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btw Fall 2013

BEHIND

the

WALLS

inside

THE HOMES OF THE FUTURE MINIMUM COST MEETS MAXIMUM EFFICIENCY POWER FIGURE THE MAN MAKING GEOTHERMAL ENERGY A GLOBAL REALITY

a new frontier BUILDING A GREEN COMMUNITY AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD


call your local geo professional at Briggs Mechanical.

www.briggsmechanical.com


first affordable net zero energy homes the smarthomze Collection eliminates the second largest cost of owning a home — your electric, heating and cooling costs! this collection of five home designs range in size from 560, 750, 900, 1280 and 1700 square feet and include all material for floors, walls, roof, windows, doors, siding, porch, heating and cooling unit and a fresh air exchanger. the homeowner is responsible for kit construction, interior partitions, and finishes. total estimated cost of kit, installation, interior partitions and finishes is about $150/ sqft. that is 25% -40% less than most “green homes� being built today!

For more information:

www.SmartHomze.com or call 802-254-3435 to speak with a SmartHomze representative.


inside 6/ editor’s

letter 8/ publisher’s letter homefront

14/ cause célèbre These days, Hollywood is rife with stars claiming to be lean, mean green machines. But which are actually walking the walk and living that life at home?

18/ repurposing with purpose

One homeowner’s trash is another one’s stylish treasure. Do it right, and your abode will boast more character than ever. featured

24/ building the future

Forget McMansions: The next wave in housing may just be super-efficient living spaces that are as comfy as they are healthy—and have zero energy bills. Welcome to the SmartHomze Collection, a series of kit houses coming soon to a building site near you.

30/ power dynamic Some of the coolest (and hottest) cities on the

planet have harnessed their natural geothermal energy to run homes as seamlessly as they do efficiently. But as this groundbreaking new project proves, you don’t need to live near a geyser to get in on the action. last words

34/ breaking new ground

The leadership of one man has geothermal energy getting hotter by the minute.


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FROM THE EDITOR

green party Welcome to B.T.W.—or Behind the Walls—your source for ideas, conversation, and celebration of the rapidly changing world of environmentally sound and smart homes and living. The change we at B.T.W. see has come not only in the rapid advancement of technologies at our fingertips— we now have more options and resources to make our homes healthy and viably sustainable than ever before—but also in the philosophical realm. The biggest and most promising phenomenon happening right now is in how and what we as a community think about living our lives in a sustainable, healthy way. In short, green has gone glam. What used to stereotypically be considered the purview of only crunchy ex-hippies and treehuggers is now widely embraced by far, far more of us. The widespread rise in our collective understanding of how much better it feels to fill our days with habits, objects, and experiences that are good for us, good for our world, and are as style-conscious as they are eco-conscious. We know now that eating sustainably raised food isn’t just better for the earth and our bodies, it’s also far more delicious. We know that driving eco-friendly cars can get us around as stylishly as the big guzzlers. Organic and fair trade clothes are being designed by some of the globe’s most revered and high-end designers—and are every bit as beautiful and cutting-edge as their conventional alternatives. The same thing has happened in the home industry: We finally know the benefits of living in a place that’s as healthy, cost-effective, and responsible as it is pretty. This magazine was created to delight in, to explore, and bolster that new mind-set, and to spur its evolution toward even greater places. Happy reading, building, and living! Alexandra Hall Editor, B.T.W.


When it’s time to buy, sell, or renovate your home, take advantage of Bruce Irving’s 25-year experience with houses — 17 of them as producer of This Old House. Find out what he can do for you at www.bruceirving.biz.

