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btw Winter 2014

Sustainability begins at home




It’s not just a way to live. It’s a way to thrive. A REALTOR® with NAR’s Green Designation has completed rigorous training on energy efficiency and sustainable homes. They are specially suited to help you buy or sell properties with green features, or simply to help clients interested in a more sustainable home buying process. Whether you are buying, selling, or building, an NAR Green Designee can help. Find an NAR Green Designee at

EDUCATION PROVIDER NAR’s Green Designation Designees have completed courses that are part of the USGBC Education Provider program and count as credit toward LEED® credential maintenance.


Greg Premru Photography

CAMBRIDGE | CHATHAM 617 621-1455


inside 6/ publisher’s letter


7/ the next big thing


16/ the burning


Why are so many homeowners still using oil to heat their homes? Especially given how much it costs the environment... and them?

for 2015

A lineup of some of the most promising ecoideas coming at you in 2015.

10/ the myth of green home spending

Think Home Buyers Won’t Pay Extra for Energy Efficiency? Think again: Studies show otherwise.

12/ naturally beautiful

As the chemical-free hair and body product world expands, two forward-thinking, luxury lines have arrived to help you clean up your act.

20/ the culture of


What makes a beautiful home? If you ask a company like Room & Board, it’s mostly about acting natural.

24/ building on tradition

How the term ‘barn in a box’ yielded one of the greenest structures around.

last words

32/ eco escapes

How one luxury inn is infusing earth-freindliness into everything from design and room service to furniture and food.

The Green Cocoon SOYBEAN


Healthy Thrifty



Lower your energy bills and increase your comfort with eco-­friendly Spray Foam, Cellulose, or Denim Insulation



That’s All Folks With this issue I think we have set a new standard in terms of our continued focus on not just healthy, sustainable, energy efficient and beautiful homes but also by adding to our coverage of sustainable lifestyles as well. Our article about a company we really respect, Room & Board, shows the lengths to which sustainability can extend. Of course, we still have the “meat and potatoes” stories including a great one by Steve Thomas on the eco-friendly barn he built on his remote island off the Maine coast, and a profile of a luxury inn integrating eco-consciousness into everything from design and room service to furniture and their energy sources. So while this may just be the best issue we have ever done, it is also our last. With great sadness we have decided to close our magazine and our company, though our website, will live on forever. In a world were even media giants are having their troubles (think AOL, and the New York Times), we just couldn’t make a go of it — though a lot of you did your part to help. In October we raised $25,000+ through a successful Kickstarter campaign that has allowed us to put out our last issue, thank you to our readers. What doomed us though is we just couldn’t get the advertiser support we needed, so that is that. I am proud of the work we did, and for that, there are lots of people to thank. Our editor, Alexandra Hall; our COO, Tung Huynh; our marketing and sales crew including Caroline Egan, Liz McKinney, and the most recent addition, Jenny Humphries. We can’t forget our web and technical guru, Tim Craig, our Irish architect/graphic designer, Eoghan Considine; or the man who shot hundreds of videos for us, Rob Eckel. We also had other friends along the way who helped including great architect, Jeremiah Eck of Eck|MacNeely; green home maven, Adam Prince of Zero Energy Design; building gurus Bruce Irving and Steve Thomas; and, an army of interns who assisted in every way imaginable. The list can go on and on but let me just say thank you to everyone who helped us build something special.

In the end, I am still convinced that healthy, sustainable, energy efficient and beautiful homes should be the focus of all homeowners, and I know one day it will be. So if our vehicle for this movement hasn’t exactly worked out as planned, we know the future will. Thank you for your support, Harold Simansky BTW Publisher and CEO of 360Chestnut


SXSW’s biggest new ideas coming down the line in clean energy, new home concepts & services. Ah, January. The month when life finally slows down, returns to its usual pace, and we look forward to the year ahead, what with its new prospects and exhilarating aspirations. Inspired by the ideas that we at BTW Magazine witnessed at this past year’s SXSW Eco conference, here’s a list of great, green ideas to watch out for in 2015— and to inspire you in making it the most eco-conscious and sustainable year yet.

2015 Honda Accord

Powered by the award-winning Honda Earth Dreams Technology powertrains, the latest edition of the most popular midsize passenger vehicle in America, is designed to be the ultimate in fuel efficiency. With Honda’s commitment to leading environmental leadership, the Accord not only meets stringent emission standard, but was also the first certified Super Ultralow Emission Vehicle (SULEV) gasoline vehicle.

