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1910 Victorian Goes Leed Platinum

By all accounts, this tired Victorian home should have been torn down. The location was perfect with a great view of downtown Ann Arbor, but the house needed everything redone. Choosing to save the existing home, our clients wanted to re-use everything they could from the rebuilding process, including all of the things that gave this home it’s hidden charm. Their passion for walking lighter on the earth drove the process and the result is a stunning whole-home renovation and addition that achieved LEED Platinum Certification.


Our homeowners, new to Ann Arbor, wanted to live within walking distance to downtown. They found a home that was distressed after decades of student rentals. Perched on a hill overlooking downtown, the location was ideal and the double lot extended to the street behind securing the view from future development. For both budget and ethical reasons, the decision was made early on to re-build the existing structure and work with what was already there. The home would be a deep-green gut-rehab and would go for the highest tier of LEED certification possible. The homeowner would track their energy use going forward to drive toward net-zero energy with the help of a modest-sized solar array.

The Team

Design & Architecture:  Melissa Kennedy

Project Manager: Kirk Brandon


Schematic Design

The goal was to use the existing footprint as a starting point and then to carefully de-construct the home to salvage as much of the materials as possible. Our clients wanted to maximize the function of this modest sized home (approximately 1700 square feet) by utilizing Sarah Susanka's Not-So-Big-House design strategies. Key design considerations included:

  • Re-using or re-purposing materials deconstructed from the home
  • Resource-efficiency with an ultimate goal of near net-zero energy usage
  • Durable materials that are easy to maintain
  • A modest sized kitchen to accommodate friends and family entertaining
  • Maximize views on the rear elevation
  • Stay true to the original Victorian aesthetic of the home

Design Development

This treasure of a historic home was very well hidden under a run-down facade. After demolishing the interior finishes, we found many parts of the home needed rebuilding. An addition on the back was deemed not structurally sound and thus a new foundation had to be poured and the addition completely rebuilt. The good news - we found many treasures that we were able to re-purpose, re-use or just fix up with some good old TLC. 

  • Rebuilding the center of the existing home where the chimney had damaged the structure was necessary; however the brick was salvaged and re-used in a beautiful two-sided fireplace that helped to delineate the space between the kitchen and the main living area
  • A main structural support beam had to be replaced. The de-constructed old-growth wood was used for the new fireplace mantel
  • Ceiling joists throughout the home had to be replaced due to compromised structure; however these were re-used as flooring in the office area
  • The asbestos siding was carefully removed revealing a beautiful gingerbread sunburst pattern on the exterior gables. This helped to solidify the exterior aesthetic
  • A metal roof was used for energy efficiency and long-term durability
  • Custom cherry cabinets maximized the function and storage in the new kitchen
  • Large windows on the back of the home capture the view of the Ann Arbor skyline and also the beautiful wildflower garden behind the home
  • This home has been certified LEED Platinum by the US Green Building Council


The Results

In the end, this house not only became an iconic example of deep energy remodeling, achieving LEED Platinum certification, it also was a cost-effective strategy for our homeowners over building new. The homeowner has added solar panels and worked to achieve Net-Zero status most months of the year.

We knew we had made the right decision when we removed the asbestos siding and found the amazing sunburst gable trimwork on the exterior. Although many of the small pieces needed repair or replacement, the end result is a treasure of workmanship from days past, carried into the future.

Do you have a home building or remodeling project you're thinking about?

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