617 719 2196

bruce@bruceirving.biz

978-771-0623

www.earthtechsystems.com design partner


FROM THE PUBLISHER

a new homecoming What a long, strange trip it has been.... And to think it all started in my own home. My road to B.T.W. began by looking behind the walls of my family’s new house. My wife and I had bought a dilapidated 1890 Queen Anne Victorian that was in complete disrepair, and would need serious renovation before it would be a safe place to raise our young children. But we jumped in headfirst anyway. At the time, building an environmentally friendly home or an energy-efficient one didn’t even cross our minds; our main goal was to create a healthy home for our family. But pretty quickly, it became clear that if we built in an environmentally friendly manner, healthfulness would follow. Similarly, it became clear that some choices made far more economic sense if you just gave them enough time to pay off. Return on investment, payback period, NPV: these were terms my MBA-trained brain knew and was comfortable using to weigh every building decision. So it was going to take three years for the high-efficiency hot-water tank to pay for itself? No problem. For me, these were easy choices. What wasn’t easy, though, was finding the information I needed to actually make those choices: Foam insulation or cellulose? Ondemand hot-water tank or storage tank? The options were endless, and there were no great resources to help decide between them— until now. Our mission in creating B.T.W. and our companion website 360Chestnut, is to educate homeowners who are struggling with the question of how to make their home more healthy, energy efficient and sustainable. Our goal is to help you find the best contractor who can do the work for you the right way, and then maybe even help you pay for it by using the myriad tax credits, rebates, and incentives that are there to pay for some of this work, but generally go untapped. And ultimately, we want to help you create the home that you want, so you can be—much like my family and I were in the end—as proud of what’s behind your walls as what’s in front of them. Enjoy! Harold Simansky B.T.W. Publisher and CEO of 360Chestnut


Looking to make your home healthier and more efficient? Want to save money on energy bills? Install a new heating or cooling system? Design a new home that is sustainable? Upgrade an existing home?

360Chestnut’s Partners Network Connect with one of 360Chestnut’s

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contractors, architects, designers, real

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For a full list of partners:

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Anderson Insulation Sustainable Energy Analytics

Bruce Irving Renovation & Real Estate

EarthTech Systems

GF Rhode Construction

New England Renewable Energy Systems

Boehm Architecture

EnergySmart Alternatives

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Boston Green Realty

Flavin Architects

Eck | MacNeely Architects, Inc. ZeroEnergy Design


The Anderson Family of Companies We have spent the last 60 years helping homeowners make their homes more energy efficient and comfortable through the installation of insulation systems and direct vent gas fireplaces. It is in this spirit that we now offer even more energy focused services, including solar panel installation, heating and cooling equipment, and more.


Proudly serving New England since 1949

At Anderson Insulation, we realize that there are multiple approaches to every job. We have the ability to analyze the situation and suggest not just the right type of insulation but ensure that it is installed correctly. Be it spray foam insulation, blown-in insulation or fiberglass batts, we are going to make sure that it is the right product for you at the right price.

Anderson Fireplace Anderson Fireplace is a full-service company providing installation of direct-vent gas fireplaces to create an environment that is comfortable and energy efficient. To have a better sense of the luxury we offer, visit our beautiful showroom and see our outstanding selection of direct-vent gas fireplaces, gas inserts, gas stoves, wood-burning inserts, fireplace doors, gas logs, surrounds, and more.

Anderson Home energy SolutionS At Anderson Home Energy Solutions, we are now offering a full line of heating and cooling equipment, solar panels, energy efficient hot water tanks and more to make your home not just beautiful but environmentally friendly. Great for the earth but great for your wallet as well.

Anderson Insulation 706 Brockton Avenue (Route 123) Abington, MA 02351 Office: 800-472-1717 Fax: 781-857-1054 info@andersoninsul.com andersoninsul.com


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

617 367 9696

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célèbre cause By CAROLINE EGAN It’s no secret which celebrities drive a Prius, but which ones have taken their enthusiasm for eco-friendliness home with them? Following are the stars of the ecohome world, as well as of the world in general:

JULIA ROBERTS

JOHNNY DEPP

size of home

size of home

6,000 SQ. FT.

Why she went green:

Why he went green:

Roberts told Life & Style magazine “Motherhood is the big reason I started thinking more critically about the environment and global warming.”

Depp made exceptional advances to retain his island’s natural lushness, and to keep his own carbon footprint to a minimum.

Just how green is it? Roberts spent

Just how green is it? Depp enlisted

MALIBU, CA

a reported $20 million to create her green sanctuary. This includes three roofs of solar panels, floor-to-ceiling recycled tiling, green building materials like wood harvested from sustainable forests, and over $1 million worth of energy-saving home appliances.

