Going Green, Craftsman Style

Updated at: 12/06/2013 9:42 AM
By: Networx

Photo: David Sawyer/FlickrThe Craftsman has long been one of my favorite architectural styles, and it's not just because I live in a community absolutely filled with gorgeous old Craftsman homes. There's something about the look that just speaks to me. Maybe it's the clean, Art Deco-inspired lines, the beautiful multi-paned windows, the artful simplicity, the tendency to put Craftsmen on large lots with big, lush gardens...I don't know what it is.

But even I have to admit that there are some definite drawbacks to this architectural style, which was born in the late 1800s and remained popular well through the 1930s. We've come a long way architecturally since then, and Craftsmen carry a number of disadvantages. They're often in need of structural work simply because of their ages, requiring new roofing, foundation work, and more. Many have little to no insulation, and those lovely windows are single-paned, allowing heat to stream out in the winter.

Their wiring is often outdated, they aren't fitted with efficient appliances, and rooms like the kitchen and bathroom may need updating. Yet, renovations on a Craftsman have to be done with care, because if you go too far, you lose the spirit and grace of the home. But, if you don't remodel enough, you end up with a home that isn't as efficient as it could be, all because you were afraid of making a few small changes.

So how do you solve a problem like a Craftsman? Here's one creative solution hailing from the Santa Cruz coastline right here in California, where green building is taken very seriously.

First, the owners had to undo the damage left behind by previous tenants, who covered it in shag carpeting, painted over the beautiful wood walls with primary colors, and visited other horrors on the historic home. This is a common problem with older homes, where various "upgrades" over the years have degraded their historica value, even as features like decaying knob-and-tube wiring and ancient furnaces are left intact, as was the case here.

But how about the green renovations? They used nontoxic finishes and paints throughout, to reduce the emissions inside the house. The owners also installed a solar array on a workspace that faces away from the street (preserving the historic look of the neighborhood) and put in a catchment system to trap rainwater, which they use for irrigation. In an area like Santa Cruz, which can be dry, any measure to reduce water usage is a good idea.

They use LED lighting throughout to cut down on energy usage, and made some other green changes to the home during the remodeling, all while restoring and maintaining the original charm of the home. Their efforts added approximately 15% to the total construction costs, but netted them a green building award from the city in recognition of their hard work, which will hopefully inspire other home owners.

Going green doesn't require living in a modern home (indeed, they're being green simply by extending the life of an already existing structure), and it doesn't mean stripping a home of its character. This gorgeous house is every bit the Craftsman, it just has a few...hidden features. Working with San Francisco Bay Area remodeling crews, they brought out both the green and historic potential of this lovely home.

Katie Marks writes for Networx.com.

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