When faced with a decision to either tear town the historic town hall or try to renovate, the Hartford community decided to update with an eye towards energy efficiency. Built in the 1800s, the building that houses the Hartford town offices hadn’t been renovated since the 1960s. The Hartford Energy Commission led the project as the town eventually passed a roughly $5 million bond for the project. The Hartford Energy Commission worked with a special building advisory committee and the Breadloaf Corporation to plan out improvements for the building.
The town hall received a complete gut renovation – interior walls, electrical, plumbing - everything was stripped down to the bare bones. The renovations came just in time; the builders said the structural beams likely wouldn’t have survived another winter. As they put the building back together they worked with architects to restore some of the historical design aspects to the building. Construction took about a year to complete.
The finished town hall is very insulated and tight. Contractors used a water based spray foam in the walls because of the many nooks and crannies often present in older buildings. This building was especially difficult because it was built at different times. The foam is water based so there are less greenhouse gas emissions and it only off gases water. The roof was insulated with cellulouse so that in the event of a leak it will be easier to locate and repair. Windows are double hung and very efficient. The building is net zero ready. While the solar energy from the town landfill is currently going to the waste water treatment plant, a new installation of net metered solar could easily make this building net zero.
The town hall is heated completely with heat pumps. There were initial plans for a backup heating system, but the building committee decided it ultimately wasn’t necessary. On the coldest winter night, morning inside temps might be only 60 degrees, which the occupants decided was very manageable. Sixty degrees was a marked improvement from the drafty temperature they had been experiencing before the renovation! Heat pumps provide heating and cooling by moving the heat around the building to where it is most needed. In recognition of the work the town did, they received the 2016 Vermont's Greenest Commercial Building Award from the Vermont Green Building Network.
When asked if he had advice about a community undertaking a similar project, current Selectboard member and Energy Commission liaison, Alan Johnson emphasized the importance of doing these types of renovations and he also suggested researching all possible financing options. While many towns won’t have the capacity to pass a multi million-dollar bond, there are many options. In the future, Efficiency Vermont hopes to acquire rural utility service (RUS) funding. These rural development loans have favorable interest rates for town improvements. Check out the VECAN website and the dashboard resources for more information on currently available financing.