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35-ACRE PRIVATE ISLAND BAHAMAS

the help of trailblazing environmental leader and project developer Mike Strizki to turn his private paradise into a self-sustaining habitat running on solar-hydrogen. The system works by converting sunlight to electricity, which is used to meet the energy needs of the home. The cost to convert his hideaway to solar power: $500,000.


These days, Hollywood is rife with stars claiming to be lean, mean green machines. But which are actually walking the walk and living that life at home?

ADRIAN GRENIER

GISELE BÜNDCHEN AND TOM BRADY size of home

22,000 SQ. FT.

ALICIA SILVERSTONE

size of home

Why they went green:

Bündchen is an ecomommy, and wanted to create a mecca for enviBRENTWOOD NEIGHBORHOOD ronmentally conscious friends and family to OF LOS ANGELES, CA vacation at regularly. Just how green is it? Bündchen and

Brady have outfitted the $20 million home with as many eco-friendly bells and whistles as possible, including solar panels as the main source of energy for the home, a rainwater recycling system, and energy-efficient lighting and appliances. Additionally, Bündchen plans to be have a garden featuring herbs, vegetables, and fruits that will reduce her family’s carbon footprint relating to food transport.

3,286 SQ. FT.

size of home

Why he went green:

CLINTON HILL, Grenier told Nowness. BROOKLYN, NY com, “One reason I love New York is that it’s so primed for green growth. I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of green around me growing up. I always envision the city having more around: utilizing rooftops, ripping up sidewalks, and planting trees.” Just how green is it? Grenier

installed solar panels and walls insulated with recycled denim. With the assistance of a local landscaping company, he turned the adjacent carriage house into a rooftop garden.

2,402 SQ. FT.

Why she went green:

Alicia Silverstone has dedicated her postLOS ANGELES, Clueless years to an CA Earth-friendly agenda: she is a vegan, as well as an environmental and animal activist. Just how green is it? Silverstone and

her husband, Christopher Jarecki, have purchased everything in their home to be environmentally sound. This includes energy-saving appliances, solar-paneled roofing, and recycling materials from ceiling to floor. The couple installed a well-engineering heating and cooling system, and the home draws half as much power from the grid as it used to.

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Your neighbor has solar: what about you? S+H Solar designs and installs solar systems for homes, businesses and institutions in Eastern Massachusetts. We go beyond the cookie-cutter approach to solar. By harnessing the power of trade craftsmanship, innovative solar technology, and award winning customer service we can design and build just the right system for you. If your project is too hard for our competition, it will be just right for us. Solar incentives in Massachusetts have hit a sweet spot and are offering competitive return on investment. RIGHT NOW is the time to get into solar. Solar power systems are one part of energy sustainability. If you aim to increase the sustainability of your home, let us bring you our comprehensive view of energy use, conservation and renewable generation. 26 New Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 617-876-8286 www.sandhsolar.com

• Rainwater harvesting • Building diagnostics • Green building management • LEED for homes

General Contractor

Best Kitchen Remodeling

Classic Contractor

Transitional Contractor

Best Builder

• EnergyStar construction


DOORS Find an old door with a number on it? Find matching doors? Add them to your place; they’ll lend a vintage touch to your home. Need more shelves? This can help.

repurposing One homeowner’s trash is another one’s stylish treasure. Do it right, and your abode will boast more character than ever.

Call it whatever you want: upcycling, reclaiming, repurposing—it all adds up to giving new life to old things by creating entirely new pieces out of them. Of course, some products lend themselves to the process better than others. So hit the swap section at your local salvage yard (or recycling facility, if your town has one), and keep your eyes peeled for used pieces waiting for pickup on the street; with a little ingenuity, you’ll be on your way to clever new decor.

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with purpose

WINDOWS Add legs to an old window and make it into a coffee table. Or make a shelf (or chalkboard, or picture board) out of it.

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OLD SWEATERS Cut up the sleeves and use them as coffee cup warmers.

OLD FRAMES Get some chalkboard paint (which you can get in tons of colors and with no VOC), and you’ve got yourself a snazzy message board.

OLD TRUNK Add some wheels to it and make it a rolling bar.


LADDERS Make one into a bookshelf or a clothes ladder.

CARD CATALOGS If you’re lucky enough to stumble on one of these treasures, make it into a bar.

