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A New Green Home in Newton, Massachusetts

I recently had the opportunity to view the construction of a sustainable house being built in my neighborhood in Newton, Massachusetts.  The home was designed by LDa Architecture and Interiors, based out of Cambridge, MA.  

Founded in 1992, LDa Architects’ project experience is extensive, including both compact and expansive new homes, renovations and additions, interior design, historically sensitive renovations and LEED certified sustainable homes.  For LDa, each project is the result of deep collaboration with the owner, architect, interior designer, and builder.  

My neighborhood is mostly composed of old homes.  When I first saw this new home under construction, I immediately noticed that it retained a distinctly old-fashioned New England feel while having modern features, many of them green.  The house previously on the property was beyond repair, so this family opted to rebuild and make the new home as green as possible.

The house is registered as a LEED for Homes project, and is targeting a rating of Gold.  Treff LaFleche, Principal, explains:  “LEED is such a valuable tool because culturally, trends come and go.  Trends become popular and everyone rushes around to reveal that they are so-called ‘green.’  LEED sought to come up with a verifiable measuring stick.  It [the LEED for Homes rating system] assures a level of quality, and if a home isn’t LEED-certified, any claims of sustainability are not verifiable.”

Some green features of the home that will contribute to its LEED rating include a geothermal HVAC system, high-efficiency plumbing fixtures, locally sourced materials including wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and a well-insulated and tight exterior envelope.  Did you know that more energy is lost through the exterior envelope than through windows?  This project utilized sprayed on, closed cell foam insulation to entirely seal the perimeter of the building and prevent any gaps from allowing any unconditioned air into the home.  In addition, 92% of waste generated on site during construction was diverted from landfill.

When designing a green home, another important aspect is the landscaping.  The methods and materials used to develop the site around the home is a large component of the LEED for Homes rating system.  Only 31% of the site is turf, and 95% of the low-maintenance, drought tolerant plant palette is composed of native plant materials.  Edible lowbush and highbush blueberry plants were integrated into the landscape, in addition to species of Viburnum and Holly that produce food sources for local wildlife.  The utilization of so many native plants that are adapted to our climate helps to dramatically reduce the need for additional watering.  However, to ensure the health of the landscape during the hotter months without increasing demand on local water sources, this project boasts a 3,400-gallon rainwater-capture system that collects over 50% of the precipitation from the roof and irrigates the property via a high-efficiency, multi-zone irrigation system.   With regard to the hardscape material outside the house, all of the bluestone and Pennsylvania fieldstone utilized in wall and terrace construction was extracted within 500 miles of the site.  Slabs of reclaimed granite and antique cobblestones are used to construct the front walkway and driveway apron.

The house, built for a family of five, is 11,500 square feet.  LaFleche says, “The project proves that it can be significant in size, significant in detail, significant in craft, rich in material, and yet sustainable.  You can still make a large home in a historic neighborhood that is sustainable.”

The design team for the home consists of LDa Architecture and Interiors (Architecture), Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design (Landscape Design), and Jill Litner Kaplan Interiors (Interior Design). The construction team was composed of Wellen Construction (Contractor) and Mastroianni Landscaping, Inc. (Landscape Contractor).

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