By Elizabeth Taras
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Northampton-based Builders Make a Living on the Cutting Edge
It’s called the “home of the future” by its designer, Bruce Coldham of Coldham & Hartman Architests in Amherst, but it’s being lived in today.
This would be the 2,700-square-foot structure in Hadley that was honored by GreenBuilder magazine with one of its ‘Home of the Year’ awards in 2011, the only house in the Northeast to be so recognized. There are many numbers associated with this dwelling — and that prestigious award — but the most significant is 33, or minus 33, to be more precise.
That’s what the house earned for a Home Energy Rating, or HERS, which means that it produced 33% more energy than it consumed for the previous year, said Jonathan Wright, founder and president of Northampton-based Wright Builders, which constructed the home.
“Through an extremely well-designed plan, a very tight building envelope, and PV [photovoltaic] panels, we went way past zero,” said Wright, referring to the term ‘net zero’ — a benchmark used to describe structures that don’t consume more energy than they create — and putting heavy emphasis on the word ‘way.’
The GreenBuilder award judges were suitably impressed, noting that “this home’s building science is well ahead of the curve.”
That term is one increasingly used in association with projects undertaken by Wright, a nearly 40-year-old company that specializes in residential, commercial, and institutional building, and has a hard-earned reputation for being on the cutting edge of new building processes and techniques, especially with regard to energy consumption and conservation.
“Before these certifications were around, we just considered it smart building,” said Mark Ledwell, Wright’s long-time partner and the company’s co-principal, referring to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and other building benchmarks used today. “We’ve tried to keep abreast of the materials and new technologies and stay on the cutting edge; we want to make buildings that last.”
This philosophy has guided the company through every project in a broad portfolio that includes everything from a host of buildings at Smith College (one of the firm’s many clients in the education sector) to several components of the multi-faceted initiative taking shape on the grounds of the former Northampton State Hospital.