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Atomic ranch goes solar; targets net zero energy

By: Matt Grocoff , Contributing Writer
In: Green Renovations

My friend, Paul Hickman, and his family are tackling a unique overhaul of a 1950's Atomic Era ranch house. I'm working with Paul and his wife Marcy and an extraordinary collaborative team of builders, contractors, architects, preservationists, and trades to turn this old ranch into a modern, sustainable, net zero energy home.

atomic ranch before net zero energy

Sadly, Paul didn't find the house before a house-flipper decided to "upgrade" this gorgeous old home by ripping out most of the original fixtures and the metal-faced fireplace. When Paul and Marcy bought the home, it had vinyl siding over the original redwood, cheap laminated wood floors, drafty old windows, and a roof that leaked into the walls. What they dream of is a home that is recreated using locally reclaimed and salvaged materials and ultimately uses no more energy than is produced on-site.

Atomic ranch net zero energy renovation

As a woodworker, artist and owner of Urban Ashes, Paul sees this home as a chance to rescue an abandoned mid-century modern home and make it a model of 21st Century design, construction and energy efficiency. He called upon the non-profit WARM Training Center and their Reclaim Detroit project to help deconstruct parts of the home that were no longer useful (like the vinyl siding) and parts that will be repurposed in other parts of the home (like the exterior redwood siding).

sketch of renovations for atomic ranch

While the windows are leaky and inefficient, they are unique, goregous and provide wonderful solar heat gain in the winter to help warm the house. So, the team is working with Lorri Sipes (who also worked on our net zero Victorian home) to find ways to restore the old windows and add storm windows to make them tighter and more energy efficient. Architect Michael Klement will maintain the home's original large over-hanging eaves. The eaves will help shade the windows from the sun in the summer, while allowing the sunlight to help warm the home when the sun is lower in winter.

Atomic ranch after net zero energy renovations

With targets of net zero site energy use, zero energy bills, and LEED Platinum certification, the final result of this collaborative work will be an inspiring teaching tool, setting an example of what can and must be done with all homes.

I'll keep you posted as this extraordinary project progresses. In the meantime, you can follow Paul and Marcy's journey through "Rancho Deluxe" on their Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/340341489379068/

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