SHUTTERS Revive one as a bulletin board.

Lockwood construction

Lockwood Construction is a Brookline based full service construction company, specializing in

lockwood

high quality restorations. Working with a team of architects, engineers and building contractors, Lockwood Construction’s approach is to dramatically lower or eliminate the use of fossil fuels currently used in homes.

lockwoodconstruction.net 617-277-6312 lcci.construction@verizon.net


WaterFurnace + GeoPro Dealers... We Do Geothermal Better Together! When you combine the leading manufacturer of geothermal heating and cooling systems along with New England’s GeoPro MASTER Installers, you get the highest level of confidence that your NEW Geothermal system will bring comfort and savings to your home for years!

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The 7 Series is Energy Star rated and was engineered in the HVAC industry’s only in-house EPA/Energy Star Recognized Laboratory.



Geothermal industry’s first Variable Capacity residential unit and the only unit to surpass both the 41 EER and 5.3 COP efficiency barriers.



Best of all, 7 Series units use the stored energy in your yard to provide savings up to 70% on heating, cooling, and hot water.

SERIOUS TECHNOLOGY IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND! WATERFURNACE IS THE ONLY GEOTHERMAL COMPANY TO OFFER IT’S OWN ZONING SOLUTION. U

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U

You can precisely regulate temperatures in multiple rooms at once.

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Monitor monthly, weekly or daily analysis of your energy usage.

U

Your home is controlled from a beautiful color touch-screen thermostat that can even be customized with your favorite images.

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Uses the clean, renewable energy in your backyard

Relies on the combustion of fossil fuels

Provides heating, cooling & hot water

Provides heating, heating & more heating

25 year system life1

15 year system life

Life is full of difficult choices, but choosing a WaterFurnace geothermal heat pump isn’t one of them. WaterFurnace can save you up to 70% on heating, cooling & hot water by capturing the clean, renewable energy in your backyard. Plus, for a limited time, we’re offering instant rebates on any of three geothermal packages. Each is tailored to fit your needs—so every choice is perfect. And with an additional 30% federal tax credit, there’s never been a better time to choose WaterFurnace. Visit your local WaterFurnace dealer for more information.

2,000

1,000

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$

Instant Rebate

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Geothermal Upgrade Package

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Includes the most efficient dual capacity unit on the market—5 Series 500A11 with IntelliStart, AXB controls, installation accessories and choice of communicating thermostat and/or zoning system.

For replacement of existing geothermal systems. Includes the most efficient dual capacity unit on the market—5 Series 500A11 with IntelliStart and AXB controls.

GeoPro Master Dealer Main Office: Bridgewater, MA

E: cnowak@coneco.com Direct: 508-443-5011 www.conecoenergy.com

GeoPro Master Dealer Offices: iÛiÀÞ]ÊÊÊUÊÊ-“ˆÌ…wi`]Ê,

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1 According to ASHRAE estimate. Rebate available only to residential customers through participating dealers. WaterFurnace is a registered trademark of WaterFurnace International, Inc.


building the FORGET MCMANSIONS: THE NEXT WAVE IN HOUSING MAY JUST BE SUPEREFFICIENT LIVING SPACES THAT ARE AS COMFY AS THEY ARE HEALTHY—AND HAVE ZERO ENERGY BILLS. WELCOME TO THE SMARTHOMZE COLLECTION, A SERIES OF KIT HOUSES COMING SOON TO A BUILDING SITE NEAR YOU. By Bruce Irving

