11 Ways to Retrofit Resilience Into Your Home — Today and Post-Pandemic

This article is written Bryan Jones and Frank Wickstead.

make covid-friendly renovations to your homeWe’re spending more time at home these days and know you are, too. We’re managing through the current crisis as best we can. (Having enough toilet paper on-hand is something we never gave much thought to before!)

Even though living and enjoying life at home is something we think about every day, given what we do for a living, the importance of our home’s environment has taken on even more meaning for us.

Thinking about the uncertain future is unsettling. So we channeled our post-COVID-19 thoughts into something productive, developing this collection of ideas to bake resilience into your existing home. And these solutions would be great for a large renovation or new home build, as well.

We hope our retrofit round-up inspires some fun and functional ideas for your home. Please reach out if you’d like to meet with our team if you want to make changes we can help with. And be sure to check out idea #11 with its time-sensitive deadline.

1. Focus on the V in HVAC

Ultra Aire dehumidifier

Ultra Aire dehumidifier

The V in HVAC is ventilation. Where humidity is the concern, we believe the minimum standard of care is a whole-house ventilating dehumidifier. A dehumidifier can be installed into your existing system or serve as a stand-alone unit. Either way, it is set up to complement your AC system to provide dry, filtered air.

We find that our clients can raise their set-point and save money as they live in comfortable, fresh air. Dehumidifiers also produce energy savings since you can increase the AC because your house is more comfortable at a higher temperature.

For additional COVID protections, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) provides specific guidance around ventilation. Whole-house dehumidifiers can be programmed to bring in 100% fresh (dehumidified and departiculated) air instead of recirculating indoor air.

Additional Resources and Our Favorites

We channeled our post-COVID-19 thoughts into something productive, developing this collection of ideas to bake resilience into your existing home.

2. Kill Rather Than Filter Indoor Air Pollutants

Consider installing ultraviolet (UV) or plasma filtration to your existing HVAC air handler. There are now UV units small enough to install in a variable refrigerant flow or mini-split unit. These are relatively inexpensive units that can be retrofitted in a day that kill (rather than filter) viruses, bacteria and mold.

3. Retrofit a Clean Room

UV filtration

AirOasis dehumidifier

With or without integrated UV or plasma filtration, consider a decontamination area in your mudroom, side entry or garage where you can shed your day. Install point-of-use UV/HEPA combination filtration to kill viruses. Install a Broan SurfaceShield Vital Vio exhaust fan to kill bacteria, mold and to introduce negative pressure. Then add a hand-washing, laundry collection and shoe storage area to simply leave it all behind!

4. Paperless bathrooms?

Exit the demand-but-no-supply game by removing the need for TP all together and avoid the next crazed shortage.

Kohler’s bidet seats are a touchless/paperless toilet and toilet seat retrofit that could be the solution to all your deepest fears.

5. Keep it Clean!

Cambria quartz non-porous surface

Install hygienic surfaces that minimize the spread of bacteria. Cambria is a non-porous quartz surface that is GREENGUARD Gold- and NSF-certified safe, so there is no surface bacteria. And it’s gorgeous. (The photo is Cambria’s Britannica design.)

Brass, bronze, nickel and silver are all available hardware options with antimicrobial properties, but the best choice is copper. Rocky Mountain Hardware offers a copper alloy that kills 99.9% of harmful bacteria.

Exit the demand-but-no-supply game by removing the need for TP all together and avoid the next crazed shortage with a paperless toilet.

6. Gooooo, Team!

Jones Pierce builds out space for family gatherings

Build space into your home to maximize togetherness 

Turn your family into a team by planning shared windows of time for work, meals, relaxations and exercise. This can help maintain productivity and decrease anxiety. Together can still feel very isolated when everyone is going it alone.

Remember that multigenerational family vacation when you had a scheduled day to cook and clean together? Consider installing a family schedule to prep the first string for tomorrow’s game plan.

7. Find Your Place

Togetherness is great, but carve out a special place for everyone in your household, too. This is not just a private spot, it’s a place where each of you can be productive and thrive. Your place can be inside or outside and can happen by pulling unconditioned space, like the attic or basement, into the building envelope. It can be a fairly easy and non-intrusive project. For more ideas, check out our Finding Your‘Place’ During Home Isolation article.

