demonstrating how stormwater can be channeled and managed elegantly. “We wanted sustainability to be evident to people touring the house,” he says…
Best Green Houses: Talon Court

Photo courtesy Jay DeChesere

… The best advertisement for responsible renovation is the spatial experience…

Best Green Houses: Talon Court
Photo courtesy Jay DeChesere 

… While 3404 Talon Court’s exterior does not look much changed from the hundreds of other Sea Ranch-derived residences in the subdivision, inside it is brighter and altogether more cosmopolitan than this corner of Wilmington has seen, thanks to its curved elements, creatively recycled materials, and open floor plan…


Photo © Christopher Vlaun, StudioC Collective 

… DeChesere hopes it will motivate others to follow suit, adding, “There are 124 million homes in the U.S. and only 33 have been LEED-certified under this program?” with a tinge of dismay…

Best Green Houses: Talon Court
Photo courtesy Jay DeChesere

… To be sure, DeChesere’s radical redo cost five times more than the cosmetic upgrade he had initially envisioned…

Best Green Houses: Talon Court

Photo courtesy Jay DeChesere

… If Jay and Heather sold the house today, they would likely lose $100,000. But inspiring renovation-minded homeowners to abide LEED for Homes is worth it…

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