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Whether you dig his politics or not, you have to hand it to Henry Ford for democratizing the automobile. The efficiencies of his assembly line and the limited options he offered made Model Ts affordable for the up-and-coming middle class, and the car became integral to American life in a few short decades. But another essential American necessity—housing, that is—hasn’t enjoyed the same fate. Try as we might, we haven’t yet been able to make manufactured houses appealing or affordable enough to displace what we’ve been doing for hundreds of years: building in the field (and the rain and snow), piece by hand-cut piece. The prefab housing highway is strewn with failed experiments like the post-WWII Lustron, an enameled metal system, and though mobile At right and on previous page: homes and modular homes still fill a renderings of gap, they comprise less than 5 percent houses the of the U.S. housing market. SmartHomze Dave Gauthier and Roger Berry Collection, are aiming to change that—soon, and which have high-efficiency in a very big way. Gauthier worships in insulation that the temple of the structural insulated makes them panel, or SIP, a tried-and-true buildincredibly ing technology that’s best described as affordable. an ice-cream sandwich, with oriented strand board for the outsides and foam insulation for the filling. Meanwhile, Berry is a partner at TEM Capital, a Boston-based venture capital firm that invests in, as its name indicates, “transformative energy and materials.” TEM has singled out Gauthier’s SIP company, Vantem Panels, as the manufacturer with the best shot at democratizing the American home. And together they’ve formed the SmartHomze Collection, a group of kit houses that may well roll out at the next place many of us call home. “We’re looking for a big paradigm shift for the middle class,” says Berry, “and we think a net-zero-energy house for around $100,000 is the way to do it.” Net-zero means

26


that, over the course of a year, the house generates enough energy to pay its own way—its electrical, heating, and cooling bills are zero, thus eliminating the second biggest cost (after purchase price) of owning a home. To achieve that, SmartHomze needs to provide a system that holds in warmth, shuts out cold, and uses very little electricity to keep life inside comfortable all year round. It all starts with SIPs, which form the floor, walls, and roof of the building. Using highly insulated urethane foam panels, a SmartHomze house is built like a Thermos bottle, with none of the “thermal bridging” a common, stick-built structure has. Thermal bridging occurs when wooden framing members—wall studs, rim joists, and roof rafters—act like pathways to allow heat and cold to travel from the outside surface to the inside surface of the building, increasing energy transfer and waste. SIPs don’t have any such cross-sectional elements; when they’re joined together NET ZERO and the seams are sealed well enough, Refers to any they provide incredibly high-efficiency house that generates enough insulation values: R-38 for the floor energy to pay its and walls, and R-50 for the roof. (Mom own way; its elecalways said to put on a good hat, right?) trical, heating, and cooling bills SmartHomze-supplied windows and doors are R-5 or more, which is about are zero. twice what’s now considered standard. STRUCTURAL What’s more, because SIPs provide INSULATED both the structure and the insulation, a PANE L [SIP] complete building shell goes up faster Each one is cov- than a typical stick-built one, which ered by oriented requires framing, then sheathing, strand board then insulation—think days instead of on the outsides weeks. They’re strong too: two to four and urethane insulation foam times stronger than stick framing, acpanels within, so cording to Oak Ridge National Laborathat energy can’t tory data. escape. A typical SmartHomze house comes on the back of a flatbed truck: that means floor beams, SIPs, windows, doors, vinyl siding, precut metal roofing, and prebuilt sections for a six-foot wraparound porch with roof and decking. It’s designed to be assembled on concrete piers, but can also go on a slab or foundation. Gauthier says an average carpentry crew can put one up; the result is a solid box,

28


roofed, sided, and ready for mechanical systems and interior finishes. The company provides three crucial pieces of the former: photovoltaic (PV) panels to make electricity, a high-efficiency heat pump to heat and cool the building, and a heat-recovery ventilator to allow fresh air in without jettisoning warmth. As with any project, wiring and plumbing require licensed professionals. While the PV system is designed to connect to the electric grid, selling power to the utility when it’s making more than the house needs and drawing from it on cloudy days or at night, off-grid living is possible with the addition of storage batteries. So what’s missing, then? The interior partitions and finishes. That, says Berry, is because they “can’t guess what every buyer will want. But that’s At left: an really not what we’re trying to provide, interior and anyway. We want to apply the practices exterior view of the auto industry, minus the customof the paneling ization. The result is a high-quality, afon a SmartHomze model. fordable machine that people can outfit Below: the as they like.” floor plan for With a prototype up and running in a net-zero Vermont, the company is poised to begin energy home. a cluster development of 16 SmartHomze in the Boston suburb of Hudson, Massachusetts. Three different models are available, at 560, 900, and 1,700 square feet respectively. Gauthier has designed possible floor plans for each, ranging from a second-floor loft in the smallest to a three-bedroom, two-bathroom upstairs layout in the largest. Depending on how a homeowner finishes off his or her house, the team projects $150 per square foot for kit, installation, and interior fit-out. Land cost, site work, and permitting fees are extra. “We know there are customized kit and modular homes out there, and some of them are even zero-netenergy,” says Berry. “But they come in at a minimum of $250 per square foot. That’s not the market we’re after. We want to help regular folks, with regular incomes, afford a healthy, comfortable, state-of-the-art house with no energy bills. We’d like to see them be able to use that money for other things. Like education.” Or, he adds, “maybe even a vacation now and then.” ❚

