Photo courtesy of Howard Hanna

West Penn Energy Solutions President Michael Merck is proving that almost any house can be energy efficient with the right renovations.

His recent renovation of the 122-year-old, three-bedroom house at 5505 Margaretta Street in East liberty earned the LEED Gold Status, and is now the highest rated LEED certified single family home in the region. It’s estimated to be 50 percent more energy-efficient than a new home built to code.

Owned by East Liberty Development Inc., the house’s walls are nearly 12 inches thick. “We actually built a house within a house,” Merck says. “It was already a double brick house.” Merck’s project team installed wood framing, drywall and insulation inside the existing structure to make it airtight, which lessens heating and cooling costs.

There are also two separate thermostats for different areas of the house. “Instead of trying to heat the entire building to 70 degrees, maybe you only need to heat the room where you are,” Merck says. “It’s a great way to save energy.”

The house’s hot water system runs as efficiently as a solar thermal system. A pump pulls air from the surrounding atmosphere and uses it to heat water.  If additional heat is needed, only then will it use electricity.

All of the paints and glues used in construction are low in volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and LED light bulbs are installed throughout the house.

Outside the house, the new walkways are made of permeable stone to allow water runoff to absorb into the ground rather than running into the street. Merck’s team left the grass, trees and plants untouched, and designed the roof to be solar panel ready.

The house is listed for $330,000 with open houses scheduled from one to four p.m. on August 23 and 24.

It is one of Merck’s five renovation projects in East Liberty, all of which incorporate green building concepts.

“When I started, my goal was to demonstrate that we could take some of the oldest houses and transform them into structures as energy efficient, or more energy efficient than new construction,” he says.

Ryan Hoffman

A recent grad of Pitt's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, Ryan also has a degree in journalism. He has a passion for innovative ideas in Pittsburgh, green urban spaces, music and the...