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Can a green remodeling project look good and not break the bank?
A St. Louis Park design/build company bet that it could. In fact, the firm, Sicora, bought a 1940 bungalow and did a whole-house renovation just to prove it.
Sicora followed the new Minnesota Greenstar certification program to meet green building standards, but being green wasn't the only goal. The company kept its eye on the bottom line.
"We wanted the project to showcase a sensible green approach without significantly increasing your costs," said Ron Sonnek, Sicora's executive vice president. Sonnek admits that the affordable remodeling doesn't include all the bells and whistles.
"You won't find spendy bamboo floors or a geothermal heating system," he said.
But you will find hardwood floors repurposed from the original home, remnant granite countertops, right-sized rooms without vaulted ceilings or wasted space for efficient heating and cooling and two Energy Star-rated furnaces that heat and cool in zones.
While the "sensible green approach" presented plenty of challenges, Sicora had one gimme: There were no homeowners to please. Because Sicora owned the St. Louis Park property, the company had carte blanche over design of the renovation and details of the interior and exterior.
"We were able to make all the decisions and follow green practices that made sense for this house," said company owner Tom Sicora.
The company gutted the 905-square-foot home, retaining most of the existing structure. They built first- and second-floor additions to expand the kitchen and create space for upstairs bedrooms, and finished off the existing basement.
The completed home, which now has four bedrooms and four bathrooms, is a better fit with the other midcentury residences in the neighborhood. It's currently on the market for $699,000.
Inside, Anna Berglin, Sicora's interior designer, integrated materials, finishes and details that were "a nod to the 1940s" and echoed the original home's traditional interiors. And while most people don't consider design a green element, its classic look makes this home more sustainable, Sicora said. "It won't have to be redone in 15 years because it's outdated."
The price of green
The renovation cost $250,000, not including the landscaping, which Sonnek estimates is about 2 percent more than a similar project without green building practices and products. The upcharges came, in part, from materials such as low-VOC paint, spray-foam insulation and fiber cement siding. But Sonnek pointed out that there are scores of environmentally friendly products that can fit anyone's budget.
As the green movement becomes more mainstream, there's more marketplace competition and choices, Berglin said.
"Low-flow faucets no longer look like 'The Jetsons,'" she said. "And they're priced the same as standard faucets."
The house has plenty of other green features, including low-flush toilets, a refinished cast iron tub, energy-efficient appliances and Energy Star-rated windows in the double-hung cottage style of the originals. There are no recessed-can lights on the second floor, which can result in heat loss. And there's a radon mitigation system in the basement.
But Sicora said that it doesn't take all of that to make an older home greener. It can be as simple as installing low-flow faucets, recycling existing materials and insulating the walls with a more energy-efficient product, he said.
"It doesn't take a lot more effort to meet green standards as far as the building practices," he said. "But it requires a lot of paperwork."
Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619