Find it @

Clorox Safe Water Project

Unsafe drinking water is a huge cause of illness, malnutrition, and death for young children and families worldwide. In Peru, the issue is especially pressing, where one in seven people don’t have access to safe water. To help, The Clorox Company is leading the efforts of The Safe Water Project, a public health program that provides public bleach dispensers and health education in rural Peru. Over the next five years, the Safe Water Project will provide 23 million liters of safe drinking water daily to 25,000 Peruvians. When you tweet your support, @Clorox will donate $1 to the #safewaterproject, up to $20,000.

Find them @

Ride Scout

More than 78 percent of cars on American roads are single occupant vehicles. What is the better solution to reduce both congestion and pollution from idling cars without giving up the reliability and flexibility of car ownership while adding access to transportation options (bus, rail, bike, car share)? With the convenience and power of RideScout, you can now get from point A to point B in the most efficient and smart way. An app that allows you to get real-time information and costs of each option depending on your circumstances and time of the day to maximize the cost-effectiveness of the chosen mode of transportation. RideScout is available in over 50 major cities in the U.S. and growing rapidly to add new transportation options. Download the app now and test it out for yourself.

Find them @


How can two formers Wall Street investment bankers with backgrounds in finance and a passion for sustainability create a financial services product with social value? Sustain:Green reduces your carbon footprint with every dollar spent using this new type of credit card. Its unique and eco-conscious features that provide funds for preservation and regeneration of rain forest in Brazil, in partnership with Mata No Pieto.

Apply for a Sustain:Green credit card @

YouChangeTM Market Place by Earth911

Launched during SXSW Eco, the new type of marketplace provides more than a central platform for eco-friendly products but cultivates a community of conscious consumers that adopt environmentally sound practices and lead a sustainable lifestyle. All products found on YouChange have been reviewed and approved by Earth911’s committee and carefully labeled to inform consumers in making the right decision that support their eco-conscious lifestyle.

Find them @


Crowd Comfort

Said to be the world’s first crowdsourced thermostat, this Boston-based company is developing an app that lets building occupants rate their level of comfort and report any maintenance issues. It then aggregates and analyzes the data to suggest the temperature for each floor. The app aims to bridge the gap between the data management of the building and its occupants. You soon might be able to use Crowdcomfort app on trains and stations here in Boston. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has expressed interest in testing out the app.

Find them @

Do Amore Rings

How can wedding rings do more? Do Amore Rings both celebrate a couple’s bond when tying the knot, and also help to provide clean water and change others’ lives by partnering with (a nonprofit organization working to provide clean water access and sanitation in hundreds of communities in Africa, South America, and Central America). When a purchase is made, Do Amore rings take funds directly from their profits to support drilling of clean water wells by the non-profit partners. Bonus: They’re conflict-free and made in America from recycled materials.

Find them @


A team of British engineers is working to turn the ultimate power of human activity into the next generation of renewable energy, one footstep at a time. Pavegen tiles are designed to transform the kinetic energy of every single one of our footsteps into electricity that can then power things like street lighting, signage, and public car/phone charging stations. With wireless capability, each tile can track foot traffic and communicate data with users in real time via social media. First piloted in London, the project is branching out to public spaces that include the public project in West Ham Tube Station in London during the 2012 Olympic to the football in Rio. Also, keep an eye out for these nifty tiles the next time you have a layover at Heathrow Airport.

Find them @


THE MYTH OF GREEN HOME SPENDING Think Home Buyers Won’t Pay Extra for Energy Efficiency? Think again: Studies show otherwise. By NICK SISLER

According to a national survey of 116 singlefamily homebuilders, developers, and remodelers performed by McGraw Hill in 2013, 73% of those surveyed said that homebuyers will pay more for a green home. This is up from 61% in 2011. (The study defined a green home as one that incorporates environmentally sensitive site planning, resource efficiency, energy and water efficiency, improved indoor air quality, and homeowner education.)

What Builders Think A breakdown of how much those surveyed expected buyers to pay additionally for a green home is shown in the graph above. The most common estimate was that buyers were willing to pay an additional 1% to 4% for green features. The same builders were asked how much it would cost to incorporate green features. Their estimates are shown in the pie chart below.

