In a recent blog, I blasted mid-century modern architecture as the “worst and the least of everything” for its energy (in-)efficiency. But one renovation in a historic Mid-Mod neighborhood near Denver intends to set that right.
Located in the time-capsule neighbordhood of Arapahoe Acres, the house at 3030 S. Cornell Circle is getting a green-home overhaul, grandly reaching for net-zero energy – all its power needs generated on-site. Not only will the makeover raise the roof on the home’s energy efficiency, it’s modernizing the character of this mid-century area, to say nothing of lifting property values.
Architect Mark Bowers and his team from Architectural Workshop purchased the house this summer in the middle of Denver’s frenzied real estate market. To stand out from the crowded field of buyers, he wrote a love letter to the sellers, telling them of his plan to bring their home into the 21st century. The sellers chose him, and he closed on the 825 square-foot home (on a 10,000 square-foot lot) for $320,000.
Arapahoe Acres is a National Register of Historic Places neighborhood, and homeowners are highly protective of their MCM enclave. So Bowers has to balance both style and efficiency upgrades while keeping his reno aligned with the character of the neighborhood.
An architect and engineer, even Bowers was originally stumped on how to get the home to net-zero. “It was a bigger challenge than we thought,” he said. His contractors were leery of the project, too, and he had to work everyone to get buy in.
Even with high-performance homes and buildings, the fundamentals of real estate still apply. School districts? ‘Gotta’ be right. Interior layout? Check. Finishes? Gotta' be there. If a builder takes heroic measures to wipe out energy bills, it’s a value-add – at least for now.
”We’ve seen a lot of green homes, and they’re not pretty," says Bowers. “This is something people live in that touches them every day,” Bowers says. So he and his team had to keep attractive design in mind, too.
They’ll literally raise the roof of the home to 12 feet from the original eight. They’ll add a fireplace and open up the living areas into three main ones: a family room, a 2nd den, and an oversized kitchen meant to serve as a combo eating/gathering space.
Bowers will really stretch on some of the energy-efficiency features, too, including a ground-source heat pump – with three 300-foot bores that will use the earth’s heat to heat and cool the house. He also plans to install tankless hot water, spray-foam insulation and a heat transfer system from the heat pump to pre-heat hot water.
All in, Bowers is hoping he’ll spend $280,000 or less on the significant remodel. He plans to sell the house in the $700s, for approximately $360 per square foot – ‘in keeping with the rest of the area.
Over the course of the renovation, I'll check in with Bowers and his team to see how the project is coming. If you have questions about this home or other net-zero projects, reach out.
IMAGES: TOP - Original house built in 1954 (from Arapahoe Acres Tax Assessor's website). SECOND - Rendering of back of house, Architectural Workshop. THIRD - Duct & register in original house ran underneath the slab. FOURTH - Architectural Workshop rendering of kitchen/eating area.