Martha's Vineyard Home & Design : South Mountain Company
South Mountain Company
Aquinnah Deep Energy Retrofit
After 30 years of summer rentals on the Vineyard, our clients found the perfect place - a ramshackle 1943 cottage perched high on East Pasture in Aquinnah with a glorious view of the Vineyard Sound and a short hike down to Menemsha Pond, the place where they most like to spend their time. The property could just as well have been a teardown; given its vintage and condition a likely possibility would be that whomever bought it would demolish it and replace it with something grand. Not our clients - they came to us having already decided that they wanted to save the house and renovate - if it made any sense at all, that is.
It turned out the house was of varied vintages, added to and stitched together over time. The 1790 SF of floor area - all on a single level - was arranged in a sprawling fashion with an odd (in some parts troublesome) collection of roofs. It was in need of a major renovation from the ground up. It is always a challenge, in cases like these, to evaluate whether it's worth keeping a house or not. But we decided, together, that it was. Another challenge, these days, with second homes, is how far to go with them in terms of equipping them for off-season use. How do you make them into sensible second homes for today's world? Many homes on the Vineyard are heated all year just so people can use them on occasion, and to bypass the process of draining and shutting down the house and opening in the spring. Many others must be shut down in early November and not re-opened until April 15th due to the danger of freezing pipes. These houses are inaccessible half the year, but at least they don't waste energy all winter. We have been struggling with this issue, with our clients, for a number of years.
When a full renovation is needed, as in this case, it's the one time we can solve that problem, prepare the house for 21st century energy escalation, and reduce its carbon footprint at the same time. We proposed to do a bonafide Deep Energy Retrofit and provide renewable on-site power generation capability, so this house:
1) Is available all year long to whomever wants to use it without energy waste;
2) Is cooler in summer and warmer in winter;
3) Has healthier indoor air quality;
4) Is more durable;
5) Is immune to the risk of skyrocketing energy costs; and
6) Has very low long-term maintenance costs (little or nothing during the first 20+ years).
That's what we did. We believe this is the first completed bonafide Deep Energy Retrofit on the Vineyard, resulting in energy savings of approximately 75%. The existing spaces, with some changes, were nearly sufficient, and the only new space added is a sleeping loft above the kitchen. Everything else got rehabbed and re-arranged, inside and out. The project confronted us with serious challenges, most of them "where the sun don't shine." The place was a wreck, but that was expected.
One-by-one, the issues were tackled and solved. The house was entirely wrapped with insulation: foundation R-18, Walls R-39, Roof R-41. New triple glazed windows were installed. Measured air leakage was reduced by 90%. Air source heat pumps were installed for heating and cooling and a whole house heat recovery system was installed for ventilation. The final touch was a 3.2 Kilowatt solar electric system on the south facing roof, which will provide a large fraction of the remaining energy used. From the start, none of us saw this as a gussied up, fancy renovation â€“ rather we imagined an interior with simple, clean, spare, high quality finishes throughout, which combined nicely with the desired retention of the camp-like feeling. The result is a trouble-free, comfortable, light and airy home where family can come and go as they please, leaving it operational all year long with only minor energy use. And as for the steep increase in fuel prices that others will experience in years to come, this house will be comfortably immune! South Mountain has since finished several other Deep Energy Retrofits.
photos courtesy of South Mountain Company