A Nobel Prize-winning environmen by ldd0229


									                                                                             As seen in

good day
 sunshine                                A Nobel Prize-winning environmental
                                            scientist and his eco-minded wife
                                            create a cutting-edge solar house
                                                                Written by Tresca   WeinsTein
                                                                 PhotograPhy by KiT   LaTham

84   Berkshire Living home+garden 2008
                           hat if a home were a miniature ecosystem, a laboratory,
                          a teaching tool, and a vision for the future—all without
                         sacrificing a scintilla of comfort or aesthetics?
     William and Margot Moomaw’s solar-pow-                Passionate, dedicated, and immensely        (AHEC) program, she became an indepen-            Bruce Coldham. “They haven’t chosen anything on
     ered house in Williamstown, Massachusetts,        knowledgeable, the Moomaws are ideally          dent consultant in 1997. The author of            the outside that looks different from what you’re
     completed in 2007, is all that—so state-          suited for a project of this scope. For the     the Kendall Foundation’s report on “green”        used to seeing. They wanted to design a house that
     of-the-art that it’s among some two-dozen         past fifteen years, Bill Moomaw has served      schools, Margot is now a consultant to            people wouldn’t dismiss as being quirky or irrel-
     homes nationwide where environmental              as a member of the Intergovernmental Panel      homeowners and builders. In green design,         evant, but that would make a sufficient difference
     systems are being monitored by the National       on Climate Change, which shared the 2007        she notes, it’s important to evaluate tradeoffs   so that people could see it was a step in the right
     Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)                Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. His experi-     and performance, to track evolving tech-          direction.”
     of the U.S. Department of Energy as part          ence convinced him that there are hundreds      nologies and their cost-benefits, and to             In the design phase, the Moomaws considered
     of a study to help develop net-zero-energy        of ways to achieve energy efficiency in a       understand that green building requires           every detail of the house’s location, construction,
     homes—houses that produce as much en-             private home. As a professor of international   more than just meeting the U.S. Building          materials, and infrastructure. Before siting, they
     ergy as they consume—by the year 2020.            environmental policy at Tufts University,       Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy &            consulted a U.S. Geological Survey topographical
         In their 2,200-square-foot home, the          a former Williams College chemistry pro-        Environmental Design) checklist.                  map and used a computer program that tracks the
     Moomaws’ goal was to create a building            fessor and director of Williams’ Center            “What Bill and Margot brought to the           amount and angle of the sun every hour of the day,
     with minimal negative impact on its build-        for Environmental Studies, and former           table was an informed set of values about         every day of the year, in any given place on earth.
     ers and residents, its fourteen-acre site, the    head of the Climate Program at the World        what kind of building they wanted to create       “We wanted the building to have essentially eight
     energy grid, and the world at large. With         Resources Institute in Washington, D.C.,        and pass on to society,” says environmental       hours of sun, four hours on either side of noon,
     myriad creative solutions, they developed         Bill Moomaw knows as much as just about         design consultant Marc Rosenbaum. “We             even in the wintertime,” Coldham explains. Energy
     a house that is beautiful, comfortable, and       anyone on the planet about how to protect       need these kinds of people—people who             consumption was carefully calculated, down to the
     meets ambitious goals for energy efficiency.      and preserve its riches.                        care enough to put in the effort.”                placement, type, and wattage of every light bulb.
     “We wanted to show it could be done and               Margot Moomaw, a graduate of the               At first glance, you’d never guess that        The first structure built on the property was a stor-
     [that] people could do all or any part of this.   Harvard School of Public Health, has            the future of green architecture is contained
     Even if they only did a small part of what we     worked in the healthcare field for more than    within this elegant, traditional building,        Traditional New England style meets cutting-edge technology.
     did here, they would be more comfortable,         twenty-five years. The former vice president    which fits seamlessly into its rural New          Clockwise from top: South façade; north entry and courtyard; solar
                                                                                                                                                         panels; solar-panel-fitted shed; guest quarters at left are linked to
     be in a healthier house, and have a smaller       of Berkshire Medical Center and director of     England surroundings. “The house itself           the main house by a screened connector; the formal entry on the
     environmental impact,” Bill says.                 the Berkshire Area Health Education Center      looks relatively conventional,” says architect    home’s north façade, with guest quarters at right.

