What is a Net Zero Home?

A net zero home is a house that produces as much energy as it consumes each year. Because Net Zero Homes are tied to the grid, they can draw electricity when their renewable source can’t meet demand and sell it back to the grid when production outpaces use. For Net Zero Homes, the grid functions less like a supplier or energy and more like a reservoir of energy, holding electricity in reserve for use at a later time. Continue reading

Racing the Elements

We have broken ground on our Savoy House project. We are scrambling to get the house closed in before the winter. A carpentry crew worked through the weekend to get the first floor deck framed up in preparation for the raising of the timber frame. They were nailing down the last pieces of floor decking just as the timber framers and their crane showed up.

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Our weatherization crew does a lot of work on roofs. Whether it is installing a roof flapper for a bath vent or creating a ridge vent to get moisture out of the attic, crew members find themselves climbing and working on steep roofs that can reach thirty feet off the ground.

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Born to Build

What do you feel you are born to do? Is it to Run?

In his popular bestseller, Born to Run, Christopher McDougall marshals evidence from anthropological studies, from a hidden tribe in Mexico and from an elite group of superathletes to argue that as a species we are indeed born to run, and that that adaptive behavior is precisely what allowed us to win the evolutionary race over other hominids like the Neanderthals. I loved the book, and as an avid runner gulped up its thesis. Continue reading

Zero Net Energy Capable!

We are in the design phase of constructing our first Zero Net Energy capable home. In our last new home construction project our goals were more modest: we wanted to meet the unofficial standard for a super-insulated home as defined by the Building Science Corporation; and we wanted the house to be a Mass Save Tier III home, which would award the client a generous rebate from Mass Save. We met both those goals and did so within a pretty tight budget. Continue reading


My father is a mechanical engineer with heart and a conscience. It is just those qualities that drew him to Volkswagen’s fabulous turbo-diesel engine. The engineer in him was inspired by the technical competence embodied in its design. His heart was fired by its gutsy performance, and his conscience was quieted by its staggering mileage figures and clean exhaust output.

Recent developments at Volkswagen have changed his views. His feelings of awe for the responsible  engineers have been displaced by feelings that they had duped him. The engineer in him is justifiably enraged. That intensifies when he is forced to realize that he has been adding pollutants to the atmosphere at the rate of 40 times that of his fellow drivers, all the while thinking he was doing right by the earth. Continue reading

Build a Better Roof Assembly

One of the things I love about the sustainable building community is that it shuns dogmatism. We have innovators and leaders within our community who are eager to follow the line of best practices, wherever it may lead. There is very little axe grinding and a lot open conversation and co-learning. I like that and have greatly benefited from it. We recently completed a roof assembly that is very much the fruit of the rich conversation that buzzes about the sustainable building community. The assembly in question is part of a larger renovation project that we are doing for a couple in Great Barrington.

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