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Green Building News

Essayists Pen Their Way to a New Home

New York couple will move to Rutland, Vermont, after their essay impressed a contest jury

This 1,500-square-foot house in Rutland, Vermont, has been given to a New York City couple who won a local essay contest. (Photo: Naylor & Breen Builders)

A New York City couple will be moving into a new, high-performance house in Rutland, Vermont, later this year after winning an essay contest sponsored by a Vermont electric utility and a variety of local business and civic groups.

Martin Schreiner and Lucas Hough were among 10 finalists chosen from the 160 essay entries and were later named winners by a selection committee of political, business and community leaders.

The giveaway was a community-wide effort spearheaded by Green Mountain Power, Naylor & Breen Builders, the United Way of Rutland County, NBF Architects, and the City of Rutland. The 1,500-square-foot house was built mostly with donated materials and labor, according to a press release from Green Mountain Power.

Schreiner is a food blogger, marketer and part-time opera singer, Green Mountain Power said in a news release, and Hough is a pathologist’s assistant. The couple got engaged after they were told they’d won the house.

Applicants were asked to write a 500-word essay explaining why they wanted to live in Rutland, and what they would be able to contribute to the community. Rutland, Vermont’s third largest city, has a population of about 16,500 and originally sprang up around marble quarries that were developed in the 19th century.

The couple was effusive in its praise of their adopted hometown. “We consider it our greatest honor to bring to Rutland our very best,” Schreiner said in a statement released by GMP. “We would not have the opportunity to become homeowners otherwise, and we wholeheartedly entered this competition with the understood responsibility of living up to what it means to belong to such an upstanding and estimable community. We feel enormous gratitude for this opportunity.”

Green Mountain Power, which is headquartered in Rutland, announced the GMP Rutland Innovation Home Contest in February. The New England-style farmhouse comes with solar panels, two Tesla Powerwall batteries, and will be heated and cooled with air-source heat pumps.

In addition to picking up the mortgage-free house, the couple gets a local assistant who will help them find jobs and establish business and personal contacts in the community. The other finalists are eligible for a $10,000 incentive if they move to Rutland by next September, GMP said.

Part of an effort to revitalize the community

When the contest was announced, GMP CEO Mary Powell said that nearly 60 businesses and individuals were collaborating on the project to build one of the most energy-efficient homes in the state. “It will be an example of Rutland’s incredible spirit, its ongoing rebirth and the energy and innovation that have fueled the city’s revitalization over the past several years,” she said in a prepared statement.

Tanner Romano, vice president of Naylor & Breen, which managed construction, arranged for dozens of local subcontractors and both local and national vendors who chipped in with labor and materials. “Virtually every contractor and vendor we approached stepped up,” he said in a statement. “They love this community, need workers and loved the idea of the contest as a way to highlight the plentiful jobs available here.”

Lucas Hough, left, and Martin Schreiner are the new owners of the Green Mountain Power Rutland Innovation Home in Rutland, Vermont. (Photo: Green Mountain Power)

GMP Vice President Steve Costello hatched the idea for the essay contest while working on a campaign called Real Rutland, a marketing effort promoting Rutland as a desirable place to live. Many of the scores of partners on the project would like to see more people move to Rutland; they have trouble filling job openings because of an unemployment rate of about 3%.

The new three-bedroom house was designed by NBF architect Edward Clark. It’s built on a lot the city picked up through a tax sale and subsequently sold to GMP for $1. An existing house, described as dilapidated, was torn down.

Some of the details of the house, as provided by Naylor & Breen:

  • Expanded polystyrene (EPS) rigid insulation rated at R-15 around the foundation perimeter and under the slab.
  • 2×6 exterior wall framing insulated with R-23 Rockwool cavity insulation and R-12 Comfortboard 80 on the exterior of the first and second floor walls.
  • Window bucks insulated with R-17.6 EPS.
  • Marvin Integrity Ultrex windows with a maximum U-value of 0.28.
  • Henry Blueskin VP100 water-resistive barrier.
  • 2 inches of foam topped with R-50 of cellulose in the second-floor  ceiling.
  • A mechanical room in the insulated attic.
  • A heat-pump water heater, a SpacePak chiller/condenser, and Daikin ductless minisplits.

The house meets the requirements of the Efficiency Vermont Certified Homes program.




  1. User avater
    Donald L. Grigsby | | #1

    I'm curious as to how the Efficiency Vermont Certified Homes certification correlates to a LEED certification as a mater for comparison?

  2. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #2

    User 7153404,
    First of all, can you tell us your name? (I'm Martin.)

    The Efficiency Vermont Certified Homes program has different criteria and aims from the LEED for Homes program. They programs are not directly comparable.

    Here is a link to the Certified Homes specifications and incentives.

    1. User avater
      Donald L. Grigsby | | #3

      Hi Martin,
      My name is Don Grigsby and I'm a registered PE in Virginia. I'm designing small houses 600sq-ft to 800sq-ft with SIPs and am aiming for Net-Zero performance....or at least Net-Zero ready. Most of my experience has been in heavy-industry; but, I've decided to follow my true interests and am deciding what design/performance criteria minimums which would reach the Net-Zero goal; but, also satisfy a LEED or other recognized certification.
      I appreciate all the info you have given....great site!
      P.S. I've updated my screen name this morning; not sure why it hasn't updated yet.

      1. Trevor Lambert | | #6

        A quirk of the site is that your screen name isn't used for anything. I suspect if you go to your account settings, you'll see your first and last name fields are blank. I think another quirk is that it doesn't ask you to fill those fields in when you first register, which would be why we so often see Martin asking people for their names.

  3. Malcolm Taylor | | #4

    if you are a PE with an interest in high performance buildings. I wouldn't worry about trying to meet the criteria for any certification programme, unless you think there may be some financial benefit. They can sidetrack you into a process of trying to meet some fairly meaningless goals at the expense of the ones you have identified as being important.

  4. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #5

    Malcolm makes a good point. Most green builders stay away from certification programs unless there is a marketing component to the project that justifies the paperwork and expense, or unless the builder is working with a client who craves a label and is willing to pay for it.

    GBA has a great many resources relevant to designing a net-zero building. Have fun with the search feature of our site, and don't forget to click the links in the "Related Articles" sidebars that appear in many articles.

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