Bright-Minded Home-Jan/Feb

BRIGHT MINDED HOME-January/February 2011

by Melissa Coleman

Q+A with Keith Collins

Keith Collins is the owner of the BrightBuilt Barn in Rockport, Maine, a super-insulated, highly weather-tight structure that is “net zero,” meaning it creates more energy than it uses and over time will, in fact, erase its own carbon footprint. Designed by Kaplan Thompson Architects, the barn was featured in MH+D almost two years ago. I checked in with Collins to see how it’s performing.

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.

Q: What’s been the least useful?
A: We got famous for the light skirt around the outside of the building that turns green when the solar PV system is putting energy back into the grid and red when we’re using more energy than we’re generating. The thinking was that if you’re aware of how much energy you’re using you tend to use less. However, the house is so efficient that if the sun is out, we’re green, and if the sun isn’t out, we’re red. We don’t need a light skirt to tell us that, all we need to do is look at the sky.

Q: What’s new on the horizon?
A: We’ve tallied the votes, and Community Partners, Inc., of Biddeford, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that has been providing direct support to individuals with disabilities since 1967, has won the BrightBuilt Retrofit. They will receive $10,000 in seed money and access to up to $90,000 in interest-free loans to retrofit their building with the goal of reducing energy consumption by at least 50 percent. The retrofit should be completed by summer 2011.

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