Posts Tagged ‘green building’

Main Eco Homes Bring Traditional Look to Net Zero Buildings

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Maine Eco Homes Net Zero Home Sweden Maine

“Net zero is the way we all need to go” says Justin McIver, summing up the building philosophy and value proposition of his Main Eco Homes (MEH).

30-year-old McIver is a Fryeburg-native and the son of an electrician, so trades are a way of life for him and his family. But after studying environmental issues as part of his business curriculum at Colby Sawyer College in New London, NH, McIver realized that energy efficiency would be critical to the future of the building trade – and the future of the planet.

“There’s just no room for the status quo anymore,” McIver says, “Conventional building saves a little bit of money in the short-term, but long-term is a terrible proposition for both the homeowner and the environment. Our homes save you money from day one. The average Maine home spends $300 a month on heat and electricity, ours costs $0. Rolled into a mortgage, going net zero is a cash flow positive investment.”

Traditional Look, Net Zero Performance

For McIver’s MEH, it was important that premium performance not affect building aesthetics. His first custom model home, built in Sweden, is a 2,000 sq. ft. traditional craftsman building with views of Mt. Washington. “We aimed to create a classic American look, not a space age modern look,” says McIver, “Apart from the solar panels on the roof there’s not much about it that draws attention to itself.”

And solar panels it has – the 39 solar panels on the roof of the MEH model resale home will produce roughly 12,000 kWh each year, enough to power all of the ‘plug’ loads in the home as well as a mini-split air source heat pump heating system. The home features a suite of Energy Star appliances including range, dryer, and refrigerator. An efficient electric water tank will provide hot water for dishes, laundry, showers, etc.

A Collaborative Proces

ReVision frequently works with builders like McIver, as well as architects, engineers, and other building professionals throughout the early stages of a project to ensure that goals for solar integration can be achieved.

For example, a home’s overall orientation is critical, and so is ensuring there is adequate south-facing roofspace to accommodate solar panels. ReVision engineers – such as Geoff Sparrow, who worked closely with McIver – can model the expected performance of a solar array and compare it to the home’s expected energy consumption using advanced software such as PolySun. By integrating discussions of solar early in the process, the solar project can be installed more economically and effectively.

For his part, McIver is more than satisfied. “Geoff was a great resource who went above and beyond to ensure we got the information we needed and that everything moved along smoothly. So far the solar has been performing trouble-free and meeting or exceeding our expectations. We look forward to doing more.”

Facing a Warmer Future

On a walkthrough of the home with a group of Fryeburg high school students, McIver brought global issues down to the local. Quoted in the Conway Daily Sun, he says:

Due to climate change, [more extreme storms] are happening now. If you think it doesn’t impact you, it does. And the changes that your generation makes will make a difference. It’s incumbent on all of us to do the little things, too. When you don’t turn off the lights when you leave a room, for instance, not only does it cost more money, it also puts more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere … [But] it’s becoming more practical to build [net zero] homes… By building these, I am reducing carbon emissions and fossil fuels that harm our environment and which contribute to greenhouse gases. My mission is to become energy independent of fossil fuels.

Driven by an environmental as well as an economic mission, McIver is ambitious. His next project is to build a complete energy efficient community in Raymond, and future plans include proposing a solar farm to the town of Bridgton.

“The time for doing this is now,” McIver says, “When you look at the numbers, long-term, it just makes sense. When you look at the environment… you realize that it’s the way we have to go. I’ve read that 70% of people buy for efficiency and 30% buy for the environment. Now, you can do both. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Learn more about the net-zero home at Maine Eco Homes. The home is currently listed with RE/MAX at the Lake Real Estate of Bridgton, and tours are offered on an ongoing basis. You can also see a tour that was recorded online at:

Solar Road Tour Episode 3 – Net Zero Apartment Building in Portland, Maine

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Thought you couldn’t build an apartment building in Maine without depending on fossil fuels? Think again! Paul Ledman proves with his new 3-unit dwelling in Portland that exceptional insulation and smart mechanical systems can work to make a home that requires no source of energy other than the sun… even in Maine! Even with tenants!

