Maine Houses Raise the Bar
Contributing more power to the grid than it
consumes, the 700 square-foot BrightBuilt Barn in coastal
Rockport, Maine, maintains comfortable indoor temperatures without
the use of fossil fuel. Photo courtesy Bensonwood Homes
Building a net-zero energy house is one thing in a mild climate,
but what about a tough environment like the coast of Maine? In
coastal Rockport, Maine, and the nearby town of Unity, some
architects and builders are showing that it can be done
— and with style.
Barn" in Rockport, in fact, isn't just a net-zero-energy home.
The 700-sqft structure actually is designed to produce more energy
than it uses on an annual basis. The goal is to erase, over time,
the building's original "carbon debt" — to produce more
energy, from clean sources, than was consumed by creating it.
Architects, of Portland, Maine, anchored the project team; Bensonwood Homes, of Walpole, New
Hampshire, fabricated much of the building off site. Site
construction was managed by Rockport's Gibson Design/Build. The
air-tight structure has R-40 walls, roof, and floor, with
triple-glazed fiberglass windows. Translucent, insulating sheet
polycarbonate walls allow extensive daylighting of the space;
artificial lighting is supplied by low-wattage LED lights.
An official press kit for the project provides details about the
building's mechanical and power systems, which meet the house's
stripped-down energy demand using mostly sustainable sources.
Evacuated-tube water heating panels supply hot water and some
supplemental heat; a grid-tied photovoltaic system on the roof
produces more energy in most 24-hour periods than the building will
consume (although the house does draw from the grid at night).
There is no furnace — body warmth and appliance heat keep the
living area warm most of the time. An air-to-air heat exchanger
provides fresh air ventilation, while recapturing the heat from the
exhaust air stream.
The BrightBuilt Barn, however, is just a 700-sqft cabin. While
the design can be adapted for use as a 2-bedroom house, the
Rockport prototype is currently used as an artist's studio. So can
the concept be extended to a full-size family home? Tedd Benson,
Bensonwood's founder, says yes — and he's doing it with a new
portfolio of designs called Unity. The Manchester, New
Hampshire, Union Leader has this report ("Finally,
a home that gives more than it takes," by Melanie
This home is a net-positive energy producer.
It was built by Bensonwood Homes for the president of Unity College
in Unity, Maine. The home's living room is lit by LED lighting
fixtures. Photo courtesy Bensonwood Homes
Besides being a showcase of energy-efficient, sustainable
construction, the Unity houses also implement Bensonwood's
design and construction concept.