We have been involved in super efficient home construction since 2005. Our green endeavors started on Turkey Cove in Port Clyde, Maine with the construction of a super efficient carriage house with an indoor solar heated pool annex, designed by a Boston Architectural firm. Our clients and everyone at Black Bros. were impressed with the finished product and its performance. We made a decision then to follow green trends and techniques in an effort to incorporate more of them into our projects.
In 2008 one of our clients bought an ocean front tear down cottage on Spruce Head Island, and wanted to do a “green” rebuild. She did extensive research and came upon a project (in Rockport,ME.) that was featured in Maine Home and Design Magazine. She soon contacted the Architect that designed the project and hired him to design her new cottage. This was another turning point for our company. At this time we threw the standard construction playbook out the window, never to look back, and adopted the Net-Zero principles that make these buildings FAR better than MUBEC code compliant buildings.
In 2010 we also completed another Net Zero architect designed single family home in Rockland dubbed “The Breakwater House” for its stunning views of the Rockland harbor with the Breakwater and Lighthouse as the Focal point. The house has very clean modern lines and finishes, and like the Spruce Head Cottage makes its own heat, a/c, and electricity with seven P.V. solar panels.
Then in 2011 fire struck, and it almost completely destroyed the Knox St. apartments, a former sail loft converted in recent years to 12 apartments. The building owner contacted us to rebuild the building, and we took this opportunity to introduce him to the “net zero” principles that we had perfected over the years. He was immediately sold on the benefits to his tenants and his wallet. This was the birth of the “Sail Lofts”, the first and only (at the time) large-scale multi-family net zero in Maine, and one of only 5-6 nationwide. This building has a 65 panel array to provide heat and electricity for all 9 units.
In 2012 we built a wide range of custom, stick built net zero homes from simple ranch and cape styles to custom design and high level finish ocean front homes. Our square footage costs in all examples were very close to that our standard stick built competitors, our final costs have been averaging only 10% more per square foot than standard construction. This 10% initial cost difference is typically cancelled out after 3-5 years of not paying for heating/cooling/electrical costs. Every year after the payback period, actually makes purchasing one of our homes cheaper than buying a standard home!
In 2013 we became dealers and installers of a line of net zero modular homes. We had hoped that the modular approach would allow more volume at lower cost, however adding in all of the associated set and transport costs the modular has proven to be the same cost (in some cases more expensive) than stick built projects. Also adding in a third-party to the scheduling of the project had some negative impacts on project timing, due to delays in design or the factories schedules some projects actually took longer than stick built versions. Thus we continue to believe stick building is the best option in most cases, however in projects with unique constraints modular still can make sense.
Also in 2013 we undertook several full bent timber frame net zeros as well as a large post and beam working sail loft net zero; with many more residential timber frames completed in the years since. These frames are up to 12×12 pine or hemlock posts that are cut and planed, then mortise and tenon joined by hand and held fast with oak pegs (no nails or bolts). They rely on the joinery for structure, reminiscent of the classic new England barns that still surround us today after a hundred or more years in use. This style of construction is the very best of old methods, surrounded by a super efficient envelope, and topped with high-tech solar panels and heat pumps for a perfect blend of old and new. Custom or stock pre-built frame and curtain wall kits are available for builds outside of our service range, and can be erected by us on your foundation or drop shipped to your site for erection by your local contractor.
There is no better security than knowing that your home is free from the oil, gas, and electric markets FOREVER! This is the epitome of fixed cost living. Add an electric car and lawn mower in your garage and you are completely free of the Oil industry for your daily needs. We have many Net Zeros completed and more just begun, and can arrange for tours upon request.
In short our Net Zero buildings are designed and built to create all the Energy they need, with Photovoltaic solar panels for; all heat, hot water, and normal power usage.
At year-end homeowners have no oil or electric costs at all. With buildings using 40% of the world’s energy and contributing 25% of the world’s carbon emissions, if every new house were built this way, just think of the impact it can have!
“We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”