Sweeping it under the carpet…

We need to strip the interior of our house down to the studs, joists and masonry walls to take an inventory of what is where in terms of electricity, plumbing and heating. This assessment is critical for the design of the super-efficient building envelope and other sustainable and energy-efficient technologies.

I started in the back of the basement, and could not get this saying out of my mind: Sweeping it under the carpet…

The deconstruction process resembles experimental archeology. I began working my way through several layers of drywall, wall board, plaster and lath. Every layer carried evidence of a problem, usually rot, moisture and mold related. The farther I worked through the layers, the worse it got, to the point where the original studs (old growth) are completely rotted out at the bottom.

What I don’t get is how one could make the decision that covering up a problem with a new, fresh layer of wall plaster or drywall would resolve it. And yet, that is exactly what has happened here, and as far as I understand still happens in many of our homes – even these days. We just keep sweeping problems under the carpet…

May be it is ignorance. Not everybody is able to identify a mold or moisture problem. The wall just looks old and dirty – so maybe another layer of dry wall will resolve that problem, at least to the eye. Or may be denial of the problem is the more convenient (short term) solution.

We experienced something similar before, at our previous pilot project at 168 Elm Ave. Here, we focused on the issue of stormwater runoff and its impact on the environment. It took quite some effort to get people to understand that, for instance, a storm sewer or detention basin is not the solution to a stormwater runoff problem, but just relocates it little further downstream – onto our neighbors.

Our building at 3141 W. 15th Street was clearly built to last for generations. We are happy to step in, roll back the carpet to see what has accumulated over the decades. We look forward to fixing problems at their source, which is an investment in our equity (the house). This way we treat and reuse this resource effectively and ensure that it will offer shelter, comfort and a healthy and pleasant living environment for us … and a few more generations.

About Marcus de la fleur

Marcus is a Registered Landscape Architect with a horticultural degree from the School of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Sheffield, UK. He developed a landscape based sustainable pilot project at 168 Elm Ave. in 2002, and has expanded his skill set to building science. Starting in 2009, Marcus applied the newly acquired expertise to the deep energy retrofit of his 100+ year old home in Chicago.

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