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Greening Greenfield members showcase near zero-net energy home

  • Jan Maher speaks during a presentation Saturday about her home on Forest Avenue in Greenfield, which is near-zero net energy, built by her son-in-law, Robert Swinburne of Bluetime Collaborative, and Chad Mathrani of Vermont Natural Homes. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Chad Mathrani, of Vermont Natural Homes and Robert Swinburne of Bluetime Collaborative talk about Jan Maher's and Doug Selwyn's home on Forest Ave in Greenfield which is a near-zero net energy home Saturday, February 11, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • A room in the home of Jan Maher and Doug Selwyn on Forest Ave in Greenfield which is a near-zero net energy home built by Chad Mathrani of Vermont Natural Homes and Robert Swinburne of Bluetime Collaborative. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Visitors to Jan Maher's and Doug Selwyn's near-zero net energy home on Forest Ave in Greenfield listen to a presentation Saturday, February 11, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • A bathroom in the home of Jan Maher and Doug Selwyn on Forest Ave in Greenfield which is a near-zero net energy home built by Chad Mathrani of Vermont Natural Homes and Robert Swinburne an architect from Bluetime Collaborative. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • One of the heaters in the home of Jan Maher and Doug Selwyn on Forest Ave in Greenfield which is a near-zero net energy home built by Chad Mathrani of Vermont Natural Homes and Robert Swinburne of Bluetime Collaborative. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Staircase in the home of Jan Maher and Doug Selwyn on Forest Avenue in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • The kitchen sink in the home of Jan Maher and Doug Selwyn on Forest Avenue in Greenfield features a stone countertop made by Ashfield Stone in Shelburne Falls. The builders used locally sourced materials whenever possible. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • The front door of the home of Jan Maher and Doug Selwyn on Forest Ave in Greenfield which is a near-zero net energy home built by Chad Mathrani of Vermont Natural Homes and Robert Swinburne of Bluetime Collaborative. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • The windows in the front room of the home of Jan Maher and Doug Selwyn on Forest Ave in Greenfield which is a near-zero net energy home. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • A vent through which fresh air is brought into the home of Jan Maher and Doug Selwyn, on Forest Ave in Greenfield, through a balanced heat recovery ventilation system. Maher's and Selwyn's home is a near-zero net energy home built by Chad Mathrani of Vermont Natural Homes and Robert Swinburne, an architect from Bluetime Collaborative. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Robert Swinburne, an architect from Bluetime Collaborative, speaks to a visitor at the Open House of the near-zero net energy home of Jan Maher and Doug Selwyn on Forest Avenue in Greenfield on Saturday. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • The new home of Jan Maher and Doug Selwyn on Forest Avenue in Greenfield is a near-zero net energy home. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt



Recorder Staff
Saturday, February 11, 2017

GREENFIELD — For as long as they can remember, Doug Selwyn and his wife, Jan Maher, have been living in old, drafty, inefficient houses. So when the two moved to Greenfield to be closer to family, they decided to build a home that was just right for them.

What an “extraordinary thought,” Selwyn said, to have a home “built with us in mind.” Plus with their concerns about climate change, Selwyn and Maher wanted to live in “a place that would contribute to thinking about how to live more efficiently.”

“We really wanted to try to explore what was possible,” Selwyn said.

The result was a 1,200-square-foot home at 38 Forest Avenue that produces only about $900 in energy bills each year. According to builder Chad Mathrani of Vermont Natural Homes, the house is classified in the top performing level of homes in Massachusetts’ ENERGY STAR program, Tier III, meaning it is 45 percent more efficient than the average home built in the prior year.

“We really wanted to be a part of the solution,” Maher said.

As members of Greening Greenfield, a volunteer group that aims to build a more sustainable, energy-conscious community, Maher and Selwyn received a lot of questions from interested residents about their near zero-net energy home. They decided to hold an open house Saturday afternoon, allowing fellow Greening Greenfield members to tour the house and hear a presentation by Mathrani and architect Robert Swinburne of Bluetime Collaborative.

According to Selwyn, the two-bedroom, two-bathroom house was finished in May following nine or 10 months of construction. The project cost $430,000.

The walls consist of two-by-fours, with 12-inch trusses on the exterior filled with cellulose, a type of insulation made from recycled newspaper that requires little energy to produce. The majority of the windows were imported from Ireland, and are three to four times more insulated than standard windows, according to Mathrani, helping to conserve heat on sunny days.

Though Maher and Selwyn said the thermostat is set at 65 degrees, on Friday, a sunny day, the temperature increased to 72 degrees solely from the sun’s heat.

Additionally, all the home’s appliances are ENERGY STAR-certified, and a balanced heat recovery ventilation system pushes stale air out and brings fresh air in without losing heat, Mathrani said. A balanced heat recovery ventilation system is required for a house to be rated Tier III.

Maher noted the builders used locally sourced materials whenever possible, including a countertop from Ashfield.

Fielding questions about cost, Mathrani said architectural design often impacts a home’s building price more than using energy-efficient materials.

“I would say you add between five to 20 percent of the cost, depending on how far you go,” he said.

In the end, Mathrani and Swinburne’s efforts produced a home that Maher said is “a delight to live in,” particularly because of interesting views and contrasting textures, such as barn board on the living room wall and a visible steel girder on the ceiling.

“They’re interesting to look at, they’re interesting to feel,” she said.