A Balancing Act for

Energy Costs

The Pretty Good House Movement

When the term “energy-efficient homes” and superinsulation started to gain currency late in the 20th Century, some critics may have dismissed it as being a pipe dream for hippies and survivalists. But it has grown into a respected standard, the Passive House Standard, for houses that use very little energy.

Energy-efficient construction is nothing new to Connecticut contractor Charles Bogie, who’s been at the forefront of energy-efficient construction for some time.

“I started doing energy-efficient homes back in the early ’80s,” Charles says. “I started with passive solar, and then I went into superinsulation.”

Charles passed down his knowledge of energy-efficient building to his son Ben, who now owns Built to Last Design & Build, LLC. While Built to Last has executed Passive House certification on some projects, they embrace what has come to be called “Pretty Good House” principles: getting the most bang for the least buck. It falls somewhere between the building code and Passive House. It generally includes more insulation and air sealing than the energy code requires. In 2017, Ben, Charles, and the Built to Last crew began remodeling a retirement home in Woodbury, Conn. MI Windows and Doors donated the windows for the project, which was organized by Professional Remodeler magazine for its annual ModelRemodel series.

MI Windows supplied 1650 Extreme Double-Hungs, 1675 Casements, 1650 Picture Windows, and a 1615 Sliding Glass Door to the project. All of the windows were triple glazed for superior energy efficiency.

“When you’re standing next to a window and that surface is cold, it actually draws the heat out through your body,” Ben says. “So the room may be one constant temperature, but you start to feel cold. But if you have triple glazing, that’s another layer of protection, so not only is the building holding its temperature better, but you’re perceiving the temperature inside the home better.”

According to Daniel Morrison, who’s been tracking the progress of the remodel for his website protradecraft.com, Ben Bogie is the ideal person to install these energy-efficient windows.

“I first met Ben at a New England Sustainable Energy Association show,” Morrison says. “It brings a lot of energy nerds together. A remodeler from Maine introduced me to Ben. I went to one of Ben’s job sites and liked what I saw, so I have been working with him for a couple of years now shooting video. The first video that I did of Ben … was a Passive House retrofit of a 1030s cabin. To gain Passive House certification, the house must use very little energy and be extremely air tight.”

 

MI_EnergyCost_Calculation

 

Of course, when it comes to constructing energy-efficient homes, there’s always the chance of the cost rising. It’s an issue that Ben is keenly aware of.

“It’s easy to go over the top with things,” he says. “But there’s not a lot of people that can pay for that. So I’ve taken to … the Pretty Good House Movement. We try to find a balancing point: We add more insulation and better windows to downsize the heating system, which then pays for the insulation and windows.”

In the remodel of this home in Woodbury, Bogie ensured that future energy costs would be low by using Pretty Good House principles.

“The thing that excites me about this project is it’s really compact,” Morrison says. “It is perfect for illustrating examples of really basic energy-efficiency measures, which I think are important in home building and renovation. A tight and well-insulated envelope should reduce the amount of money that homeowners have to spend on heating and cooling. It’s a great showcase of easy-to-do energy-efficiency measures. So the place doesn’t seem like a weird laboratory for energy efficiency. It’s just really common sense stuff that doesn’t cost very much extra.”

In addition, Ben gets to build a home that he hopes will last for generations.

“I like to think I’m trying to build for a 200-year house,” he says. “A building that’s going to be around for more than a century.”

Click to read more about the Pretty Good House Movement.

Model ReModel

Slide to Compare Original Home with Current Progress

 

Importance of Energy Efficiency to Model ReModel

 

 

Bogie's Review of MI Windows