When my wife Hannah and I decided it was time to own a home, I had already learned about green building from classes at our local community college here in Greenfield Massachusetts. I knew I wasn’t going to be satisfied with a used home, where one can expect to spend $50-100,000 or more replacing failing parts, upgrading others, and improving its energy efficiency. Being the over-confident person that I am, I told Hannah, “We can build our own super-insulated home!” even though the only significant construction experience I had was a 2 month timber-framing apprenticeship. Ironically, we did not build a timber frame home.
In December of 2009 we closed on a quarter acre of land in a quiet established neighborhood in Greenfield one mile from downtown. I enrolled in more classes in the renewable energy department at Greenfield Community College (GCC) and set about learning everything about building that I could. With the help of professors Scott Baum and Peter Talmage and others, I spent the first half of 2010 designing our home using Archicad software. It would be a super-insulated, passive solar home: 26’x32′, on slab, 3 bedrooms, two and a half stories, open floor plan, 1500 square feet. We broke ground in August, and a year and half later on January 31st, 2012, we got our occupancy permit–the same day our son was born!
Along the way, we received incredible amounts of help and support from GCC classmates, friends, neighbors and family. I am much indebted to my friend Adam Heintz who took on the role of lead carpenter. I am pretty sure we wouldn’t have a home today if it weren’t for him. With all of their help we achieved what we set out to do. We have been living in our home for a little over a year now and it is warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and sunny and beautiful throughout the year. The home is Tier III Energy Star certified and received a HERS rating of 37. The cost of 12 months of electricity for the home totaled $700; there is no other fuel powering the home.
In all, we spent just over $160,000 on construction; after rebates and incentives the total dropped to $146,000. Including closing costs, we paid about $60,000 for the land. We still have a plywood kitchen counter top, there are no doors on our closets, and, of course, trim needs to be installed around the home, but it has all been worth it. I will get to those projects in due time. The priority now is saving up some money so we can put a garage on top of the foundation we already laid (included in the cost of construction of the home). In the end, there is very little that I would change.
This blog documents the entire process of designing and building our home. There is a timeline and an index to help you navigate the contents. I will continue to post about how the home is performing, so, although we are all but done with construction, do check back once in a while. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or comments or if you would like to stop by for a tour.