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Feature Articles - Housing



Ronn Phillips, Arch.D., and Bobbi Hauptmann, Environmental Design, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia

Remodeling/Renovations are economical ways of improving one's home and thereby improving one's quality of life. Several important factors should be considered in the decision to remodel or renovate.

Economic Payback on investment: The following projects yield the highest paybacks for their investments:


Painting and decor, interior  73 %
Kitchen renovation  72 %
Bathroom renovation  68 %
Exterior painting 65 %
Flooring upgrades 62 %
Windows/Doors replacement  57 %
Main floor laundry room addition  51 %
Fireplace addition  50 %
Basement renovation  49 %
Furnace/heating system replacement  48 %

Energy Consumption Reduction: Improving the energy efficiency of your home reduces the amount of energy you need to use to keep it warm or cool. An energy efficient home:

  • Should be positioned to make the best use of the sun's warmth
  • Keeps cool in summer through the shade provided by trees
  • Has double glazed, insulated windows
  • Uses veranda's and pergola to keep cool
  • Uses roof & wall insulation
  • Landscapes with trees that lose leaves in winter to allow sunlight to come inside
  • Consumes energy from renewable sources whenever possible

Solar Energy: Solar energy comes from the sun. There are two types of solar energy, light and heat, so there are two main ways of collecting solar energy.

Some solar collectors use the heat of the sun to heat water. They are called thermal collectors and an example would be a solar hot water system - typically found on house roofs.

Other solar collectors use the light from the sun to make electricity. These collectors are called Photovoltaic (PV) cells (Photo = light and voltaic = electricity). When the sun hits the PV cell, the little particles of light excite electrons in the cell and cause them to flow. Electricity is the flow of electrons.

Owner-Built Homes: Houses that are physically constructed by the house owner offer the greatest amount of savings, but require the greatest degree of skill, time and risk. The owner-builder does all of the work, except for specialized subcontractors/finish tradesmen. Only the person with significant building experience should consider this approach to home building. Many lending institutions are not willing to risk loans to owner builders without a high dollar investment by the owner or by providing a loan for less than 50% of the value.

"Sustainable" House Features: Some features of sustainable buildings typically noticeable to homeowners include the integration of natural daylight for lighting purposes, high indoor air quality, and reduced utility bills. Features that may not be noticeable include use of finishes and materials low in volatile organic compounds that improve indoor air quality, increased productivity and comfort for home occupants, and the use of locally produced materials to support the local economy.




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Last update: Wednesday, May 06, 2009