Source: McGraw Hill Construction

This graph shows how much builders think that home buyers are willing to pay for green features on a new home. Source: McGraw Hill Construction


The most common estimate was that building green would cost an additional 5% to 10%. So on average, builders think it costs more to build green than homebuyers are willing to pay.

What Home Buyers Say In another national survey, this time of recent and prospective home buyers performed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in 2012, home buyers said they are willing to pay an additional $7,095 (about 3.5%) up-front for a $1,000 annual savings on their utility bills, and 91% of them said they wanted an Energy Star rated house (28% said that Energy Star was essential, while 63% said it was desirable).

What Home Buyers Do In a study of 1.6 million home sales in California from 20072012, it was found that homes with an Energy Star, LEED for Homes, or GreenPoint certification sold for an average of 9% or $34,800 more than homes with no such certification. The study also estimated that the incremental cost for builders to achieve theses certifications was at most $10,000. A much smaller study in the Seattle and Portland areas found similar results: 68 certified homes in Seattle sold at an average price premium of 9.6% and 24 in Portland sold for a 3% to 5% premium. The certified homes also sold 18 days faster than non-certified homes. A similar study has not been performed on a national level to date.

Nick Sisler (center) is a co-founder and engineer at Ekotrope, which provides software and energy consulting for builders. Ekorope’s software is a RESNET accredited HERS and IECC Performance rating tool. Nick holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT.

So, while builders think buyers will only pay an extra 1% to 4%, and home buyers themselves say they will pay 3.5%, in reality (on the West Coast at least), green homes are selling for about 9% more. That’s $34,800 more, in fact. So isn’t it high time we readjusted our thinking about the perceived value of green homes?



As the chemical-free hair and body product world expands, two forward-thinking, luxury lines have arrived to help you clean up your act.

Taking a Strand on Organics “Unless organic works in your life, there’s no point to it,” asserts Louise Rusk, the woman behind the Rusk hair care line, who’s worked on umpteen organic lines with her husband in her native Scotland.

Currently salon director at Boston’s Mizu, she sees the gamut of people with differing needs and expectations when it comes to natural hair care and products. “Botanicals aren’t bad for you,” she asserts, “but the problem is that if you stick with it for too many days, the effects can be negative. You don’t want to have to be washing your hair every day to keep it clean; water has so many chemicals, and it dries it out and hurts the color. And at that point you might as well not be using organic in the first place.” The solution she’s found to that conundrum is the Rahua line, which she carries at Mizu. “I had seen it for a while at organic places in New York and L.A. It has ingredients like essential oils that act like protectors on each strand, which help keep your hair and scalp cleaner, longer.” The fan base of Rahua has seen no shortage of growing as more and more people discover it. (The Rahua shampoo is currently the salon’s third-best seller.) And the conditioning treatment service done in the salon has become a quick favorite. “It gets rid of dry, coarse, frizzy hair. It repairs and restores fried coloring,” she explains. “You leave it on for 15 to 30 minutes, and it’s a lifesaver. As a stylist, you get to look like a hero.”

She describes the entire line as a huge step for organic products—to have something that performs as well as nonorganic is a boon to the industry. One that’s quickly earning converts to the organic realm. “Some people absolutely want to have organic right from the start,” she says, “and some people don’t make it a priority, but they’re willing to give it a try. Then you have the clients with damaged hair who get the treatment, and they’re sold for life.” —Alexandra Hall

Toxic Reliefs Based in Marshfield, MA, Green Koala manufactures highquality soaps, soy candles, lotions, lip balms, and whipped body butters. All of their products are made from all-natural materials, including olive, coconut, and palm oils, as well as organic shea butter. You’ll find no animal products, parabens, or any sort of unnatural chemical or toxin anywhere in their facility.

