The envelope, please: Falmouth church benefits from building retrofit

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FALMOUTH — Born out of frustration with local and national government progress toward growing the economy and reducing oil consumption, Upright Framework’s Raise ME Up campaign is helping the Foreside Community Church solve an ice dam problem.

Upright Frameworks, a Wilton-based builder of energy-efficient structures, specializes in problems with a building “envelopes.” The company uses diagnostic equipment to test the effectiveness of an envelope and to find solutions to manage air quality, weather protection, durability and efficiency.

The Raise ME Up campaign began in September in an effort to show local and national officials that small changes can bring money back into the Maine economy. Through the project, the company committed to doing 100 weatherization retrofits at cost.

“As a business owner, I was fed up with the fact that I have seen a lot of blame being thrown around, but people are not putting together actual solutions for improving the economy,” founder Josh Wojcik said.

The project is centered on the idea that a properly implemented weatherization retrofit can be a powerful tool to slash heating bills, improve the overall comfort of a building and reduce carbon footprints.

In the case of the Foreside Community Church, an important aspect of the building retrofit is that it can also help solve ice dams by increasing heat retention.

Last year an ice dam a foot or more thick caused the church major problems.

“Water was running down the outside of the church, but it was also coming down inside,” said Sandy Panenka, the parish administrator.

The Rev. Janet Dorman said the church has been lucky this year because the winter has been mild, but ultimately the congregation wants to solve the ice dam problem and make the 200-year-old building more energy efficient.

“Most of the time when people have an ice dam problem, they talk to a roofing contractor who suggests a metal roof, but that doesn’t cure an ice dam,” Wojcik said.

The church explored the idea of working with a roofing contractor, but ultimately the proposals were too expensive. That’s when a church member who had worked with Wojcik suggested Upright Frameworks.

After crawling around in the church’s attic, Wojcik found that the ice dam was a result of heat loss.

“They had a gigantic ice dam, a foot or more thick,” he said. “I presented them with my findings and talked with them about the Raise ME Up project.”

According to Wojcik, the benefits of completing a building retrofit are two-fold, and will significantly pay off for a larger building like the Foreside Community Church.

“When you measure the performance of a building to find out why that building is failing and then you solve all those problems (with a retrofit), the payback period is short and a couple of major things can happen,” he said.

“First of all, a considerable amount of money is being diverted away from out-of-state oil companies into the local Maine economy. Secondly, the building owner is in a better position, getting a 15 to 30 percent return on investment with a building that is more comfortable and healthier. Finally, any time that you are reducing heat loss, you are also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

He also said that if every Maine homeowner completed a building retrofit, as much as $300 million in spending on oil could be saved.

At this point in the Raise ME Up campaign, Upright Frameworks has completed about 25 projects. The company is working on several projects in the Falmouth area and is offering free consultations to home and business owners.

“What we are trying to let people know is that if they want to talk to someone about a building retrofit, I am doing free consults,” Wojcik said. “I will come to their home or office and take a look to see if I can see any problems.”

Amber Cronin is The Forecaster news assistant. She can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 115 or acronin@theforecaster.net. Follow Amber on Twitter:  @croninamber.

Robert West of Upright Frameworks seals insulation holes in the attic at the Foreside Community Church in Falmouth on Jan. 18. Heat escaping from the building was causing damaging ice dams on the roof.

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Lois Myers of Falmouth, a member of the Foreside Community Church, makes a thermal window insert with the help of church member Chuck Sanders of Cumberland at an energy-saving workshop at the church on Jan. 7. A similar workshop will be held Feb. 15 at the church.

Falmouth sponsors workshops on building energy efficiency

FALMOUTH — In light of cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the town’s Recycling and Energy Advisory Committee is putting on three workshops on saving energy to help residents make their homes and businesses more energy efficient.

The workshops will be held from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Falmouth Elementary School and will focus on a building envelopes, air sealing and the creation of reusable storm windows.

According to Claudia King, co-chairwoman of the committee, the ultimate goal of the workshops is to encourage residents to take some first steps in becoming more energy efficient.

“When we did the carbon footprint of the town, way back when, residential use accounted for 43 percent of our total use; that is a lot of fossil fuel and a lot of money going out the door or up the chimney,” she said. “One (reason for the workshops) is to save townspeople money through reduced fuel use. Another is to make homes more comfortable and healthier and the last is to reduce fossil fuel use.”

The first workshop, “Save Energy, Save Dollars,” takes place Feb. 1 and will be largely lecture based. The program aims to teach people about the home as a system, energy audits, home retrofits and products and available financial incentives for making homes more efficient. Participants will receive an energy-efficiency workbook and handout outlining specific energy techniques with how-to outlines and check lists of energy efficiency resources.

“Air Sealing Basics for Homeowners” will teach participants how to solve the leading cause of heat loss in homes, air leakage. The workshop, on Feb. 8, will tell people how to seal their homes, what to buy and how to identify and address the most important places to seal in the home.

The final workshop on Feb. 15 will be have more of a hands-on approach and will teach participants how to create their own reusable storm windows. For this workshop there will be a materials fee.

“People should bring in their window measurements for the window they want to create,” said King. “It is helpful for folks to call into community programs so we can tell them how to measure.”

All participants in the workshops will be entered to win a free energy audit, valued at $400. For more information or to register for a workshop call Falmouth Community Programs at 781-5253.

— Amber Cronin

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