UPDATE: We’ve replaced the images of the house in East Falmouth with a construction photo of the Beaton house and two layout drawings of the project.
Matthew Beaton, a builder who last fall was elected to serve as state representative for the 11th Worcester district in Massachusetts, doesn’t seem to have trouble reckoning his Republican Party affiliation with his preference for building green. Evidence of that is his nearly completed home, in Shrewsbury, which has been built to meet the Passivhaus standard.
With its traditional styling, the two-story, 3,000-sq.-ft. structure blends in well among the older homes that populate the neighborhood. And as Beaton noted in a story recently published by the Worcester Telegram, care was taken to disturb as few natural features of the construction site as was practical. Granite slabs became front steps and the red oak trees felled to make room for the house were milled for its hardwood floors.
“It’s the idea, ‘If you have it here, let’s use it here,’ ” Beaton told the Telegram. He added that, while he is now in listen-and-learn mode in the state legislature, he believes there are ways to use state law to promote energy efficiency and environmental stewardship in residential construction. He just needs to forge the right political path to make that happen.
Working toward certification, and building public awareness
His Republican colleagues, for example, tend not to be fans of the stretch-code provision of Massachusetts’ building energy code, which allows municipalities to impose stricter energy efficiency requirements on residential and commercial projects. But Beaton points out that legislative remedies, such as a requirement for energy efficiency ratings on homes offered for sale, don’t necessarily have to be expensive or complicated for builders to follow.
Paul Panish, a principal at Newton-based DEAP Energy Group, whose specialties include Passivhaus consulting and deep energy retrofits, has been advising Beaton in his quest to bring the house to the Passivhaus performance standard. While awareness of the Passivhaus concept does seem to be growing in the U.S., along with the number of certified Passivhaus consultants, Panish notes that builders like Beaton, regardless of their politics, are still a relatively rare breed.
“To get our builders to that level is a major challenge,” he told the Telegram. “It’s difficult to convince someone to do this. It’s a hard sell when energy costs are so low.”
Triple-glazed Canadian windows and an R-126 ceiling
Panish told GBA that the project features fiberglass-casement Accurate Dorwin triple-pane windows, with glazing optimized for solar gain on southern exposures and for insulation value on the remaining exposures.
The slab floor is insulated with recovered expanded polystyrene. The foundation walls are constructed of insulated concrete forms (with EPS) and an interior seal coat of polyurethane spray foam. Foundation-wall interiors feature 6-in. framed stud bays filled with dense-pack cellulose. Above-ground framed walls are insulated with dense-pack cellulose, and also include a rain screen to further protect sheathing, Panish says. Ceilings are insulated with loose blown cellulose throughout.
The thermal resistance of the basement slab floor is R-41.3, the basement walls are R-51.8, the first-floor exterior walls are R-65.7, the second-floor exterior walls are R-58.2, and the ceiling is R-126.2.