Monday, August 18, 2014

Q+A with Jason Peacock and Steve Konstantino of Maine Green Performance Building Supply

Jason Peacock and Steve Konstantino of Maine Green Performance Building Supply believe the primary goal of efficient building—creating a superior envelope that allows for a downsized heating system and using solar panels—is to ultimately have no utility costs (net zero). They recommend a Green Home Starter Kit, three products to help people create healthy homes that cost less to operate.

Jason Peacock and Steve Konstantino of Maine Green Performance Building Supply
1) ProSLAB
Building on an insulated slab instead of a basement lowers construction costs and saves the expense of running a dehumidifier to mitigate dampness. ProSLAB is a pre-molded foam form that was used in the Souler House in Wiscasset (featured in MH+D September 2013 issue), as well as in GO Logic Passive Houses in Belfast.

Intus Windows, photo courtesy Maine Green Performance Building Supply
2) Intus Windows
Triple-pane windows are often considered too expensive for their payback in energy savings. Intus Windows now offers affordable high-performance triple-pane windows with a glass R-value of R-11.36, as opposed to double-pane’s R-4. Horizon Maine’s energy modeling has shown that Intus triple-pane windows can reduce heating load by 30 to 50 percent.

SIGA Tapes, photo courtesy Maine Green Performance Building Supply
3) SIGA Tapes
There’s a big push in the building science community to make house envelopes tighter in order to achieve higher blower-door ratings. SIGA’s nontoxic acrylic-based tapes have been dominant in Europe for decades. To try them out, Tom Fullam of Near Zero Maine built two houses next to each other. One used caulk and achieved a blower-door result of 1.3 at ACH-50, while the other used SIGA tapes and saw a blower-door result of 0.33 at ACH-50, which brought it well below the Passive House standard of 0.6 or lower.  

Learn more at

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Q+A with architect Stuart Crocker about Crocker Pond House

Bethel architect Stuart Crocker was both behind the 1970s energy crisis and ahead of today’s energy-efficiency trends when he built the Crocker Pond House in 1993. With a nod to A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, which has influenced his design thinking since first published in 1977, he offers some time-tested, inexpensive, and common sense planning elements that anyone can use to build a smarter home.

Crocker Pond House in winter. Photo courtesy Stuart Crocker.
  • Orient buildings on 45th parallel at +/- 12 degrees east of south to maximize solar gain and favor morning sun.
  • Use shading and vegetation on west and north sides to protect from prevailing winds and stronger afternoon sun.
  • Place screen porch on northeast side for coolest location for afternoon and evening use.
Crocker Pond House in summer. Photo courtesy Stuart Crocker.
 Floor Plan
  • Design a long thin house with high windows to allow sun to penetrate deeper into rooms.
  • Place common rooms and bedrooms on south side for solar gain, and service spaces, bathrooms, and hallways on north side.
  • Create higher ceilings in south and lower in north to maximize incoming light and add contrast.
Living room. Photo courtesy Stuart Crocker.
  • Use double-wall construction or dense-pack cellulose and spray foam insulation.
  • Put stairways and chimneys in central location to bring heat upstairs in winter.
  • Make use of stack effect by opening low downstairs windows and upstairs skylights to allow cooler air in and hot air to rise up and out.
  • Place windows on two sides in each room and closer to corners so light reflects off walls for more uniform light.
  • Add overhanging dormers and sunshades to keep out higher summer sun.
  • Use smaller windows on the north side to minimize heat loss and offer picture-frame views.
Loft. Photo courtesy Stuart Crocker.

Learn more at Crocker Pond House.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Q+A with Angela Adams on How to Bring the Outside In

Since founding their company, Angela Adams, in 1998, Angela Adams and Sherwood Hamill have been creating contemporary furniture, rugs, and tapestries that bring the clean lines, shapes, and colors of nature into the home. We asked them how they do it so well.

Dune Area Rug and Propeller Coffee Table.
Photo courtesy Angela Adams.
Q: What’s the key to replicating the natural world in your designs?
A: I see beauty and natural patterns and colors in nature every day. Translating those inspirations into textiles or other designs is a dream job. The key for me is making the time and having the peace of mind to absorb that beauty and get the ideas into my sketchbook. Life can be crazy and distracting and if we do not tune in, we can miss amazing moments in the natural world.