86   Berkshire Living home+garden 2008
Left: South-facing dining area is tucked between the
living room and kitchen. Below: open-plan kitchen.
Middle: The living room’s antique, openwork Chinese
screen allows the flow of air and light. opposite,
clockwise from top left: Living room vignette; kitchen
compost bin set into the countertop; kitchen with its
sun-loving south window.

age shed fitted with solar panels to gener-              northwest winds. The house’s north side          and energy produced by the panels; the            the kitchen and baths (which have low-flow
ate energy for the builders’ power tools.                contains its “front door” and a corridor; the    charted lines follow each other precisely,        toilets and showerheads). Pipes are made of
Whenever possible, materials were sourced                area leading from a side entry to the master     showing parallel dips when a cloud passes         bendable plastic PEX instead of copper, so
from suppliers within five hundred miles of              suite is lined with small windows and bor-       over the sun. On a sunny day, the house           water has fewer right angles to navigate, al-
Williamstown, to reduce energy consumed                  rows south light through an antique Chinese      generates about five thousand watts of            lowing the use of a water pump about half
in shipping.                                             screen in the living room and the staircase’s    power; on a rainy day, nearly zero. Aiming        the conventional size. When the bathroom
    Looking ahead to their later years, the              open balustrade. “We took lessons from the       to produce more energy than they need, the        showers are running, heat from draining wa-
Moomaws incorporated wide doors, baths                   vernacular architecture of New England,”         Moomaws buy power from the grid on gray           ter warms cold water in the incoming pipe
with hand-held showers and grab bars, stair              says Margot. “These are things people knew       days and sell energy the house generates on       so less water needs to be heated in the first
railings, and a table-height counter/eating              and which, when central heat and artificial      sunny days. They also pay for renewably           place.
area in the kitchen. And, with health in                 light came along, they started to ignore.”       generated electricity from wind and landfill          Throughout the house, energy-efficient
mind, they chose nontoxic, sustainable, and              Bill estimates that the house’s siting alone     gas so “what we’re buying is almost as clean      appliances and electronics minimize elec-
durable building materials, rather than prod-            produces a twenty to thirty percent energy       as what we’re generating,” Bill says.             tricity use. These include a Bosch cooktop
ucts such as synthetic carpet or particleboard           savings annually.                                    Water and heating systems are equally         and convection oven, a KitchenAid Energy
and fiberglass containing formaldehyde.                      This commonsense approach combines           forward-looking. An Econar ground-source          Star refrigerator, an ASKO dishwasher and
    Like the home’s twelve-inch walls—twice              with leading-edge systems. Sixty-six solar       heat pump taps into the stored energy of the      washing machine, and a 32-inch Sony LCD
the conventional thickness—the Moomaws’                  panels on south roof slopes of the house         earth, which remains at a relatively constant     high-definition TV that draws less than one-
approach to designing an energy-efficient,               and shed (a 7.3-kilowatt array) soak up the      temperature (fifty to fifty-five degrees) year-   tenth of a watt when turned off. (Even when
eco-conscious residence was multilayered.                sun. In the basement—where wires from            round. The pump carries water into the house      turned off, many electronics still plugged in
The house, with a one-room guesthouse on                 the house’s ground-source heat pump, water       through six 265-foot closed loops, heats it       continue to consume power.) “When you
its west end, follows an east-west axis and              pump, light fixtures, and wall sockets lead to   another twenty to twenty-five degrees, and        have to live within the energy you produce,
faces south-southwest. Large, south-facing               gauges transmitting data to NREL—current         circulates it through radiant heating pipes. It   you pay a lot of attention to the wattage
windows offer maximum passive solar ben-                 produced by the solar cells is converted into    also heats water from the well, located uphill    you’re using,” Margot says. The key, she says,
efit. A nearby rise in the landscape blocks              electricity. A graph on a wall tracks sunshine   from the house, to 120 degrees for use in         is to beware of “feature creep”—usually the