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power Over the next few years, the owner will turn the home into nine separate houses, all heated by a geothermal heating system underneath the backyard. When completed, it will be the first of its kind in New England.

30


Walk out

to the very tip of Provincetown’s West End, and you could easily miss the little-known—and yet monumental—house designed by famed Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius. The curious home perches atop a hill tangled with dune trees, peeping out like a periscope. Distinctly un-Cape-like in its sleek industrial form, it is, from the outside, a wide, flat box with glass walls. From the inside, a stunning panorama of Provincetown Harbor seems to wrap itself around the house. It’s all part of a design that uses the environment—and in more ways than one. What makes this property even more extraordinary than it looks is what goes on underneath it. Three hundred feet beneath the backyard lies a geothermal heating system extensive enough to warm nine homes, which is exactly what the current owner plans to develop over the next several years—an entire neighborhood heated and cooled by geothermal energy. When completed, it will be the first of its kind in New England. The house and grounds, which also includes a historic gatehouse at the entrance, originally belonged to Carl Murchison, a prominent psychologist and publisher of the ’50s. Gropius, who came to the U.S. in 1937 to teach at Harvard University, later left to form The Architect’s Collaborative in Cambridge in 1945, when Murchison hired him to build the home. Fast-forward to 2008, when it was bought by Cliff Schorer of Stoughton and looked and felt very much like entering a time capsule: The designer furniture and technology from the 1950s were both

dynamic

SOME OF THE COOLEST (AND HOTTEST) CITIES ON THE PLANET HAVE HARNESSED THEIR NATURAL GEOTHERMAL ENERGY TO RUN HOMES AS SEAMLESSLY AS THEY DO EFFICIENTLY. BUT AS THIS GROUNDBREAKING NEW PROJECT PROVES, YOU DON’T NEED TO LIVE NEAR A GEYSER TO GET IN ON THE ACTION. By Michelle Nicholasen • Photographs by Matt Thorman

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untouched. The oil-powered Carrier steam boiler filled a whole room, and the thermostats ran on pneumatic pressure. He even came across the vase and (dead) flowers that had appeared in an old 1960s photo.

BACK WHEN IT WAS BUILT, Murchison and his wife,

This page, top to bottom: The geothermal heating and cooling system beneath the home; the exterior of the house. Next page, clockwise from top left: The home and grounds are situated on the tip of Provincetown’s West End, originally belonged to psychologist Carl Murchison, and were designed by famed Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius; the airy, clean-lined kitchen; the living room is centered in the middle of the footprint, completely surrounded by an indoor terrace, so you can walk the perimeter of the building while enjoying 270-degree views of the wetlands and harbor.

