Old Town house comes alive
September 6, 2003
Steamboat Springs — The house at 468 Eighth St. is nothing like it was in 1910 when it was built at Fifth Street and Lincoln Avenue. For starters, the 2,600-square-foot home is more than twice the size of the original.
And now, more than 90 years after it was built, the home is alive, owner Jim Boyd said.
The house has a brain. Heat-sensing thermostats constantly think and act to keep the air at a comfortable temperature, turning on radiant floor heat and the boiler if it’s too cold or the air conditioner if it’s too hot.
The house breathes. It has top-of-the-line, cutting-edge air filters inside a “heat recovery ventilator,” that filters and heats or cools air from the outside while exhausting stale or dusty air from inside.
The house has a heart — a “thermal mass” of concrete which works like a convection oven. A 1-foot-thick, 22-foot-wide, 18-foot-tall concrete wall, which almost splits the house into two sections, absorbs much of the heat in the air. Concrete in the floor absorbs the heat in the air and the radiant heat provided by dozens of plastic tubes carrying warm water throughout the first-floor slab and the second floor.
The floor may take three weeks to warm up, Boyd said, but it would also take three weeks to cool off. Boyd said he could take off for a week vacation, turn the power off in the home, and return to a warm house.
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It has skin, or maybe more appropriately, an outer membrane. The house has zero air infiltration. The concrete has high-performance glazing painted on all of its outer surfaces, and all windows, doorways, seams and outlets were triple flashed, caulked and sealed.
“The main reason was that I wanted to see was how little energy I could use,” Boyd said. “I wanted to extend the life cycle of a building. If you can make a house last longer, where it’s not so disposable, I think it’s a good investment.”
Boyd found out about the home through a friend, a Realtor who told Boyd, “It’s a dump, but a good project for a guy like you.”
Boyd’s construction business is doing the work on the house.
The crew began the project by lifting the house with 20-ton jacks and pouring 120 tons of washed rock into the foundation, sealing the top with concrete. The rock provides capillaries for spring melt water to drain into without flooding the house.
The crew also extended the house back 15 feet, added a second story, and rebuilt a separate two-car garage in the back, complete with a modern second-story rental apartment. Renting out the apartment is the only way Boyd could afford such a project, he said.
Boyd said his biggest mistake was not connecting the apartment to the brain of the main house. It will have to be sustained by its own heating and plumbing system.
The outer faÃ§ade is mostly complete, and the inside has been painted. Most of the remaining work is simply touching up and installing fixtures and appliances. Boyd said he wants to be finished and move in with his wife, Dierdre, and 4-month-old son, Marty, by Nov. 1.
Boyd has built and renovated hundreds of homes, but he says this is the most energy efficient home he has ever built. Now, all he has to do is figure out which is smarter, him or the house.
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