The Forecaster Staff Colin Ellis
The Forecaster news story
FALMOUTH — Motorists driving north on U.S. Route 1 have probably noticed the odd-looking house to their left just past Johnson Road.
Work is almost complete at the Viridescent House on the TideSmart Global campus in Falmouth. The demonstration house requires substantially less energy for heat and power than a traditional building and is net positive: it generates more energy than it consumes.
But while the building’s exterior design may leave some scratching their heads, it’s what goes on inside the house that will turn heads.
The building, called the Viridescent House, is the latest addition to the TideSmart Global campus at 380 U.S. Route 1, and it shares the same ambition: sustainability.
TideSmart, an eco-friendly marketing firm, last week received its second Excellence Award for best practices in ecological preservation for businesses from regional waste management company ecomaine, for the Viridescent House.
TideSmart President and CEO Steve Woods, a Yarmouth resident who is also a columnist for The Forecaster, said the house will be “the most energy-efficient building in all of Maine.”
The passive house requires very little energy for heating or cooling the space. The mono-pitched roof is completely covered in solar panels, and the building is oriented towards the sun to maximize solar heat gain.
“There’s no boiler, no furnace, no oil, no propane, no natural gas. It all operates off a heat pump,” Woods said. “… Solar panels will generate more energy than the building itself will use.”
As a result, the house is considered net positive.
“These windows become, in effect, the furnace, because they take the sun’s energy in the winter time and convert it to heat, and in the summer time it will reflect much of the UV rays from the sun,” Woods said.
The builder, Ryan Bilodeau of R&G Bilodeau Carpentry, said the windows are triple-pane and made by Intus Windows, a Lithuanian company, and are able to tilt and turn like doors to allow airflow in the summer.
He said the building has an energy recovery ventilator, which circulates fresh air in the house and doesn’t let cold air in during the winter. The foundation is nearly 2 feet thick, made of alternating layers of concrete and insulation. The walls are also nearly 2 feet thick, compared to 8 inches for a traditional building.
The home is all electric, meaning it is combustion free. Most of the lighting comes from daylight, but LED lights are fixed within the house.
Woods said designs for the house began last September and construction began in October. He said the house is replacing another that used to stand on the property, but was destroyed by a storm last winter.
“We built (the Viridescent House) as a demonstration of what could be done,” Woods said. “We plan on using this as a show room for technology and best practices for clients.”
Woods said he hopes the building will be completed by late April. While he wouldn’t say how much the house cost, he said he’s looking at it as an investment.
“It’s built to last more than 100 years. Most homes are built to last 20 to 30 years,” Woods said. “It will be very cost effective.”
Kimberly Darling, Falmouth’s energy and sustainability coordinator, said this house could serve as an inspiration for other builders.
“I think the big thing about the house is the passive solar aspect, so I think people who are thinking about building from the ground up should think of building (facing) due south (to capture the sun’s energy),” she said.
Town Manager Nathan Poore, an alternate board member at ecomaine, said the value of projects like the Viridescent House is in spreading awareness and showing what’s possible.
“Maybe not specifically the way Steve designed it, but it keeps these things on the minds of others, and will hopefully help others hear about these projects, and continue to give people encouragement,” Poore said.
Woods said the goal of the entire TideSmart campus is to utilize the space “holistically,” not just as a work place but as a place that “adds value to the community.”
“That’s something I’d like to see more of throughout Maine,” he said.