Old Houses:

Old Houses

I grew up in old houses in New Orleans; my father had a consulting engineering business (Stone, Leonard & Batt) in the old St. Mary St. firehouse, complete with a brass fire pole.  He bought a totally trashed 1890’s house on Prytania Street and renovated it - so naturally I grew up with carpentry, plumbing and so forth.  It was only natural that I became comfortable under old houses and interested in construction, architecture and energy efficiency and had a geothermal (ground-source) heat pump installed in my home.  I’ve reduced operating cost by an average 37% for my home and a rental property.  I learned to float & repair drywall and find it delightfully mindless.

Mold is almost "normal" in the hot, humid south - Special interests include personal property remediation and mold assessments.  We have experience with both sides, so you are assured of an independent and objective assessment.

Imported (Chinese) drywall is more serious.  This stuff emits hydrogen sulfide that corrodes pipes and electrical wires, possibly leading to house fires, and is an irritant with reproductive effects.  The "bacterial" cause doesn't make sense; it's hard to believe that special bacteria come from China, or that local bacteria know the drywall source. Also sulfate reducing bacteria are typically anaerobic! Industrial experience suggests impurities like flue gas gypsum and markers like Strontium for identification.  Some say gutting is the solution (expensive), others will provide H2S adsorbents for their lifelong cash flow.  The legal responsibility question is a mess; probably homeowners are on their own. The US District Court has developed a Chinese drywall assessment protocol.

Home Energy Ratings were a special interest for several years.  Air leakage (infiltration) is the biggest energy cost on most houses - it also contributes to dust, mold growth, and general discomfort.  A relatively simple blower door assessment can reveal many cost and comfort improvement opportunities. Savings of $2,000/yr are common for older homes. If you are paying Entergy more than $0.11/ft2 it's too much!   We can reduce your cost by 20% or more, mine were reduced by over 30%.   I passed the RESNET Certified Home Energy Rater exam.

Current activities include LEED (Green Building) compliance testing and sampling for lead, asbestos and silica dust.

Good construction links:

Builder’s Guide to Energy Efficient Homes in Louisiana – a good reference for Louisiana and hot/humid climates.

Building Science Corporation  Joe Lstiburek, the authority on intelligent building design. 

Geothermal Heat Pump  Wikipedia article.

CDC Mold work group post-Katrina/Rita report and recommendations. 

Chinese drywall a good CPSC summary report.