Harbor Area Rug.
Photo courtesy Angela Adams.
Walking to work is a luxury that helps me to be more in synch with migrating birds, the weather, our neighborhood. We spend as much time as possible on the water and in the woods and that’s the best way for me to recalibrate and get back in synch with nature, even when life or work is a bit intense.

Garden Area Rug.
Photo courtesy Angela Adams.
Q: What goals do you have for creating sustainable products?
A: Sherwood and I strive to design textiles and furniture that will last for generations. We also look for locally and responsibly made materials and all our manufacturers sign a code of conduct to be socially and environmentally responsible.

Woodland Area Rug.
Photo courtesy Angela Adams.
Q: What’s new on the horizon?
A: We’re working on a new collection that will launch in the coming months. What’s brewing in our sketchbooks is always exciting to us.

Learn more at

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Q + A with Development Officer Greg Payne of Avesta Housing’s Oak Street Lofts

The first affordable multifamily building in Maine to achieve LEED Platinum certification, Avesta’s Oak Street Lofts were designed and built by CWS Architects and Wright-Ryan Construction, with sustainability consulting by Thornton Tomasetti. The 37 artist-friendly apartments benefit from a solar preheat system for up to 85 percent of the building’s hot water, high-efficiency condensing boilers, energy recovery ventilators that return 76 percent of the energy in the exhaust airstream, a tight thermal envelope, panelized wood-wall framing to minimize waste, and locally-sourced wood.

Photo courtesy Avesta Housing.
Q: What are the energy costs compared to similar Avesta buildings?
A: The apartments are twice as efficient as a standard apartment. In the first year of occupancy, heat and electricity costs per apartment were just $46 a month, compared with $92 a month for a typical apartment. That’s a $20,424 annual savings for the entire building.

Photo courtesy Avesta Housing.
 Q: What did you learn during the LEED certification process?
A: We learned that location matters. LEED gives a lot of points for housing density and proximity to transportation and services. City transit lines make over 250 stops a day within a half mile of the building, and there are numerous restaurants, shops, and public services within walking or biking distance.

Photo courtesy Avesta Housing.
 Q: What features attracted the most notice?
A: We’ve received national attention for demonstrating that energy-efficient design not only lowers operating costs and creates a more durable building but also doesn’t have to significantly increase construction costs.

Q: What’s next?
A: We’d like to explore rooftop gardening or urban green space.

Learn more at Avesta Housing, Thornton Tomasetti, Wright-Ryan, and CWS Architects.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Q+A with Justin McIver of Main Eco Homes

We asked designer and general contractor Justin McIver what he’s learned from building and living in his first net-zero model home in Sweden, Maine.

Photo courtesy Main Eco Homes.
 Q: How do you build a home that uses less energy than it produces?
  • Build only what you need.
  • Create a tight, well-insulated building envelope with controlled ventilation.
  • Site for passive solar, and put living areas in southern exposure and bedrooms in northern.
  • Reduce electric loads with an efficient electric heating system, LED lights, and Energy Star appliances.
  • Include alternative energy sources such as photovoltaic solar.
  • Live a low-impact lifestyle.
Photo courtesy Main Eco Homes.
Q: Which energy-efficient products performed best?
A: We were amazed by the Mitsubishi Mr. Slim mini-split heat pump’s ability to heat a 2,000-square-foot home located on a windy mountain, while using a third of the electricity of a normal baseboard. We were also able to save $10,000 on less expensive R5 triple-glazed windows by adding insulated honeycomb blinds to get to R10.

Photo courtesy Main Eco Homes.
 Q: Anything you’d do differently next time?
A: Instead of the backup baseboard heater I’d like to try connecting an inline electric heater and thermostat to the heat recovery ventilator (HRV). We’ve also found a double wall with recycled cellulose insulation to be a better, cleaner, and less expensive alternative to foam board and spray-foam layers. Lastly, the three floors provide more space than two people need, so the resources for the third floor could be used for a garage instead.

Photo courtesy Main Eco Homes.
Q: What’s next?
A: We’ll find out this year if the 6.8-kilowatt solar array is enough to get us to net zero. Our total energy bill in January was $149 and by May had gone down to $9. We expect to come out even with solar credit over the summer, but if needed, we’ll simply add more panels.

Learn more at Main Eco Homes.