                                                                                                                                                                           2008 Berkshire Living home+garden   89
more features, the more energy an appliance                  decade—probably even more quickly, con-           glass, and Margot’s color choices mirror the      dirt and kept heavy equipment away from a
consumes. As a whole, the house consumes                     sidering that the prices of oil and of natural    hues of a Berkshire autumn. Recycling bins        grove of old oak trees. Disturbed growth was
one-third the electricity required for a con-                gas are at record levels, Margot notes. The       are located in the pantry, and the kitchen,       replaced with native plants. As for the fauna,
ventional home of the same size.                             solar panels—which cost about the same as         with its efficient sink-refrigerator-stove work   “Most of the original inhabitants seem to ac-
    “In many ways, solar panels and super ef-                a masonry fireplace, Bill says—will pay back      triangle, features a stainless-steel bucket       cept us as neighbors,” Bill says. “The otter is
ficiency are an aesthetic and values decision,”              in perhaps twenty to twenty-five years at         set into the granite-topped island near the       still in the pond, the great blue heron visits    GREEn IS In THE DETAILS
Margot says. Nonetheless, the Moomaws                        current energy prices, “but it is likely that     sink for non-protein organic waste, cof-          the pond every day in the summer, the fox         WALLS: Exterior walls are twelve inches thick, twice the typical thick-
estimate that design and building costs                      current energy prices will look cheap over        fee grounds, eggshells, and the like, which       comes across the meadow.” On this small,          ness, and are filled with a cellulose insulation made from recycled
ended up about $250 per square foot and                      the coming decades and that the payback           is eventually transferred to an outdoor bin       sustainable piece of the planet, all inhabit-     newspaper. Interior walls are painted primarily in a soft white to maxi-
that energy efficiency measures increased                    will be much faster,” Margot says.                and reused as nutrient-rich compost. In           ants live in harmony. h+g                         mize reflected light from the sun and from low-watt lamps mounted
their costs a mere ten percent above a con-                      The house relates to the larger ecology       landscaping, native rock from the property                                                          on ceilings and floors.
ventional home of the same size—a modest                     not only in its energy efficiency, but also       served as raw material for a winding patch-                                                         HEATInG: Radiant heat, generated by warm water passing in loops
price to pay for an architect-designed proj-                 through its aesthetic sensibility, with natural   work of grey, ochre, and rust stonewalls and                                                        beneath the main floor, keeps feet toasty. Powered by electricity, the
ect. While the solar panels and excavation                   materials, landscape-inspired color palette,      pavers, and the south lawn was seeded with                                                          system requires no fossil fuels. Because the house contains no furnace
for the ground source loops required a sig-                  and views of meadow, pond, and mountain.          hardy grasses requiring minimal upkeep.                                                             or radiators, homeowner’s insurance costs less.
nificant monetary outlay, energy-efficiency                  The living room’s built-in cabinet was craft-         To protect flora and fauna during con-
measures, such as insulation, windows, and                   ed of cherry wood harvested on the prop-          struction, builders erected a silt fence                                                            VEnTILATIon: To keep air quality healthy, a Lifebreath heat recovery
                                                                                                                                                                 Tresca Weinstein is a frequent contributor to
doors, will pay for themselves within the                    erty, kitchen cupboards are of maple and          around the pond to block runoff and loose                                                           ventilation (HRV) system exhausts air from the bathrooms and brings
                                                                                                                                                                 Berkshire Living.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   in air from outside, extracting heat from outgoing air to heat incoming
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   air. The house has no air conditioning; it stays cool because it’s so well
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   WInDoWS AnD DooRS: Thermotech doors and windows lock in
                                                                                                                                                                 [thegoods]                                        three places to create a tighter seal. Windows are triple-paned, coated
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   with a sealant that prevents heat loss, and framed in fiberglass, which
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   expands and contracts at the same rate as glass, providing a tight
                                                                                                                                                                 Berkshire Photovoltaic Services
                                                                                                                                                                 46 Howland ave.                                   edge. In the living room, rather than access the deck through sliding
                                                                                                                                                                 adams, Mass.                                      doors, which facilitate heat loss, the Moomaws chose a triptych of tall
                                                                                                                                                                 413.743.0152                                      windows; they access the deck via a conventional door nearby.
Right: Bill Moomaw’s desk tucks into a west-facing gable. Below, left: The living
room’s built-ins are made from cherrywood harvested on the property. Below,                                                                                                                                        DECk: The deck along the home’s south side is built of Trex, a durable
                                                                                                                                                                 Coldham & Hartman Architects
right: The stair’s terra cotta hue worked well in low-energy fluorescent lighting.                                                                               155 Pine St.                                      wood and recycled plastic composite, which offers great traction and
opposite, top to bottom: Hot and cold water pipes snake along the basement                                                                                       amherst, Mass.                                    never needs painting.
ceiling; a columned wall admits light into the staircase; behind an Eames lounge                                                                                 413.549.3616
