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McGraw 4-Star Condo Remodel

Like many condo remodels, the builder of this Built Green 4-Star project faced many hurdles set by the building’s condo/homeowner association (HOA). Building envelope upgrades, like adding insulation or installing new windows and a ductless mini-split heat pump, were off the table. Placing cistern on the deck to collect water for watering indoor plants wasn’t allowed, either.

Vital Stats



Location: Tacoma
Star Level: 4-Star
Checklist: Remodel Checklist
Site and Water 30
Energy Efficiency 111
Health and Indoor Air Quality 88
Material Efficiency 90
  Total Score 319

The builder set out to overcome these obstacles by planning ahead, communicating his plans to the HOA board as far in advance as possible. He also sent notice of his plans, indicating that if he did not hear back from the board by a certain date, he would take it as approval to move forward. This allowed him to keep a timely schedule.

Despite not being able to puncture the exterior walls to make energy-saving improvements, the builder was still able to reduce the unit’s overall energy consumption by over 30% compared to its reference home. A combination of indoor storm windows, a heat recovery ventilator (HRV), a heat pump water heater add-on, heat pump dryer, 100% Energy Star appliances, and 100% LED lighting allow for significant savings! WaterSense certified fixtures, a low-water-use dishwasher and clothes washer, and removing the existing garbage disposal also reduce water consumption, which ultimately save energy on water heating!

McGraw Built Green 4-Star Seattle condo remodel kitchen

In addition to saving energy, the HRV significantly improves the indoor air quality. An HRV supplies outdoor fresh air while tempering cold air as it comes in. With a HEPA filter, this reduces pollutants carried in from outside—so valuable as wildfire events become more frequent in the Seattle area. The builder also selected interior finish products that are no- and low-VOC, Green Guard certified, and FloorScore certified, meeting stricter standards for indoor air quality.

Removing the carpet initially wasn’t allowed, due to sound requirements, so the builder took the time to educate the HOA board where he could. Armed with information, he demonstrated the sound qualities of carpet vs. cork flooring with cork underlayment and was able to convince the board to approve replacing the existing carpet with hard-surface cork flooring.

McGraw Built Green 4-Star Seattle condo remodel living and dining room
McGraw Built Green 4-Star Seattle condo remodel floor plan
McGraw Built Green 4-Star Seattle condo remodel entryway

Shared walls and a pandemic meant the builder had to be extra cognizant of neighbors’ work from home needs. He built a good relationship with the neighbors, letting them know a remodel was happening, exchanging contact info, and offering to pause work when neighbors needed quiet to hold video meetings.

The tight urban setting brought daily logistical challenges, from difficulty removing construction waste and debris to limited parking for construction vehicles. The secure building entry caused additional problems around new material deliveries. To reduce waste coming out of the unit and deliveries going in, the builder creatively repurposed existing materials, cabinetry, shelving, and lighting fixtures wherever possible. Items not remaining where carefully deconstructed and brought to Second Use Salvage and Building Materials, appliance recyclers, Habitat for Humanity, and friends. Drywall, Styrofoam, and other recyclable materials were brought to DTC Recycle in Seattle.

Another valuable decision the builder made? Working with an NAR Green certified real estate agent. Certification gave the agent the ability to confidently describe the value of individual green building upgrades to potential buyers.

McGraw Built Green 4-Star Seattle condo remodel kitchen
McGraw Built Green 4-Star Seattle condo remodel bathroom

Built Green Highlights

Site and Water

  • Energy Star clothes washer and dishwasher
  • Energy Star qualified roof to reduce urban heat island effect
  • WaterSense certified low-flow plumbing fixtures, including Niagara Stealth 0.8 gpf toilets
  • Removed garbage disposal and replaced with built-in compost bin
  • Installed water leak detectors at all wet locations

Energy Efficiency

  • 31% energy use savings over the 2015 Washington State Energy Code and over 41% energy cost savings
  • Programmable thermostats
  • 100% Energy Star appliances, including a heat pump dryer
  • Heat pump water heater add-on unit to water heater
  • 100% LED lighting
  • Energy Star exhaust fans
  • HRV added for whole house ventilation
  • Interior aluminum storm windows
McGraw Built Green 4-Star Seattle condo remodel patio
McGraw Built Green 4-Star Seattle condo remodel utility room with bike rack and heat pump hot water heater

Health and Indoor Air Quality

  • HRV with HEPA filter
  • Low-VOC paint throughout
  • Existing carpeting removed from entire unit and replaced with hard surface flooring, except for primary bedroom
  • GreenGuard Gold certified finish products installed
  • Utility room with bike storage and utility sink

Materials Efficiency

  • Deconstruction plan used in order to salvage materials where possible
  • Existing base cabinets reused and painted, with only new upper cabinets added
  • Salvaged materials installed or existing materials reused or repurposed, including light fixtures
  • Construction waste plan implemented and materials sold for salvage where possible

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