We’re proud to have this exceptional building in our backyard and thank Paul for taking the time to talk to us about this exciting project.

Net Zero Apartment Building in Portland, Maine Net Zero Apartment Building in Portland, Maine

Melissa Coleman Launches the “Bright Minded Home”

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Melissa Coleman, a freelance writer who lives in the Platinum LEED-rated Cranberry Ridge Home, has launched a new blog called the Bright Minded Home.  The blog, which has a companion column in Maine Home + Design magazine, offers an investigation into the art of creating healthy, beautiful, and energy efficient homes.

For a taste of what the  blog and column will feature, here’s a selection of an interview between Melissa and Keith Collins, the owner of the BrightBuilt Barn in Rockport, Maine:

Q: What’s been the most successful component of the building?
A: Some people imagine you need a PhD to live in an energy-efficient, solar home. In fact, we’ve had zero problems with the solar photovoltaic (PV) and thermal hot water systems, and are putting about 5,000 kilowatt hours of solar electricity back into the grid each year.

More at:

About Cranberry Ridge

Freeport, Maine - Combo Solar Hot Water and Solar Power
Photo Courtesy / ©

We love a green building column being written by someone living in a green building – talk about an inside perspective!

Cranberry Ridge was the fourth home in the country to receive Platinum LEED designation and the first in the Northeast. Located near Wolfe’s Neck State Park in Freeport, Maine, it features solar PV and thermal, radiant heat flooring and passive solar siting.

ReVision installed the 2.4kw grid-tied solar electric system, which saves the home over $500 worth of electric bills each year, and a 90 tube Apricus solar hot water system, which produces over 24,000,000 BTUs each year (offsetting over 3 tons of C02 emissions).

2009 statistics of the home’s performance are available at:

If you like Melissa’s writing, be sure to keep a look out for her upcoming memoir about growing up during the 1970s back-to-the-land movement, This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone.  It will be published by HarperCollins on April 12, 2011.

Net-Zero Modulars Going Mainstream

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010
Falmouth, Maine - Solar Hot Water
This home in Falmouth served as a model for what a modular green home might look like. In addition to extreme energy efficiency, it uses solar hot water collectors for domestic hot water and supplemental radiant heating.

At ReVision we’ve had the honor to work on several pilot projects for net-zero homes – projects like the Bright Built Barn and GO Home which have proven to produce more energy than they use.

This leading edge building science is starting to move from the realm of demonstration to reality, marked yesterday in the Portland Press Herald’s coverage of new green modular homes developed by Kaplan Thompson Architects and Keiser Homes.

Tux Turkel writes:

To achieve net-zero performance, Keiser looked at a site-built home Kaplan had recently designed in Falmouth. That home, which is 1,680 square feet and has three bedrooms and 2½ bathrooms, served as a prototype for the line. It’s being offered as the Great Diamond model, with a starting price of $235,000.

Each model combines energy efficiency with features that promote healthy indoor living, such as low-emission paint and heat recovery ventilation for fresh air exchange. South-facing windows help warm the homes in winter; roof overhangs block hot sunlight in summer.

Each home will be plumbed and wired for solar. For buyers who choose the option, solar hot water, solar electric systems or both will be installed.

Choosing both systems could add another $40,000 or so, although tax credits could lower the cost. The systems are designed to soak up enough energy over the course of a year to offset electric bills. The extra power generated by the solar electric panels in the summer and fed back into the grid is intended to make up utility costs in winter — resulting in net-zero energy consumption.

What makes the homes remarkable is that they are not being marketed at the top-tier of development, but towards middle class families. “We think this is the direction of the future,” said Josh Saunders, Keiser’s sales manager. “Even more than sustainable, energy efficient is what people are going to gravitate to. That’s where the payback is.”

As we’ve mentioned before, investing in a solar electric system allows you to pre buy electricity for less than today’s grid rates. Add to that a life of minimal utility bills, and net zero starts to mean as much economic sense as it does environmental sense.

More info at Kaplan Thompson’s website.