Ideas for sensitively updating your old house
Visitors to seacoast towns from Kennebunkport, Portsmouth and Newburyport all enjoy the wonderful scale, proportion and beauty these towns have as a result of their different histories. The majority of these houses are still in private hands and maintained with love and care. Living in these houses and building comes with the responsibility of stewardship to do the right thing, yet make updates for modern living.
Some of the most challenging projects that we engage with others to work are renovations. The challenges include the needs of the clients, of the town or city and historic restrictions and laws. Two areas that we have been engaged are adaptive reuse of existing buildings and designing additions that accommodate the needs of the current occupant and are appropriate to the building, surrounding neighborhood and the traditions of the style of the building. We work with preservationist when needed and consult resources like Historic New England for applications to building science and old houses.
Let’s first look at saving energy in an old home. The first thing we prescribe to understand the older building is a blower door test. This allows us combined with a good physical inspection and occupant survey to understand the physical conditions. The second step is to use a thermal gun to see where the leaks and low insulation are. It’s like an x ray of your house and you can see where obstructions may be. Third we suggest you have your current heating/ cooling system looked at to determine if it is a positive or negative asset to you house and budget.
Our analysis will direct our investigations into what is called the building envelope. The building envelope is the roof, walls and foundation and these elements work together to affect the internal comfort of the occupants. Sealing the gaps or holes in the house help stop the movement of air and moisture. We study the house to preserve those most important feature, we study how the house is used and house the house acts in different weather. Studying a house and working with those who live in them is important to determine the course of action. We like to start in the attic and basement to add insulation and control air/ moisture movement there. We then decide the value of insulation versus the historic quality of a room or exterior. Each house is unique and has different characteristics that need to be considered in the final plan. This is something we have spent a lot of time working with a team renovating " Heritage House Program" at Strawbery Banke Museum. (http://www.strawberybanke.org/index.php?option=com_content&id=198&catid=25&Itemid=81)
Bear in mind that old houses are not new houses, but they can be made more comfortable. Windows are such an example of an item of a house that needs to be examined and studies for what effect it will have the long term look of the house. To replace or repair has more implications than just a convenience to energy efficiency. Old house and new technologies are a balancing act between that is good for the house in the long term and what works for the current inhabitants.Additions are an action that people living in old homes come and speak to us about. For us we listen and examine the house you live. What style is it, what kind of density does the neighborhood have, and climatic concerns. We also examine how you use your house and what may change if you build the size addition you need. Understanding these and other concerns determine how large of an addition we would recommend. When you add on how you integrate it with the old how affects how people will perceive your action. Using a careful understanding of proportion, traditions of surrounding additions and uses play a role in house the house and addition will connect and what they change about the house and its site. See our Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/pages/adaptdesign/239285890684