MINNEAPOLIS — When Larry and Lauri Kraft decided to add a great room and three-season porch to their 1959 split-level home in St. Louis Park, Minn., they chose "green" remodeling to protect their children's health.
"We started out first wanting to do a healthy remodel and not bring in a lot of nasty chemicals for our children to breathe," Lauri Kraft said.
They learned what green remodeling would mean when their contractor entered their house in a Minnesota GreenStar pilot program for developing a "checklist of things you could do to make a house green," Lauri said. GreenStar sets green building standards and gives green certification to homes and remodeling projects.
In the end the Krafts had a new great room with bamboo floors, recycled paper countertops, solar light, recycled fireplace beams, double-pane windows, extra insulation, a metal roof on the porch and a new high-efficiency furnace and water heater. Outside they planted slow-growing grass that will allow them to mow only once a month.
"It sets a good example for our kids. It makes a healthier home for us. And I am happy that we kept a few things out of the landfill," Lauri said.
Eager to encourage other residents to update their homes in the same environmentally friendly way, Minnesota cities of St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Golden Valley and Minnetonka hold an annual free green remodeling fair. Contractors, architects, designers, landscapers, lenders and city inspectors will offer free advice on green remodeling techniques for the home and lawn on Sunday. The fair also will offer information on remodeling to extend independent living by older homeowners. This is the 17th year for the remodeling fair. City officials say they want the event to promote community renewal.
"Most of our homes were built in the '50s, so they are at a point where they are needing constant maintenance if not renewal," said Kathy Larsen, the housing coordinator for St. Louis Park. "If you are thinking about doing something to your house, here are some ideas."
St. Louis Park has a second house it points to as an example of a green remodel. Allen Middleton and his wife, Christine, turned a 1 <0x00BD>-story tudor in southeast St. Louis Park into a two-story house with four bedrooms.
They chose green construction to avoid exposing their children to toxins from conventional glues, paints and building materials. They also wanted to make their home more energy efficient. And although they did not install solar panels during this remodeling, they made changes that will make it easy to add the panels later.
Both families found that green construction added to the remodeling cost.
The Middletons' builder said green materials would cost 7 to 8 percent more than conventional materials. The couple also paid someone to complete the documentation necessary to get green certification, Allen said.
The Krafts estimate that a green remodel cost 3 to 5 percent more. "We knew there would be a slight cost premium, but it was worth it to us in terms of health and environmental impact," Lauri said.
Jeremiah Battles, architect for the Krafts' project, said his firm has stayed busy during the recession doing green work.
Homes stand out on the sale market and have higher resale value when they have undergone green remodeling, Battles said. "The type of person looking for a green home is very specifically looking for that."
He predicts that as demand for green building materials increases, cost will come down.
Minnetonka, Minn.'s green remodeling example is at 3502 the Mall. Owner Peter Lytle converted a 1948 rambler to a "green" home showcase with four kinds of alternative energy and the best available insulation, windows and indoor air system.
In Minnetonka, most houses were built in the 1980s or before, said Community Development Director Julie Wischnack. "As people are investing and reinvesting in their homes, making it more sustainable is a priority."
Hopkins has formed a "green" committee to work toward a greener, more walkable community. But so far the city has not had any green remodeling projects, said Liz Page, housing inspector for the city.
By sponsoring the remodeling fair, Hopkins wants to encourage residents to stay in the community and remodel the city's many Cape Cod-style homes, she said.