Speaking of the facility, this company is based out of the home of the founder, Paula Keif. Her home is decked out with solar panels, energy-efficient appliances, low flow water fixtures, and double-pane insulated windows. Combine that with all of the recycling they do, and it’s clear they’re light years ahead of their conglomerate counterparts in terms of their carbon footprint. Founded in 2010, Green Koala was inspired by Paula’s hesitance to bring unnatural products into her home. This fear of harmful toxins and chemicals only intensified when she became a mother, so she created Green Koala in an attempt to promote a healthy lifestyle, both in terms of our bodies and the environment. That said, Paula’s careful to stay realistic about her expectations of her community’s green-ness. “We understand that not everyone is ready or able to go brightgreen,” says Paula. “But we can all begin the journey towards making our lives a shade greener.” —Elizabeth McKinney




THE BURNING QUESTION Why are so many homeowners still using oil to heat their homes? Especially given how much it costs the environment‌ and them? And even more importantly, what do we do about it? By HAROLD SIMANSKY


Imagine this: You’re paying up 30 to 50 percent more than markup for something you don’t need to. Maybe it’s for a new car, or a new i-Device, or wardrobe, or a kitchen renovation. You wouldn’t, right? That would just be silly. But yet, so many are, when it comes to home energy. Many more are than we all think. And possibly you. And if not you, then probably someone (if not many someones) whom you know.

It’s hard to believe, but that’s the projected increase in electricity costs over the next few months. And why? Because despite the natural gas boom to the West of us (think Marcellus Shale in PA), producing more and more natural gas (with questionable environmental impact), the ability to transport that gas to New England has completely faltered. The pipes are full. And they will be for quite a long time to come. “In New England, this winter, based on what’s been recently trading, is likely to have the highest natural gas prices on planet Earth,” said Taff Tschamler, Chief Operating Officer of energy supplier North American Power, in his interview with the Boston Public Radio station, WBUR, just this last November. Well, I have to say, that’s pretty sobering. The real question is this: What can we do about it? The answers are coming from all sides (as usual), including importing natural gas, building a larger pipeline (something pretty much everyone concludes can only happen by 2018), or just pray for warm weather. None of those are exactly great choices, particularly if you have any concerns about things like the environment, or the future. As with most issues around energy, the answers may be a bit simpler than we at first thought. How about just using less energy, or creating heating and cooling in a more efficient way? Or, if we’re facing such a serious and dramatic increase in costs, then perhaps maybe the time to start this process is now. Just a thought. And here are thoughts on exactly how: 1. Get an energy audit: Energy audits allow professionals to review your home using such techniques as a blower-door test and thermal imaging to figure out how drafty your home actually is and how much expensive heat you are actually losing. The experts then put together a plan to plug these holes and keep that expensive, conditioned air in your home. Filling these cracks and gaps is called weatherization and includes such mundane-but-important tasks as caulking, weather-stripping, and air- sealing your walls and roof. 2. Insulate, insulate, and insulate: Once the gaps in your home are filled, the next step is adding layers of insulation to keep what heat you do make inside your home. Comparing weatherization and insulation is like sleeping in a cold room with an open window: Weatherizing is like closing the window; insulation is like putting on another blanket on the bed. Both work to make your home and yourself warmer, but they work best when working together.

The beauty of these first two steps is that generally they are free (Yes, free) to homeowners, thanks to the utility companies as required by regulation. In Massachusetts, local utility programs may include a free energy audit and home assessment, free air sealing, and up to $2,000 per year to cover 75 percent of the cost of insulation. Once you’ve successfully weatherized and insulated your home, you can start thinking about making your heating (and cooling) the most efficient way it possibly can be. And with gas prices going up and up, it’s time to look at other, more efficient technologies. These include: Geothermal Heating and Cooling: This is a great solution (likely the best) when building new. Without getting too much into the physics, geothermal technology (like your fridge) uses a pump to extract the heat which your home needs directly from the ground. In the summer, the process essentially runs in reverse, cooling your home even more efficiently. Three important things to remember: 1) From the outside, your heating and cooling system looks like any other system out there. It’s only in the ground that anyone walking by your house can notice a difference; 2) on the utility bill; and 3) maybe most importantly, there is a 30 percent tax credit on such systems. (The last of which means they knock 30 percent off the price because you’ll get it all back come April 15.) Best hurry on that last one, however. Because you only have until December 31, 2016 to get that tax credit. (Oh, alright… Maybe you have some time.) Air Source Heat Pumps: If a geothermal system uses the energy from the earth to warm and cool your home, air source heat pumps use the energy in the air to do the same. These are sometimes called ductless minisplit systems, and are actually an old technology that is used all over Europe and Japan. They are super-efficient (though not as efficient as geothermal) and use minimal electricity to run. The look isn’t for everyone, as it includes a head or blower in each room. But that has its advantages too, since you can then adjust the temperature on a room-by-room basis. Because they can both heat and cool, they’re an excellent choice for a home that doesn’t already have air conditioning, but wants to upgrade. The knock against air-source heat pumps has always been they don’t work particularly well as it gets colder out. But that’s something of an old-wives tale, as now the latest systems run efficiently, down to the low 20’s or teens (and there are even reports of new systems working below zero). One way to address this “problem” is to leave in place your existing heating system for the dozen or so coldest days of the year, and then rely on the air-source heat pumps for every other day. Though more expensive than other solutions, there may be interest free loan programs available specifically geared to air source heat pumps. Ask your local utility. While, there’s no Federal tax credit to help with the cost, the result is still a highly economical, comfortable heating and cooling system.


