October 21, 2009

Dreaming of Hydroelectric and Solar Leasing

Just got off the phone with Dale Cronan, Assistant Director of Concord Municipal Light Plant (CMLP). We discussed the future of renewable energy sources in the Concord community.

Team California's solar-powered house
at this month's inspiring bi-yearly
U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

Photo: Stefano Paltera

Dale is committed to greening the electricity in Concord. Currently, he is working on hydro and wind power opportunities, in order to increase the percentage of Concord's electricity that originates from renewable sources. THE CONCORD GREEN HOME was going to participate in a new hydroelectric program that was due to come online at the end of this year, however Dale informed me that CMLP is now simply folding renewable sources into all residential service. So instead of a few houses being really green and paying more for their kilowatts, everyone will be a little greener and share the cost.

How hydroelectric power works.
Courtesy of USGS.gov's Water Science for Schools

Like approximately 40 other towns in the state of Massachusetts, CMLP is an independent provider of electricity. This allows greater local control of power sourcing and distribution. However, it limits residents' access to state-provided financial incentives for purchasing solar photovoltaics for their roof or land.

The good news is that there is a seachange happening in solar, and CMLP is working to figure out a way that Concord residents can participate. Instead of an outlay of tens of thousands of dollars, consumers would have the option of leasing solar equipment, for as low as a one-time $1,000 fee, in exchange for a long-term commitment with the solar provider.

Can't Afford Solar Panels? Lease Them.
Courtesy of CBS Evening News.

Solar leasing is a bit like the business model evolution that transformed the cell phone industry -- from selling $4,000 phones to renting them or even giving them away for free when you signed up for a two-year lease. Hopefully, one day, clean, renewable electricity sources will be just as ubiquitous as the cell phone.

Rudy Krolopp, lead designer of the first cell phone,
with a 2 lb., half-hour talk time DynaTAC8000X, and a more recent model.

Courtesy of MSNBC.com.

October 18, 2009

Reclaimed Hardwood Flooring - A Green Piece of History

Perhaps no other antique adds the graceful patina of age to a new construction residence more impactfully than reclaimed wood flooring, all while sparing our forests.

All photos courtesy of Longleaf Lumber

Your home can showcase a piece of history, with flooring made of beams, siding and other building materials salvaged from nearby old barns, factories and public buildings. Or you could choose centuries-old birch, recovered from the chilly depths of Maine waterways used to transport logs to the sawmill.

Antique wood was typically harvested after the trees had matured over a span of hundreds of years. Old growth wood is highly desirable due to its strength, and the tightness, density and clarity of its grain.

Antique Pumpkin Pine Flooring runs throughout a private residence.

  • All the attributes of "old growth" wood without harming the few remaining old growth forests
  • Recycling salvageable materials prevents them from heading to the landfill
  • More dimensionally stable than new growth, which minimizes expansion and contraction as temperatures and humidity levels change... a real plus when installing over radiant heat.
  • Access to otherwise extinct or exotic species, such as American Chestnut - used commonly up until the population was all but killed off by blight in the first half of the 20th century - or Teak - a species now well protected by environmental stewardship.
Antique Heart Pine Floor in a Rustic grade runs
throughout a private residence in Nantucket, MA.

I am pleased to announce the addition of Longleaf Lumber, a local Cambridge company that specializes in antique lumber, to our sponsorship roster for THE CONCORD GREEN HOME. Their beautiful reclaimed flooring will grace the main living spaces of the residence's open space plan.

A BEST OF BOSTON HOME 2009 pick, Longleaf Lumber has a showroom in Cambridge, MA and a mill in Berwick, ME. Their primary business is the milling of antique flooring derived from salvaged Heart Pine beams and decking. They also carry antique Chestnut, Oak, White Pine, Maple, and other woods and products associated with antique buildings.

Reading through their list of antique wood sources is a fascinating walk through local history. Below is just a sampling.

Fore River Bridge

Bakers Chocolate Factory
Baker's Chocolate Factory

Tobacco Building, Hatfield MA

Danvers State Hospital. Photo by John Gray
Danvers State Hospital

Do you have a reclaimed, recycled or salvage story that you would like to share? We'd love to hear it. Just click on Comments below.

October 13, 2009

Insulate for Efficiency and for Health

Areas under the roof receive an extra layer of rigid foam insulation prior to drywall

The exterior of THE CONCORD GREEN HOME is almost complete, save the front elevation, which is still sporting its pink rigid foam insulation. As soon as the weather clears, the front facade will finally match the rest of the house.

Meanwhile, once the interior is bone dry (by starting up the new radiant heat and some dehumidifiers), open-cell spray foam will coat the entire assembly. This will be followed by drywall and plaster skimcoat, in order to achieve a well-sealed air & water-tight building envelope.

We had planned on using closed-cell insulation for its somewhat higher R-values, however, open-cell foam, like Icynene, does not require a multi-week curing time as it continues to off-gas chemicals. In this case, indoor air quality trumps slightly better efficiency gains.

October 10, 2009

The Metal Roof is On and It's a Beauty

They say that true beauty runs more than skin-deep. That certainly can be said of the beautiful new roof on THE CONCORD GREEN HOME.

I love a standing seam metal roof. Let me count the ways:
  1. Made from recycled materials and is 100% recycleable
  2. Significantly more durable, and 2/3rds lighter than asphalt shingles
  3. Will never end up in a landfill, and will likely outlast us all
  4. Sheds snow, which prevents moisture damage from ice dams
  5. Deflects hot summer sun, which reduces cooling loads
  6. Will not burn or support combustion
  7. Won't dry out, split, curl or peel, and cannot be penetrated by hail
  8. Supports rainwater harvesting
  9. Low-to-no maintenance
  10. And yes, it is good-looking - a classic farmhouse style that I hope will become more common in the area, for all of the reasons above
A view of the right elevation

A huge thank you to the professionals at Iron Horse Roofing, for their quality product and installation.

