Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Deep Energy Retrofit in E. Calais VT

Sunnybrook Farms

Project Goal: No fossil fuel, re/use materials from site, use local natural materials, heat with less than 1 chord of wood, keep traditional feel of farmhouse with new touch.

Scope of Work: Major Gut and rehab. – Disassemble 1/2 of barn and stabilize the other 1/2 – permacultural landscape

Distinctive Green Building Strategies: retrofit high performance envelope with cellulose-  taking advantage of balloon framing, heat/hot water/cooking systems integration, root cellar/food storage

Ben Graham/initial room layout scheme by Gene Lauer/Nicko Rubin (landscape)

Builder: Ben Graham

Iron Horse Standing
Seam.  Nicko Rubin of East Hill Tree Farm for landscaping. And Alfred Larrabee on excavation. Andy Shapiro is mentoring me on the energy design. Murphy’s Cell Tech is doing the cellulose. Working with two solar installers for hot water and PV: Solar Specialists and Greenworks Solar Store.

John McDougal and John the Plumber. Electrical: Jan Ruta. Chimney Care is renovating the chimney.
Michael Cuba of Knobb Hill Joinery give us an evaluation of the barn.

Additional Comments – Quotes from Ben’s blog
SBF#9 What makes it a Deep energy retrofit.

In the last couple years this element has really become an interesting challenge for me. After a couple of years of immersing myself in energy geek world, I get to bring a lot of retrofit ideas together with a lot of freedom because of the depth to which we gutted the farmhouse. Interestingly, the old balloon framing style has helped with the fact that we are leaving the exterior skin on and insulating to the inside, which is typically the least favored option in terms of how to add insulation to the walls. I should say that this retrofit favors natural materials over petrol and chemical based ones.



So a deep energy retrofit for me means increasing energy efficiency by over 75%. To achieve this we are installing:

  1. A continuous air barrier – ADA-sheetrock on the interior.
  2. All electrical on exterior walls will be run on interior of sheet rock in wood chases.
  3. 12” of cellulose in the walls(R42).
  4. R20 on the foundation perimeter and floor.
  5. A thermal envelop that minimizes thermal breaks.
  6. R5 or better windows.
  7. R80 ceiling with cellulose.

The energy analysis will be done under the mentorship of Andy Shapiro who will be bringing many years of experience in understanding the modeling of energy and moisture in the new design in order to make a predictable outcome.

Heat will be from passive solar and wood with an electrical heat pump for backup and hot water will be supplied by the cook stove and solar panels. PV panels will eventually supply electric power.The Margin Flame View cook stove is on site. With a thermostatic damper on the combustion air supply, that will be ducted in thru 3” pipe to the dedicated air intake port. Small fans will be located in wall ports to move the hot air from the east side of the house to the west. 2nd floor vents will let the hot air up to the 2nd floor. This constitutes the primary heat supply.

For more visit: or:

For more information about this project contact:
Ben Graham Natural building/design services/consulting

About Benjamin Franklin Graham: Ben is an architectural designer by trade with a Barch from the Rhode Island School of Design. He is also a third generation woodworker and house builder, learning home building first-hand from his grandfather. He has been at the front of developing the natural building movement in Vermont and the northeast since 2000 as a professional contractor and an organizer for the network of natural builders in the northeast – NBNE: His advocacy work has brought him attention in books, newspapers, TV and conferences. Ben also serves on the Plainfield Planning Commission and is actively engaged in developing planning models for sustainable community living.


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