Holliston LEED House

This is the story of a family who built the first LEED "green" house in Holliston, Massachusetts. We were trying to spend no more than it would take to build an ordinary house,and maybe even succeeded. The dust is still settling.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Can a regular person build a 'green' home?

This is a blog about a family trying to build "green," while not being members of the super-rich, in Holliston, Massachusetts which lies in Zone 5-6 approximately 24 miles WSW of Boston. The first couple of segments are just catching us up to where we are today.

Erin--mom and graphic designer
Flip--dad and lecture agent
Mook--ten year old girl
Va--six year old girl
Fearless Leader--construction manager/contractor who will run the job
SCPB--South County Post and Beam who is designing and erecting the SIP house

September 2007. Found a great lot--two acres within a short walk of home. Should we buy it? Flip has always wanted a "green" home, built to high energy efficiency and environmental standards. But can we afford it? We hear it takes a lot of "green" to build green.

November 2007. The land is too perfect. Bought it. Start freaking out.

December-January 2008. While real estate market tanks, we prepare our home for sale. Continue freaking out.

February-March 2008. Showed it, sold it. Whew.

April 2008. Moved out of our home of 15 years with two children, a dog, two gerbils and fish into an apartment in the town center while we build. Real estate market still tanking. Start discussions with SCPB on house design. We want to use Structural Insulated Panels for tightest envelope.

May 2008. We find Fearless Leader, who will be our construction manager. Looks like we can use his advice on clearing, grading, foundations, all those things we've never done before. He finds tree man Mr. Matt.

June 2008. Mr. Matt clears the level portion of the lot of white pine. Leaves hardwoods, of which there are...2. We have had to clear approximately 60% of the land due to the fire and wind hazard trees. We are still left with lots of 80' white pine, but now it is along the road and ledge, and above the hillside. It looks like a wasteland, though. If I were a developer, I'd now name the area after what I've destroyed... something like "Whispering Pines."
Still working on the design of the house. Looks like we'll end up with a 2-story box with a 1-story ell. Kit barn for Flip's home karate studio with roof aligned for southern exposure. Still hoping for solar panels.

July 2008. Fearless needs an amended site plan to include the barn, the house, septic, well placement, drainage plan. We go to engineers, who are all on vacation. Delays.

August 2008. Engineering done, goes to board of health. More delays. Flip & Erin meet with SCPB to determine if we can get a LEED home on our budget.

September 3, 2008. SCPB gives us a budget for LEED home that adds almost 20k to our budget in additional drawings and administrative hours. No LEED for us, it seems. Don't think we can afford solar panels, either, but we'll see.

September 4, 2008. Fearless and Erin go to SCPB to discuss current plans and cancel the LEED certification plans. We're going to go straight to engineering while we wait for board of health. On the way home, Fearless hears from the board of health that our site is approved! Much celebrating.
Hurray! In Mass, we can't have financing or building permit until we have potable water, so this has been a big holdup. Breaking through is a Big Step. Flip calls LEED rater, finds out we can do it ourselves. Why not try for it?

September 5, 2008. Well Wizard is booked and drilling will commence 12 Sept. Then, we have to have the water lab tested and we'll be ready to submit when we have the building engineering and foundation plans. Whew. So far, we have spent $13,200 in site preparation expense, and all we have is a cleared lot, driveway access and partial driveway (up the hill to the ridge). We will be paying the well guy around $5,000. Still haven't installed a septic field, but now that we have approved plans can get pricing on that. Not including septic, we'll probably spend around $25,000 in just site work (clearing, grading, driveway, well, etc.). And we don't even have a foundation yet.


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