'This Old House' looks pretty modern at Devens
August 1, 2016 : Sentinel & Enterprise, by M.E. Jones
DEVENS -- Emerson Green, a village-style, 128-unit subdivision under construction for less than a year, has already chalked up a slate of buyers, including a family soon to move into the super-energy-efficient, farmhouse-style "idea house" to be featured on the TV show "This Old House" this fall.
The house was the focus of an open house "Block Party" at Emerson Green on Saturday, with house tours, concessions selling food and craft items, and live music by the band Gwen Vivian Approach.
Sponsored by a host of businesses in the building trades and related enterprises, proceeds from the all-day event benefit Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry Inc.
The farmhouse stands on one side on a corner lot on Chance Street off Grant Road, the heart of the new development. Other houses in various stages of near-completion next door have also sold. Across the way stands another row of works in progress. Fronted by sidewalks, flowers, green plantings and slender new shade trees on both sides, a grassy common will add ambience to the streetscape at some point in the multiphase project. Full buildout plans call for single-family homes in several styles, townhouses, duplexes and a couple of small-scale apartment buildings with rental units.
Touted as a "farmhouse for the future," the two-story, three-bedroom, three-bath home is also an appealing tribute to the past, with traditional exterior touches that are not only handsome but practical, and a spacious, modern interior layout designed for maximum living space within a compact footprint.
With an all-electric heating and cooling system, there are energy-conscious, geared-for-comfort features and fixtures all over the place, such as insulated walls and windows, and a two-car garage that is detached from the house with a pergola-covered, paving-stone walkway leading to the back door and a neat, utilitarian mudroom with built-ins. (Built-ins abound throughout the house, from the study off the kitchen to a tucked-away nook with daybed by a window in the upstairs hall.)
The detached garage, as the tour guides pointed out, is not simply a redo of an old model but a landscape statement that adds useful, inviting outdoor space to the home. The rest of the backyard consists of a cozy patio and a swath of green grass enclosed by a tall, white-railed fence -- all on about 5,000 square feet of land.
In addition to many "smart" elements built into the house, its placement is also key, according to project architect Christina Carlson. By design, all the houses in this nascent neighborhood have "dark sides," she said. That is, fewer windows where they abut one another, for privacy. Large windows face the street, creating light-filled interiors.
The fence, railings, window frames, door casements and nostalgic lampposts are made of PVC, which, like all of the other materials used in the house, was chosen for its "sustainable elements." For homeowners, that translates to low-maintenance durability as well as beauty. The porch roof, for example, is copper. Shingled roofs are eco-slate, a synthetic material with a 50-year life span. Brass "rain chains" drip rainwater off the roofs instead of gutters. Exterior siding is a cement-based product that won't rot or deteriorate and will retain its picture-perfect paint job for many years. The list goes on. Solar panels can be installed as a value-added perk, Carlson said.
The main entrance is sheltered by a roomy porch just right for sitting. Workmen were hanging a porch swing as visitors were arriving.
As a group emerged from the windowed, second-floor laundry room, principal architect Don Powers was shuttling a ladder up the stairs. "This Old House" publicist Cathleen Williamson asked what his favorite part of the project was. Noting the nine-month time frame, Powers said. "We've birthed a child."
And it was a team effort all the way.
"We really cranked to get it done," he said.
The greatest effort was to make the house "tight," he said, and much of that effort is in the walls, where you can't see it.
It is a joint venture between the developer, Dan Gainsboro, founder of Now Communities, and his architect team from Union Studio Architecture & Community Design. MassDevelopment, the state agency in charge of Devens, selected Gainsboro's Emerson Green idea for its eco-conscious elements as well its community-based layout.
Emerson Green homes are being marketed exclusively by the Knox Real Estate Team-William Raveis Real Estate, with offices in Littleton. Basic prices range from the low $300,000s for duplex/townhouses to the mid-$400,000s for a single-family home.
Sponsors and donors who provided building materials, landscaping and design services, lighting, bath and kitchen fixtures, fans, and other mechanical and digital systems for the farmhouse include American Standard, AZEK, AT&T Digital Life, Endless Summer, Barn Light Electric, CliqStudios, Classic Gutter Systems, Clopay Doors, Haiku Homes Ceiling Fans, House of Antique hardware, Harvey Windows, James Hardie Siding, Marola Tile, Panasonic Ventilation, Olympic Paints, Rheem, Simpson Door Co., and Hayneedle Furnishings.
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