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Dorothea, had wanted a home for entertaining (they were known for throwing cocktail parties by the pool with luminaries from the art and entertainment worlds)—and that spirit still pervades the space. Inside, the living room is centered in the middle of the footprint, completely surrounded by an indoor terrace, so you can walk the perimeter of the building while enjoying breathtaking 270-degree views of the wetlands and harbor. When he moved in, Schorer found written correspondence between Gropius and the Murchisons hashing out their vision for the home. “There were quite a few grumpy letters written to the architect as the cost of the project increased,” he says. The original budget of $118,000 had soared to $384,000, an astronomical price in 1956. “It would have bought ten mansions in Wellesley at the time,” says Schorer. Later, the last heir of the Murchisons, a daughter-in-law, became a recluse in the house for decades, and it fell into disrepair. When Schorer moved in, he inherited an outrageous monthly utility bill of $6,800, thanks to a group of old air handlers that had run continuously without compression fluid for years. He set out to radically overhaul the entire system. He hired Ed Malloy of New England Renewables, an energy company based in Weymouth and Hyannis, to install a 50-ton geothermal pump room supplying water to Climate Master units for his visionary neighborhood. Thirty-six wells were drilled, with about 20,000 feet of pipe for the underground “loop field.” They also had expert help from a mechanical engineer who custom-designed the system. “This is not your average residential installation,” says Malloy. “It was an ambitious project for an owner who clearly had a vision for a whole neighborhood. There’s not much out there like this.” The closest comparison he can make are several high-rise condo complexes in New York and Ontario that also use geothermal to heat and cool. The more typical residential installation is a single-family home that uses two wells and about 1,500 feet of coupling underground. Such a project might cost $35,000 after rebates, generate four to five tons of energy (one ton is 12,000 BTUs) and pay itself off in five to seven years. Though the system releases no carbon, the system must use electricity to power the compressor, fans, and pump, which on average bumps an electric bill by roughly 30–42 percent. To date, Schorer has lived in the 6,000-square-foot Gropius house, which he is methodically restoring, for three years. The house stays warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and he insists that it maintains a hot water supply without the support of a backup system. His average monthly utility bill is now $275, coming off the grid. He hopes to install a solar array to completely cover the electricity, creating a zero-carbon neighborhood.


GEOTHERMAL ENERGY has been gaining popularity in

residential settings around the country, providing heating and cooling to homes of all sizes. About 50,000 ground-source heat pumps are installed in homes each year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Some analysts believe the annual market for growth is 30 percent. According to the GeoExchange Association, the country’s existing 750,000 systems (including commercial and municipal) are equivalent to taking 971,000 cars off the road. “I often get calls from homeowners who say, ‘My contractor tells me that geothermal doesn’t work in New England,’” says Malloy, whose company will have completed eight to ten new installations by the end of the year. He explains that the sizing of the installation is the key (because mistakes are costly), and it’s critical to treat the entire home as a system. About half of his projects are “retrofits” on existing homes and half new construction. Contrary to popular assumptions, you don’t need to live near hot springs, geysers, or volcanic activity to take advantage of geothermal energy. The earth absorbs solar energy as heat, and it’s ours for the taking. About ten feet below the surface, the earth

maintains a fairly constant temperature—about 50–55 degrees in New England. Believe it or not, this is heat. A geothermal system simply “collects, concentrates, and distributes” it. Pipes or coupling is placed into the earth at depth to absorb the intrinsic heat. The pipes, filled with either well water or water mixed with liquid refrigerant (in cases of closed loops), circulate their contents through a compressor. In the compressor, the well or closed-loop water is concentrated to a higher temperature (much the way an air conditioner or refrigerator works), then moved through an air handler where the heated air is pushed through ducts. In the summer, the process is reversed, with the pipes absorbing the heat from inside the house and bringing it back down into the well to cool. Schorer won’t reveal the cost of to execute his vision, and admits he may not make back his investment immediately. His advice to prospective geothermal customers is to find an installation team that has years of experience and expertise. “The industry isn’t at its prime yet,” he says. “But it’s getting there.” And with the fruition of projects like this one (and numerous, less exotic homes) it seems likely that it will get there that much faster. ❚

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Opportunities that can save homeowners money.

Free Home Energy Assessment, CFL Lightbulbs, and More!

Do you know if your home is energy efficient? The state offers a no-cost home energy assessment that help you identify energy efficiency measures to offset rising energy costs identify places to save money and cut back on your utility bills. They even install free lightbulbs for you!

Discounts and rebates on Energy Star® Lighting & Appliances

Save energy and money with special discount pricing on ENERGY STAR® qualified CFL, LED, and light fixtures offered through state and utility programs. Rebates are available when you purchase ENERGY STAR® qualified appliances including refrigerators and freezers.

$500 to $4,000 for Heating & Cooling Upgrades

$2000 Worth of Insulation

• Boiler replacement program offers incentive up to $4,000 when you replace your existing boiler (>30 years old) • Up to $1,500 in rebates available when you purchase high efficiency heating and water heating equipment • COOL SMART program offers $500 rebate on high-efficiency central air conditioning and mini-split heat pump system

The state currently offers an incentive of 75% up to $2,000 for the installation of approved insulation upgrades

0% interest financing available up to $25,000 for

$25,000 Interest Free Loan HEAT LOAN

• Attic, wal l and basement insulation • High efficiency heating and domestic hot water systems • Solar hot water systems • Energy STAR® Windows

We can help you take part in these programs. Contact 360Chestnut.com/Start-Saving 888-316-8540


PROFILE / BREAKING NEW GROUND The leadership of one man has geothermal energy getting hotter by the minute.