The kitchen wing -
those skylights will save energy by daylighting the most used space in the house

The colder northeast kitchen wall's minimal windows helps preserve heat. Nice "bucket hat" on the range hood vent.

Snow guards, a.k.a. snow angels, are strategically placed on certain parts of the roof, to break up large sheets of shedding snow, so people and objects below stay safe.

October 8, 2009

Water Quality in a Healthy House

Excellent indoor air quality is not the only aspect of a healthy house. The quality of our drinking water is just as critical. Tap water can be contaminated with toxic chemicals, radioactive hazards and infectious agents, along with medications and other personal care products whose health impacts are only now just being realized.

Water purification is an "extra" in new home construction, and will typically not be included unless you specifically request water testing and purification.

A whole house purification system will remove contaminants at your water source's " point of entry" to the home, which provides the most protection. The same contaminants that you do not want to drink from your kitchen tap are those that you do not want "aerosolized" by your showerhead for easy inhalation, or absorbed into your skin, as you shower or bathe.

Of the three types of whole house filtration methods - reverse osmosis, distillation and filtration - my research tells me that filtration is the most effective and most energy efficient match for municipal water, particularly if it utilizes solid block carbon filters.

Check your local municipal water report to identify which contaminants are most important to filter. Use a search engine to locate the report, or check your town's website under Public Works. Well water users will need their own water analysis, and may require a different approach to meet their specific needs.

Based on my research, and with our plumber's endorsement, we will be installing the Rhino 300 EQ Whole House Water Filter.

For more information on water filtration, check out AllAboutWater.org. I suspect that this site may be sponsored (perhaps by Aquasana), but the information is still useful.

October 1, 2009

Healthy + Green Features of THE CONCORD GREEN HOME

Healthy + Green
The eco-friendly and healthy features of THE CONCORD GREEN HOME that are highlighted on the project's website, ConcordGreenDesign.com are worth repeating here. Some of these topics have been covered in earlier posts (scroll down the right column under heading "Labels" to find topics of interest). Lots more information to come as we proceed through each phase of construction.


  • Super Insulation
  • Passive Solar Heating and Cooling - site orientation, south-facing glazing, cross-
  • Renewable Energy Sources - Solar-ready, Hydroelectric
  • Daylighting
  • Standing Seam Metal Roof - mimimizes potential for water damage; recyclable
  • Panelization of exterior building components to protect from weather and cut waste
  • Salvaged, recycled, reclaimed and natural materials
  • Energy efficient appliances
  • Water conserving plumbing
  • Local and FSC-certified sources
  • Xeriscaping; protection of trees during construction


  • Non-toxic materials
  • Fresh air ventilation system with energy recovery
  • Mold prevention, including sealed crawlspace foundation on this high water table lot
  • Radiant / radiator heating - no forced hot air or AC to circulate allergens
  • Contamination controls during construction

Finding the Right Builder in Sustainable Construction

We've all heard construction horror stories -- builders and subcontractors who didn't show up on time or at all, deadlines missed and budgets seriously overrun, even lawsuits and fraud. So it was with great care that we selected the best match from many quality builders available in the area.

In my experience, there are 4 critical considerations in choosing the firm who will take your plans from paper to reality:

Builder Selection Criteria
  • Shared values and goals
  • Efficiency in project and budget management
  • Ability to put together a talented and knowledgeable team
  • High customer satisfaction among past clients
Fortunately, for THE CONCORD GREEN HOME, Aedi Construction turned out to be the perfect match.

Aedi awarded first LEED-H certification
in the country
for multi-unit building

SHARED VALUES - Aedi Construction is a relatively young firm, whose mission is "Building Healthy Environments". Parent Aedi Group's business model is based on a "co-profit" concept, which allows their for-profit divisions to work in tandem with their non-profit venture Village Corps, created to empower the world's poor to generate their own sustainable prosperity.

Aedi's non-profit Village Corps

The co-profit concept was born of the idea that success for non-profits requires strong relationships with revenue-generating enterprises and individuals, and that in order for a for-profit enterprise to thrive in the 21st century; it must understand and address its social context.

EFFICIENCY AND TALENT - Aedi Construction's management team is comprised of Norman and Marc Beaulieu, who hail from the software, technology and entrepreneurship realms, and Matt Ayers, who wraps his construction know-how in a reassuring "no worries, can-do" attitude. The team's collective strengths make them uniquely adept at efficiently managing work flow and finances, while attracting the best, most knowledgeable construction talent. As site supervisor, they brought on Patrick Hughes, who has spent most of his career building large high-end residences and community spaces, but yearned to apply his skills to smaller, sustainable projects. Another perfect match.

REFERENCES - I cannot stress enough the importance of checking builder references. I found that emailing past clients with a specific list of questions returned the most valuable and instructive responses. Here was the gist of my inquiry:

We are considering Aedi for construction of a new healthy/green home. We would very much appreciate a moment of your time in learning about your experience with the firm, specifically:
  • The type of project they performed for you (new construction, remodel, addition)
  • The team's performance - quality of work, cost and schedule management
  • Areas of Strength
  • Areas of Improvement or extra attention on part of client required
  • Anything additional you would like to add
I hope this information on builder selection has been helpful. Feel free to share your own experiences and suggestions in the Comments section below.
Related Posts with Thumbnails