Create your own supply store to avoid the next crazed-shopper shortage. A first step for all our remodels is hiring a professional organizer to help understand what should stay, what should go and what should be replaced. This exercise always frees up space. And there are usually wasted pockets in every home, whether behind a staircase, in a larger-than-necessary wall-chase/cavity or behind a knee wall.

Chances are, the space is already there — and we can help you find it.

8. Turning the Home Office Into Your Office at Home

Once you carved out your special places, you may want to bump up the infrastructure or ease of use. Our automation and electrical teams can help.

Start with consistent WiFi across your home and outdoor spaces so that roaming and separation can occur. A receptacle can be added within a cabinet to house and conceal a Bluetooth laser printer. (These printers have fewer malfunctions and cost much less per sheet to operate.) Coffee and beverage stations can be added on a second floor. Simplified workout stations can be added in a couple of different areas s calls and virtual meetings have the opportunity for physical movement.

A first step for all our remodels is hiring a professional organizer to help understand what should stay, what should go and what should be replaced.

9. Food Resilience

Shades of Green Permaculture Design

Shades of Green Permaculture Design

As you “Marie Kondo” your pantry, you might consider organizing staples that are easier to use and build up an emergency supply.

Our lead residential architect, Bryan Jones, says, “My daughter, with two summers of kitchen experience at the Spring House on Lake Martin in Alabama, recommends some heavy-duty and functional food storage containers that allow storage for bulk purchase and ease of everyday use. Check out 4- and 8-quart clear polycarbonate, square food storage containers — and don’t forget the clear lids for each size.”

Bryan also likes to say, “Space is expensive. Use it twice.” Well, this goes for outdoor space, as well! Jones Pierce partners with Shades of Green Permaculture who considers outdoor spaces the same way we consider indoor. The outdoor spaces should work with and for you. Shades of Green designs edible gardens in addition to recommending plant combinations that can help deter mosquitoes.

10. Built-in Flexibility for Resilience

Tiny Homes Atlanta

A guest house offers flexibility of purpose

There is a national push for in-town, affordable workforce housing. Atlanta Zoning, and other jurisdictions around the country, allow the addition of a flexible guest house or Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). (Think of a tiny house or not-so-tiny house.) For Atlanta, zoning limits accessory buildings to 30% of the square footage of the primary residence.

In January 2019, the City of Atlanta passed an ADU to help address housing affordability in the city. These zoning categories are 60% of the city’s single-family properties. A property owner can add up to a 750 square-foot building to use for a long- or short-term rental unit or any other previously allowed uses.

Guest houses and ADUs can be designed to quickly transition to other uses as an office, school, gym or for a college kid living at home. And the best part? Space can evolve as your needs change. We have a current client who is building a guest house, where the grandmother is helping to finance the project that’s to become her home.

Bryan likes to say, “Space is expensive. Use it twice.” Well, this goes for outdoor space, as well!

11. Utility Resilience

Jones Pierce design team

Take advantage of the soon-to-expire Federal Solar Tax Credit

If nothing else, COVID is teaching us that life can change dramatically overnight. This crisis was person-to-person and utilities weren’t interrupted. What happens if the next crisis is different? How can your home offer resilient shelter?

Here are two solutions you’ll enjoy every day with benefits that can also intervene when water or the grid is interrupted:

Water Install – A whole-house water filtration system can allow you to ignore boil-water advisories. And in the meantime, your household will enjoy great water every day while being protected from a water contamination event.

We like whole-house water filtration that is easy to maintain and removes 99.99% of contaminates. But rather than promoting a specific system, we’d prefer to promote a process. Metro Water Filter recommends a system based on a sample of your home’s water. And here’s what else we like: water filtration systems that dramatically improve the lifespan of all your plumbing fixtures and appliances, water heaters and appliances that utilize water.

Electricity – Take advantage of the soon-to-expire Federal Solar Tax Credit that will offset 26% of the cost in 2020 and 22% in 2021. We can help show you how to pay for a pavilion, back porch or walkway with the tax credit.

Adding a battery backup converts your array into storage for use during an outage or to offset peak demand every day. We understand these systems and how to get the best bang for your buck.

Now, Over to You!

Did any of our ideas inspire you? Let us know because we would love to brainstorm the best-fit resilient and retrofit solutions for you.

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