Boston home turned into a green building

Boston home turned into a green building

by Kristy Esch

It's hard to believe a house once infested with mice and damaged by water could become someone's dream home - let alone the first in Massachusetts and the eighth in the country to receive the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED for Homes platinum certification. Yet that's exactly what happened last summer after geologist Jeffrey Rogers gave up his environmental consulting career in Acton and moved to Cape Cod to run his family's Conwell ACE Hardware and Lumber in Provincetown.

Rogers put in countless hours of research to make sure the dilapidated 1980s home in neighboring Truro would be the greenest it could be. "It's a matter of looking through all the different ways a house is constructed, looking at the materials and picking the ones you can use to get the most LEED points," says Rogers, who served as general contractor and started New England Green Build, a green building supply store. "You have to view the house as a system of parts as opposed to a box you put things in."

It was this mindset that helped Rogers rack up 93 of a possible 136 points to earn the coveted LEED platinum designation, says Mark Price, who works for the third-party non-profit Conservations Services Group that certified Rogers home last August. "To go the extra mile to get the platinum certification, you must be willing to turn over every rock, and Jeff was willing to do that," Price says. "His knowledge and passion contributed to this home's success."

Rogers' home is among 35 that have earned the LEED for Homes certification in Massachusetts since the two-year pilot began in 2005. The program is currently the only green rating system in the state, but Rogers believes it's also the best available anywhere, and he didn't hesitate to sink $425,000 into the gut-rehab of his 2,100-square-foot house. The many green features include a geothermal heat pump, solar electric photovatics for electricity, a solar thermal system, tempered windows and super insulation - all which helped to make it a home that produces almost as much energy as it uses."I had to pay for the systems up front, but my month-to-month bills are minimal," Rogers says. "My solar panels might have added $50 extra to my monthly mortgage payment, but I had no energy bills [for gas or electric] during summer months and made surplus energy." In December, with only three days of sun, Rogers says his utility bills for gas and electric totaled $80. He's thinking about adding a wind turbine, which would ensure his house uses zero energy - or even produces a surplus - all year long.

While acknowledging that the up-front costs were substantial, Rogers insists he had a lot of help. "I had tens of thousands of dollars in rebates, incentives and tax credits," he says. "In addition, most of my expenses had short payback periods of three to eight years, and the maintenance is lower. I'll eventually get all my money back, and probably more, in 10 years."

Besides being energy and cost efficient, both Rogers and his wife, Stacy, say this is the most comfortable house they've ever lived in. Their two sons Kaden, 5, and Aidric, 2. like it, too. "My oldest knows the house is special, but he's really not old enough to understand how special it really is," Rogers says.

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