Letter from the Editor-March
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR-March 2011
by Rebecca Falzano
Photography Jarrod McCabe
The night I finished writing this month’s cover story about the super energy-efficient prototype for Belfast’s new Cohousing and Ecovillage (Passive Impressive, page 42) was one of the coldest nights on record in Maine. I sat bundled in blankets in front of the fireplace in an old house, trying to evade the trespassing January draft. The scene was all too ironic: Here I was writing about a home whose heat load is so efficient that in the winter it takes only the equivalent of a hair dryer to maintain a comfortable room temperature, while two heat sources were cranking away in earnest in the background.
As enticing as the prototype’s energy efficiency is (the homeowners would see no energy bill for decades), so too is the house’s aesthetic—not at all sacrificed for the sake of green design. The basic, compact floor plan is born out of function, with a straightforward palette of materials and a just-as-straightforward price tag ($150 per square foot). It’s a design that is so deceptively simple, and yet loaded with a generous amount of behind-the-curtain thoughtfulness and deliberation. I left asking design/build team Alan Gibson and Matt O’Malia of GO Logic “How do I get one?”
Sustainability and efficiency have been part of the design conversation for years now, but architects across Maine seem to be talking more in terms of “smart design” than “green design” these days. We are hearing it more and more lately: That eco-friendly doesn’t have to be a recipe for visual sacrifice. That sustainability is more attainable and accessible than we think. And that, sometimes, the most energy-efficient design elements aren’t the expensive, high-tech ones but the ones that rely on basic logic—turn a house toward the sun and swaddle it tightly, for example. Our second feature this month follows suit with its own set of sustainable credentials as a LEED Gold–certified passive-solar home designed by Kaplan Thompson Architects (Falmouth Flyer, page 50). And in this month’s AIA Design Theory (How Green Can You Go?, page 32), architect Chris Briley of Green Design Studio explains how he helps clients sort through the seemingly endless array of green products, systems, building standards, and construction techniques to find out what shade of green would work best for them.
At this winter’s end, we hope this issue brings you some