Biomass: Imagine a type of heating whereby you burn dead trees and other forest residue to make heat. Frequently your system will rely on wood pellets to fuel a high-efficiency boiler. There are even loan programs in place to help you pay for converting from a more traditional heating system to a biomass system. Unlike the other systems mentioned above, biomass is not a slam-dunk as you think about alternatives to burning oil or gas to heat your home. The price of the pellets can vary greatly over time, and can actually be more expensive than alternatives and biomass’ effect on the environment is also questionable. There was some thought that it was carbon neutral as the CO2 released would be sequestered by new growth, but the thinking on this has evolved. The assumption now, as articulated by the Biomass Energy Resource Center in 2011, is that “The carbon implications of biomass depend on how the fuel is harvested, from what forest types, what kinds of forest management are applied, and how biomass is used over time and across the landscape.” Biomass is a technology with some benefits in the right situation.

Above: Biomass burns dead trees and other forest residue to make heat

Solar. What’s the real deal? It should be investigated by practically everyone to see if his or her home is a good candidate. By the way, ‘Solar’ here refers to both Solar photovoltaic [Solar PV], which makes electricity and Solar Hot Water, which makes, uh, hot water. Frequently, there are Federal, state and local programs to help defray that cost. Also, you can finance solar panels in all sorts of ways, from just buying them yourself (which has the best rate-of-return), to loan programs, to leasing programs (whereby your upfront cost may be zero). It gets very confusing, doesn’t it? So it means taking your time, and making sure that you have a sharp pencil. Here’s the rub with solar: It ain’t for everyone. It depends heavily on the position of your house, the age and type of your roof, and total square footage of available roof. Best is a new, south-facing roof with no shading. Short of that, the return on your investment goes down as you are simply not producing that much electricity at a particularly cheap cost. This is really a case of buyer beware, since the promise and reality have been known to diverge quite a bit. The only answer is to check it out in a meaningful way. So what’s the bottom line, with spiking energy costs? Use less. Do your homework. Make everything more efficient, as it works for you. And for goodness sake, turn down that thermostat and shut off the lights.


Above:Alternative forms of energy, such as solar are worth checking out



WHAT MAKES A BEAUTIFUL HOME? IF YOU ASK A COMPANY LIKE ROOM & BOARD, IT’S MOSTLY JUST ABOUT ACTING NATURAL. It’s a very odd moment, when you walk into a place of business and feel like you’re walking into someone’s home. But for whatever reason, that’s precisely what happens when you enter the multi-floor Boston showroom of Room & Board. It’s not that it’s in a particularly quiet or rural neighborhood; it sits (or hulks, rather, given its size) at the corner of Newbury Street and Massachusetts Avenue, in the traffic-congested tangle of Back Bay and Fenway. And it’s also not because it’s sprawling with breathtakingly tasteful, inspired furnishings— which, by the way, it most certainly does. No, what distinguishes and permeates Room and Board’s entryway is a very strange sense of—and odd as this may seem—genuine happiness. Because as beautiful as their furnishings are, these guys don’t just peddle superlative home furniture. They deal more in inspiration. On the outside, they sell exquisitely crafted (more than 90 percent of which is made in the United States) sofas, chairs, tables, desks, beds, and so on. And they take pains to reinvent the wheel with each collection and purveyor, sometimes reinvigorating small family-owned companies by throwing them their business, and collaboratively creating new pieces with them. On the inside, they provide beyond-good benefits for employees, contract in personal health and financial advisors to everyone who works for them, across the company’s staff spectrum, just to make sure their employees are on an even keel in their personal lives. They have break rooms and adjoining kitchens that are as spiffy as a nook in a Sports Club L.A locker room. And while they don’t exactly consider themselves a ‘flat’ company (because that passé terminology is often impossible to actually live up to), they almost really are. Every morning their team meetings take every team member’s input into account. They also eschew rapid expansion as a company; its directors regularly turn down offers to buy them and increase store numbers to increase profits, and the Minneapolis-based operation never takes on any debt when it enters a new market, and usually only does so when they happen upon the right (a.k.a. character-filled) space to open a store. They’ll get there when they get there, goes the thinking. All of which leads back to why the Newbury Street showroom looks and feels so downright fantastic. It’s become more of a workshop for inspired people than anything. To wit, front and center on the wall sits the Shaker dictum: “Don’t make something unless it is both made necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.”


