Their Cape Cod Dwelling Isn’t Small, however Its Carbon Footprint Is


When Michael and Jennifer Monteiro purchased a home on Cape Cod, they needed greater than only a trip dwelling close to the seaside in Massachusetts: They have been decided to personal one thing that mirrored cutting-edge sustainability.

Since promoting the software program firm he co-founded, Buildium, in 2019, Mr. Monteiro, 51, has used his funding firm, Mpactful Ventures, to deal with initiatives focusing on local weather change. And his own residence supplied an apparent probability to set an instance.

As he put it, “Sustainable constructing is among the key options to the local weather downside.”

He and Ms. Monteiro, 47, stay in Hingham, Mass., outdoors Boston, with their kids, Maddy, 14, and Jack, 12. After shopping for a second dwelling as an escape in 2019 — a Nineteen Eighties oceanfront home within the city of Harwich for $2.6 million — Mr. Monteiro started eager about how he may renovate to make it extra power environment friendly.

As he dug in, he uncovered some issues: The home had been poorly constructed, which made him ponder whether it was value investing in upgrades, and though it wasn’t in a flood zone, he frightened about how rising sea ranges would possibly have an effect on it sooner or later.

“We needed a home that will be round for 100 years or extra,” Mr. Monteiro mentioned. “However that’s daunting when you concentrate on how the world is altering within the context of local weather change.”

The answer, the couple determined, was to demolish the home and begin recent.

Demolition, nonetheless, comes with its personal environmental issues. So that they started by bringing in GreenGoat, a nonprofit building-material reuse group to salvage every little thing value maintaining, and recycled as a lot of the remaining as attainable. They usually employed Estes Twombly & Titrington Architects to design a brand new construction: a contemporary, sustainable home disguised as a standard shingled cottage.

“Michael talked about probably utilizing passive-house design,” mentioned Adam Titrington, a companion on the agency. “However we actually didn’t understand how deep that curiosity would finally change into.”

As they started designing, Mr. Monteiro questioned practically each standard constructing materials and methodology proposed, hoping to cut back related greenhouse gasoline emissions whereas additionally making decisions that have been good for human well being.

Many new homes are tightly insulated with spray foam for power effectivity, however Mr. Monteiro was cautious of the petroleum-based chemical compounds in these merchandise. So when Kiko Thébaud, a pal who’s an architect, instructed him about hemp-based insulation utilized in France, he was intrigued.

“It’s referred to as hempcrete or hemp-lime,” Mr. Monteiro mentioned. “It’s hemp hurd, which comes from the woody a part of the hemp plant. You employ these little items combined with a lime-based binder after which add water, and it creates a slurry that may be sprayed right into a wall cavity — like we did — or poured into plywood types.”

The partitions are completed on the surface with lime render; the within is coated with lime plaster, eliminating the necessity for wooden sheathing, artificial home wrap, drywall and paint.

The one downside? Spraying is essentially the most environment friendly option to apply the hemp-lime, however they couldn’t discover an American installer with the required experience and tools. Their answer was to assemble a crew of French, Canadian and American specialists and import the spray rig from France.

However that wasn’t sufficient: Mr. Monteiro and Mr. Titrington additionally needed to cut back greenhouse gasoline emissions associated to the manufacturing of different supplies utilized in the home. For the concrete basis, they specified a customized combine with much less Portland cement (which generates carbon dioxide throughout manufacturing) and extra fly ash (an industrial byproduct) than would usually be used.

They changed petroleum-based foam insulation across the basis with recycled foamed-glass combination. For soundproofing some inside partitions, they put in HempWool batts. And as a substitute of selecting an unique hardwood like ipe for the outside decking, they used domestically harvested black locust.

The home is heated and cooled by electrical air-source warmth pumps, and the photo voltaic array on the roof is designed to generate as a lot power as the home makes use of.

The ensuing 6,000-square-foot construction isn’t small, however it does have a small carbon footprint. Utilizing the BEAM estimator from Builders for Local weather Motion, Mr. Titrington decided that the home produces lower than half of the carbon dioxide emissions of a conventionally constructed construction. And sooner or later, it will likely be largely self-sufficient.

The Monteiros labored with Liz Stiving-Nichols, of Martha’s Winery Inside Design, to furnish the house, selecting renewable, pure supplies — cotton, linen, wool, hemp — and avoiding plastics and synthetics. They labored with native producers and craftspeople to provide most of the furnishings, together with rugs and sculptural furnishings.

The house has a completed basement — presently used for Ping-Pong and shuffleboard — however the partitions are detachable. Meaning if flooding turns into an issue sooner or later, the decrease stage might be deserted.

Building took about two years, due to pandemic-related delays, however the home was full in July 2022 at a value of about $1,200 a sq. foot. Hoping that others might need to comply with his instance, Mr. Monteiro’s funding firm helped fund the US Hemp Constructing Affiliation’s work to have hemp-lime accepted for residential constructing codes in the USA.

“I don’t anticipate all people’s going to need to construct with hemp,” he mentioned. “However I hope it causes individuals to suppose extra concerning the decisions that go into constructing a home.”

A part of the problem of discovering a extra sustainable option to construct, he added, is that most individuals don’t know what’s attainable: “As a home-owner, I simply didn’t know these alternatives existed.”


Residing Small is a biweekly column exploring what it takes to guide an easier, extra sustainable or extra compact life.

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