chair and ottoman, Ikea cabinets house secondhand file cabinets.                                                                                                 www.coldhamandhartman.com                         SIDInG: Clapboards are made from James Hardie fiber cement siding
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   that resists warping, cracking, and rotting. Wood siding on the shed
                                                                                                                                                                 Haskins Construction
                                                                                                                                                                 694 Henderson Rd.                                 and guesthouse was sourced from a managed forest cooperative in
                                                                                                                                                                 Williamstown, Mass.                               Charlemont, Massachusetts.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Roof: The leak- and rot-proof standing-seam metal roof easily accom-
                                                                                                                                                                 John Lapedota Woodworking
                                                                                                                                                                 121 Union St.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   modates clip-on solar panels.
                                                                                                                                                                 North adams, Mass.                                fLooRS: Refinished red oak flooring, from a managed forest in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Quebec, finished without harmful solvents that outgas into the air, is
                                                                                                                                                                 Marc Rosenbaum,                                   laid atop wood-composite “warmboard” flooring over the radiant heat-
                                                                                                                                                                 environmental design
                                                                                                                                                                 consultant                                        ing pipes.
                                                                                                                                                                 Meriden, N.H.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   LIGHTInG: Task lighting is used throughout the home; dimmer switch-
                                                                                                                                                                 www.energysmiths.com                              es help curtail energy use; and, in the master bath, three compact five-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   watt fluorescent lights are mounted on the mirror, reflecting and am-
                                                                                                                                                                 Margot Moomaw,
                                                                                                                                                                 “green” consultant                                plifying the light. Energy-efficient bulbs in standard lighting fixtures cut
                                                                                                                                                                 781.643.0328                                      electricity use between 40 and 75 percent per fixture. Low-watt, long-
                                                                                                                                                                 Mount Greylock Greenhouses                        life, low-mercury Phillips ‘green’ fluorescent bulbs—recessed into the
                                                                                                                                                                 and Landscaping                                   ceiling over kitchen cabinets, where they provide indirect light reflected
                                                                                                                                                                 281 West Mountain Rd.                             off the ceiling, and mounted behind valances that direct light onto the
                                                                                                                                                                 adams, Mass.
                                                                                                                                                                 413.743.2064                                      wall—use one-fourth the electricity required by incandescent bulbs.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Xenon pendant lights hang over the dining table and kitchen eating
                                                                                                                                                                 Petersen Engineering
                                                                                                                                                                 6 Market Square                                   area, and wall sconces with translucent diffusers reduce glare.
                                                                                                                                                                 Portsmouth, N.H.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   PAInT: Colors echo the landscape: blues and whites, moss-green,
                                                                                                                                                                 www.petersenengineering.com                       beige, and curry-yellow coat the kitchen’s accent walls, resembling the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   color of the property’s beech trees in the fall. Each shade was tested in
                                                                                                                                                                 Walter Cudnohufsky,
                                                                                                                                                                 landscape architect                               the type of light used in that space, since colors read differently under
                                                                                                                                                                 455 Bug Hill Rd.                                  fluorescent lights than under halogen or Xenon lights. For instance,
                                                                                                                                                                 ashfield, Mass.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   because of the staircase’s fluorescent fixture, a rich terra cotta worked
                                                                                                                                                                 www.wcala.com                                     better than a vibrant red.—TW

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2008 Berkshire Living home+garden   91

To top