Above: More than 90 percent of Room & Board’s furnishings are made in the United States.



Above: A mix of modern design and natural elements define the Room & Board style.


Building on Tradition How the term ‘barn in a box’ yielded one of the greenest structures around. By STEVE THOMAS


Above: Steve Thomas on the lawn of his seaside home.

There is a fundamental honesty to the New England barn.

Every farm had one to shelter the animals, store the hay, and house the farm implements and all the tools of the New England farm trade. They were purposely built for the job out of big timbers and tenoned together, and often put up by the whole community in a barn raising right out of the film “Witness.” Like most New England architecture, there was a Shaker-like clarity to the design: typically thirty feet wide by forty feet long with a plain twelve over twelve pitched roof, the whole building unadorned by moldings, friezes, and all such elaborations Barns are really cool. And for years I really, really wanted to build one. When I renovated my camp on an island in Maine, I asked our architect Hicks Stone to also design a barn that would resonate both with the classic expression of New England barns, but also nod to the practical and straightforward lines of the boat houses and fish houses along the Maine coast, which are similar in their simple design and workmanlike purpose. The result was a pure form: steeply pitched roof, dormers to let light and air into the living space on the second floor and plenty of space for my workshop on the first floor.

Then I asked my friend Ben Brungraber, world famous timber frame engineer and all around eccentric, to design the timber frame. We had been kicking around the idea of a “green barn in a box” a structure that utilized the best of new world technology and old world craftsmanship to achieve a building that would go up quickly, utilize sustainable materials, and require very little maintenance over the years. Using the magic of e-mailable CAD files, Ben, Mack McGee, and Duncan McElroy at Fire Tower Engineered Timber put together a timber frame design that could be cut off site by several different teams, brought to the island on a barge, and erected in several days—the result was “Barn In A Box.” It was an ambitious undertaking given that I needed to do the project in late October, in Maine, when the Fall Nor’Easters decide to parade down the coast in a succession of gales. But we were lucky, we had a week of indian summer before the weather closed in—doubly lucky because we were filming the project for my “Renovation Nation” show on Discovery’s Planet Green.


Structurally the barn consists of a timber frame core, conventionally framed walls using rough sawn 3x6 studs, a structural insulated panel (SIP) roof deck and pine boards on the walls and floors throughout. It sits on concrete piers anchored with steel rods to the granite ledge of the island and is engineered to withstand microbursts of 115 MPH, which we occasionally get here on the Maine coast. It does have water and electricity but as a seasonal building, no heat. Given the absence of solar panels, wind turbines, green roofs, geothermal heat, low VOC paint special carpet recycled from coke bottles (OK I’m being facetious), or any of the usual green bling, you might wonder “What’s green about it?”


The answer is that in designing and building the barn we wanted to go back to the very core elements of sustainable building. The first being to use sustainable local materials and local labor. Thus, the barn’s eastern white pine timbers were logged up the river from my house in Searsmont ME, on land sustainably logged by the Robbins family for the past five generations. They were milled at Viking Lumber in Belfast about 10 miles from there, transported 50 miles or so to Connolly Timber Frame to be worked into the frame and then stacked on a truck with the panelized walls and brought 45 miles to Port Clyde.

Above: The barn’s wooded interior is a beautiful backdrop to a sitting area.

