Green is the New Black: Deciding on Green Building Products in Home Renovations

Modern, tiny home in Bayfield, WI

The image on the left shows a home- yes, you heard that correctly: a home. Despite it’s small size, it has a lot to offer. Architect Bill Yudchitz designed this E.D.G.E home, or Experimental Dwelling for a Greener Environment, which even won an Honor Award in 2010 from the American Institute of Architects or AIA Wisconsin.

In addition to its small size, this home has incorporated many sustainability and green models into it. It has triple-pane windows, super-insulated walls and roof, geothermal heating and cooling, rainwater harvesting, and a heat recovery ventilator to name a few. Feel free to check out this video tour of the home and prepare to be amazed:


Despite the draw this home emanates, as a excruciatingly sustainable, small home that urges us to gravitate away from the traditional notion of ‘more is better’, even Yudchitz admits that he’s not convinced many Americans would embrace it. It would be a difficult change to make to live in a home like this; even Yudchitz uses it as a vacation home and not his primary residence. Yet, it does beg the question: How can we have more green and sustainable homes? What can we do outside of building ourselves an E.D.G.E. to make sure that we incorporate sustainability principles into our homes?

At UWsustianability, we try to practice what we preach. That’s why when Tom Eggert’s family decided it was time to expand there home, they challenged themselves to build a green and healthy home addition (along with some remodeling of the existing home) for no more than it would cost to do a traditional home addition. Their home offers a real world example that many of us can learn from. Being green doesn’t have to cost more. Having a green home that is larger than the E.D.G.E is a reality.

With help from Crescendo Design, with offices near Manitowoc, and in Madison, a firm the specializes in energy efficient, green residential design, they were able to put a design together:

  1. The addition would be a square-sized two story addition, with the family room on the first floor and the master bedroom on the second. A two story addition with standard 8 foot ceilings requires less energy to heat and cool than a one story addition that is spread over a larger area.
  2. The addition will extend the ranch home into a “T” shape, and extend out 22 feet into the backyard adding 484 square feet on each floor. By building an absolutely square addition, they minimized the ratio of wall area to floor area, resulting in the lowest amount of energy needed to adequately head and cool the structure. This also minimizes construction costs.
  3. To reduce cooling costs, all south and west facing windows will be operable so as to take advantage of the prevailing south-westerly breezes in Madison. The addition of many windows created an open, bright feeling in most of the rooms in the house.

Tom’s family also worked with the Green Built Home program, a program of the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative (and implemented in partnership with the Madison Area Builders Association) in order to assist them with making appropriate green-minded decisions. It was important for Tom to make sure they were doing all that they could and knew that by employing the help of others, they would be taking advantage of all the opportunities that were available to them.

Here at UWsustainability, we encourage the use of outside help if you plan to attempt a similar venture. It will be worth it, we promise. Our focus and goal is not the E.D.G.E home but for realistic, cost-effective changes that can be made for the average Wisconsin resident. For tips on using green/sustainable techniques for designing or remodeling homes, we recommend the following:

  1. Designing or Building a more Sustainable Home Guide by the City of Portland’s Office of Sustainable Development
  2. City of Seattle’s – Green Home Remodel Guide: healthy home for a healthy environment
  3. Settersten Construction in Janesville, WI works with you to find ways that your home additions, new construction, and/or remodeling project can coexist with the environment in a a sustainable and eco-friendly manner.
  4. Green Building has many locations through the state and nation to be a resource for homeowners looking to remodel their home with sustainability in mind.
  5. Check out our Living Sustainably page for more resources that we’ve put together for you.


Stay tuned for our UWsustainability’s next post, which will focus on the rationale behind use of certain materials in the project in addition to specific remodeling recommendations.