30%

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GET GEOTHERMAL Take control of your heating and cooling costs

info@EnergySmartAlternatives.com (617) 955-0063

In the long and ongoing push to encourage and embrace renewable energy and to conserve our natural resources, one man has led the charge: Carl Orio. And yet for all the years he’s put into designing and promoting geothermal energy systems, his efforts are just beginning to really gain steam, so to speak. “The thinkers and the doers have understood the benefits of geothermal energy for years,” says Orio, who began his involvement with geothermal heat pumps in 1974 as founder and president of WESCORP. “Unfortunately, there’s a perception out there that it’s expensive. But it doesn’t have to be—just the opposite.” According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, these systems save homeowners 30 to 70 percent in heating costs, and 30 to 50 percent in cooling costs, compared with conventional systems. They also save money because they require much less maintenance and are highly reliable. Since he started WESCORP, Orio has manufactured approximately 2,200 geothermal heat pumps and distributed them throughout the northern U.S. and Canada until 1981. He’s also designed the systems and has been involved in more than 14,000 geothermal heat pump installations, both commercial and residential. “The people in the industry who are successful today are so because they know how to work together,” he says, noting the unconventional amount of coordination that goes into orchestrating the work of all the players—from plumbers and carpenters to electricians and well drillers, to name but a few. “The industry is still too fragmented,” Orio explains. Which is where his knack for synergy comes in. “The problems that exist are in the lack of coordination between different systems;

we go in and build packages for dealers who work together. Our hallmark is pulling everything together.” That certainly makes the installation process far less painful for the average consumer. But how close are people to embracing geothermal systems in the first place? A lot closer than they used to be, says Orio. “Twenty years ago, Good Morning America came to us and said they wanted to do a story on geothermal systems. But then they said later that they wouldn’t do it because the American public wouldn’t ever understand that form of energy.” Now, he says, people are starting to get the simplicity of the systems. “A geothermal heat pump is basically just an overgrown refrigerator. It works the same way. If I were to take a glass of water, put it in the fridge, and come back an hour later, it’s now cold. But where did that heat go? It was concentrated and went to that warm coil under the fridge. So in a sense, the fridge is heating the room with the amount of heat it’s taking away from the food inside it. With a geothermal pump, we just take that heat or cool and store it in the ground instead.” Moreover, its efficiency speaks for itself. “For every unit of electricity, I can use that to drive a heat pump that will then make four more. So you get five units of heat for every one unit of heat,” he adds. “That’s synergy. A geothermal heat pump is a practical renewable energy amplifier.” Speaking of synergy, Orio’s own family is not only the present face of his company, but arguably its future, too: of his six children, five of them work at Water Energy with him—as do two of his grandchildren. In fact, his youngest daughter, Christina, is the largest stockholder in the company. “She runs the business,” he chuckles. “And she keeps everyone on an even keel.” ❚


Thoughtforms

Custom Builders

Miller Boehm Architects Eric Roth Photography

Thoughtful construction since 1972 www.thoughtforms-corp.com 978.263.6019


Why choose Geothermal Energy? FACT: Geothermal heating and cooling systems offer the most energy efficient technology with the lowest cost of ownership, and the best path to net zero status.

When you choose a geothermal solution from New England Renewable Energy Systems you can COUNT ON the experience of our team... The professional installation team at New England Renewable proudly install industry leading ClimateMaster heat pumps. The largest manufacturer of water-source heat pumps on the planet!

Geothermal with Confidence

Accurate design is critical to a reliable, top performing geothermal heat pump system. Since 1978 Water Energy has been the trusted design and equipment provider for over 14,000 geothermal systems from Maine to Manhattan.

Contact us at: www.nerenewable.com 855-637-3639

BTW: Behind the Walls - Fall 2013  

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

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