Above: The path leading up to the entryway of Steve Thomas’s home is framed by woods and ocean

Above: Natural light brings original artwork and cozy textiles to life.


Because everyone had access to the same CAD files we could be reasonably sure that all the bits would fit together when brought to the island build site (they all did, with some slight issues) So I had the SIPS panel provider (Insulspan) apply pine paneling to the underside of the SIP panels. That way, once they were set in place, the ceiling was finished. Similarly I had the wall panels sheathed in the same tongue and groove pine so that when they were erected the walls were finished as well. These steps cut the labor to finish the barn to the minimum.

Another key element of green building is to build a structure which will last a long time with minimal maintenance. On the exterior I used untreated eastern white cedar shingles, which in the salt air of the island weather to a lovely silver. For trim I chose untreated western red cedar, which weathers to a dusky tan to contrast with the shingles. The roof is a synthetic shingle resembling cedar, composed of recycled rubber tires, sawdust and secret sauce. It is said to last a hundred years and is pretty much indestructible. We fastened everything on the exterior with stainless steel nails for longevity and paid very close attention to all the flashing and trim details that would keep wind driven rain out of the building. The windows are wood clad with vinyl. Nothing on the barn’s exterior needs paint. My mantra was, “I’m willing to pay, but only once,” and so far that philosophy has paid off. The Barn has weathered seven Maine winters with no issues.

Above: The barn went up in three days with a crew of about twenty five.

The barn went up in three days with a crew of about twenty five. It took another week to get a roof on and then a two man crew much of the winter, dodging storms, to finish out the interior and exterior. By spring the barn was complete. True, it is a simple structure with no heating system, kitchen, and only one bathroom, but had we designed the structure as a residence, the build cycle would have been only marginally longer because of the intense and careful design, engineering and project management we did up front. It’s one of the coolest buildings I’ve done, and it’s green to the core.

Above: Thomas, among his tools in the barn he built.


Above:The tool area that helped create the building they sit in.

Above:Thomas’s tool collection is as clean-lined as the rest of the barn.

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Healthy, sustainable living starts in the home, but sometimes it also takes to the open road. The best, most environmentally sound destinations and places to stay, in our humble opinion, aren’t the spots that merely suggest we re-use the towels, but that go above and beyond, integrating eco-consciousness in everything from the design, room service, and furniture to their energy sources.

Exhibit A: Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

Above: Many of Inn By The Sea’s rooms overlook both the pool and the ocean.

Located about ten miles from Portland, this is one of Maine’s most forward-thinking inns. It also happens to be one of its most beautiful, nestled against a blissful beach, waving marsh, and rolling hills. So what makes it so green? The Inn’s restaurant, Sea Glass, serves authentic, easygoing, but full-flavored dishes crafted from fresh Maine ingredients. And the property’s landscaping was designed for butterflies. (Yes, actually.) In fact, it’s earned a Wildlife Habitat certification from the National Wildlife Federation for its dedication to creating landscaping that attracts native insects and animals. The entire place boasts Silver LEED certification. Think solar panels, and recycled sheet rock walls. And it’s the first hotel in Maine with Biofuel, and with legit claims to carbon neutrality through offsets. Even better, in addition to the main house’s one-bedroom rooms, the Inn now includes just-built, sleekbut-cozy one-and two-bedroom suites featuring local art, compact kitchens, and ocean views that flood each room with natural light. Above: A quiet spa room at the Inn, decked out in earth tones.


Above: The Inn’s spa waiting room. At left: An ocean view reveals the impressive scale of the resort.



Eck  MacNeely  Architects  inc. 560  Harrison  Avenue  Suite  403  Boston  MA  02118 617  367  9696


Building Beautiful, Sustainable, High-Performance Homes Since 1973 For more than 40 years, Bensonwood has been designing and building beautiful, healthy, high-performance homes. Our legendary master craftsmanship, combined with 21st century technology and our unique off-site fabrication methods, allows us to deliver timeless design and stunning living environments through a fast and painless building process. Photography by Jamie Salomon

BTW: Behind the Walls - Winter 2014  

BTW: Behind the Walls, a magazine devoted to helping you make your home more healthy, sustainable and energy efficient.

BTW: Behind the Walls - Winter 2014  

BTW: Behind the Walls, a magazine devoted to helping you make your home more healthy, sustainable and energy efficient.