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The Big Green Barn: One Man’s Personal Journey to Salvage a 1910 Barn (Part 4)

Posted Sep 29 2008 4:02pm

The following is the final installment of a four-part series of one man’s personal journey to salvage a 1910 barn in Southwest Michigan while keeping it as green as possible.
Catch up on last past installments here.

the big green barn A very important part of any home building project, in my opinion, is hot water for personal use. Think about how much you use on a daily basis: showers, laundry, dishwashing, cleaning, etc. Now think about how that water is stored. Usually in one of those big cumbersome tanks in which water is kept heated at a constant temperature. That takes a lot of energy. I’m going to be installing an on demand system, also known as a tankless water heater. As opposed to having the water sit in a tank, when needed the water is super heated through a system of coils. The water travels to the shower, sink, and washer while you’re using it. When you’re done it shuts down. People I know who have these systems LOVE them. They are pricey compared to standard water heaters, but again, the savings comes down the road and much energy is saved.

The other interesting aspect, in my experience, was the hesitancy from heating/plumbing contractors to install this type of system. I got a lot of, “you’d be better off with a standard system”, or “why do you want to do that?” I’m guessing that these are more work to install correctly. This was one of those points that I wouldn’t back down on and if a prospective contractor couldn’t or wouldn’t do it…they didn’t get hired. Rule #1 in action.

The spring was spent purchasing fixtures, cabinets, appliances, etc. In sticking to my “ rules,” I was pleasantly surprised at how many options there are on the market. Again, the driving force was to use energy saving/efficient products manufactured by companies with eco-friendly policies. Personally, I think one of the best is Toto. Not only do they make beautiful products, but they are engineered to be super efficient, water saving with great eco-ethos. The price point is higher than similar products found in “big box” stores, but I’ll save in the long run and be less taxing on the environment.

At this point we’re still working. I hope to have my final inspections by the end of August and move in sometime in September. My search now is for finishes for the kitchen and bath. Although I would love to use stone in some of the areas, I refuse to purchase new. Instead I’ve been searching salvage companies in the hopes of finding reclaimed materials that were once used in other homes, businesses or buildings. Other options would be using recycled metals, wood, porcelain or concrete.
I have always loved barns. They are a part of our heritage and history and deserve the right to be preserved; whatever form they may take.

What do you love? Do you have the same dream? Do you want to preserve a piece of our collective history? If so you owe it to yourself to give these wonderful artists, craftsmen and resources a call.

I hope I’ve inspired you, whatever your dream, big or small, to take the first step to putting your ideals and beliefs into action.

Happy green building!


  • Great Lakes Barn Preservation
  • Porter Corp
  • SIPS Association
  • Warmboard
  • The Green Build Expo
  • Hydronic Heating Association
  • Tankless Water HeatersToto

Written by: John Braun

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