Preservation and restoration efforts are ongoing at the Shaw House. Recent projects have included preparing and re-painting the roof which had begun to flake, rust and deteriorate. The original Shaw House roof appears to have been made of rough cut wooden shingles. However, those shingles appear to have been replaced very early in the history of the Shaw House by a roof made of terne metal (a mixture of lead, zinc and tin). That roof was recently restored using an elastomeric polymer endorsed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation that permits the metal to expand or contract with changes in temperature while remaining flexible and tightly adherent to the metal surface.
The Shaw House' unique construction method and the historical nature of the home creates considerable challenges in maintaining energy efficiency and environmentally responsible operation. Under the leadership of Jack W. Cowan, owner of CowanHouse (www.cowanhouse.com), several steps have been taken to improve the energy efficiency of the home. In an earlier renovation, central heating and cooling systems were added to the home. The first step for increasing energy efficiency was to replace the existing units with highly energy efficient systems. While the solid concrete walls do not pose the usual challenges of air infiltration that face stick-built homes, the concrete has an extremely low insulation (R-value) rating. Therefore, in the climate of middle Tennessee, the thermal mass of the walls interacts with temperature shifts with the result that the heating and cooling needs of the home are quite different. In addition, the ceiling design of the original wing of the home permitted much of the heat to escape through leaks in the plank ceiling. Identifying and sealing air leaks was an essential step to preventing heat loss and making the home more comfortable. The home's six fireplaces, exiting through three chimneys also create the risk of heat loss. Energy-efficient dampers were installed to solve this problem. While the homes chandeliers and exterior lighting do not yet lend themselves to replacement with compact fluorescent lighting, all other home illumination has been replaced with this energy efficient lighting method. Interior walls were also coated with ceramic microcapsules to provide a radiant energy barrier. Future challenges include replacing the aging aluminum storm windows with energy efficient barriers that minimally interfere with the architectural integrity of the home.