Rhode Island TECHBUILT Retrofit

TechBuilt houses- modern, modular, partially factory-built homes – were characterized by a pitched roof, large plate glass windows on the gable ends, and deep eaves. Our clients wanted a performance upgrade, and initial design meetings included discussion about building new rather than reusing the existing structure. C&H advocated for preservation of this iconic example of the Mid-Century Modern housing boom. After careful cost/benefit analysis of the various options, it was decided that the historic value of the house was worth preserving, and that the client’s performance and budgetary needs could be met through a DER, or Deep Energy Retrofit.

In addition to the performance improvements, the clients wanted to open up the interior spaces, and better integrate building and site.  There was a focus on designing spaces to support an active family life, including expanding the integrated living/dining and kitchen area, and creating an area to accommodate the household collection of musical instruments and their use. The clients also wanted a home where they could comfortably age in place, and that would be attractive and welcoming to visiting children and grandchildren in the future.

Project Details

  • Designing a home that would support aging in place meant locating all spaces required for daily living by the long term occupants on a single, accessible level.
  • Children’s rooms, which can function as guest rooms in the future, an additional full bath, and a large, open recreation space are located below on the day-lit basement level.
  • Distinctive mid-century features such as panelized siding and large casement windows were updated with materials that reference the original, but with greatly increased durability, performance, and a more contemporary aesthetic.
  • The client’s deep appreciation for the site was celebrated through multiple exterior spaces that encourage living beyond the building envelope.
  • Produce from on-site gardening can be stored in the basement root cellar without excessive energy usage.
  • A continuous air-barrier was achieved by trimming the rafter tails to the exterior wall plane and wrapping an air-barrier membrane around the entirety of the building’s exterior envelope.
  • A layer of Structural Insulated Panels was added above the new roof membrane, it’s overhang reinstating the deep eves of the original building.
  • The exterior walls were wrapped in 4″ of rigid polyisocyanurate insulation, and all windows and exterior doors replaced with high-performance units, greatly improving the thermal envelope.
  • C&H worked closely with Studio 2112 Landscape Architects to develop a new coherence between building and surrounding environment.
  • The project was registered with the National Grid DER Pilot Program, which ran from 2009-2012 and provided significant financial incentives for demonstrably achieving exceptional thermal performance in residential renovation.
  • Incorporating many of Coldham&Hartman’s standard best practices, we achieved a thermal boundary of R-60 in the roof and R-40 in the exterior walls. Air tightness tested at 0.8 ACH50, considerably better than the median program result of 1.4.

Project Team


C&H Architects, Amherst MA


Stack & Co., Providence RI

Landscape Architect

Studio 2112, Boston MA

Project Photography

Aaron Usher III Photography