A 5-STAR RATING AND LOW UTILITY BILLS FOR A CONNECTICUT COLONIAL
A nurse practitioner and a jazz musician build an Energy Star home for under $125 per sq. ft.
BY DAVE GLASSER
In 2006 my wife, Cathy, and I took over some family property with an old cottage on it where I had spent my summers as a kid. After meeting with several contractors, we were unanimously advised to raze the cottage and build a new house on the property. We planned to use the house as a weekend getaway. The idea of an energy-efficient home appealed to us so that we could keep it open for use on weekends during the winter.
SIP manufacturer points to Fine Homebuilding author
Having no building or home ownership experience at all, we began investigating our options for building a house. The idea of a SIP home appealed to us because it seemed to be a very cost-effective way of building an energy-efficient home. SIP houses go up quickly with less labor than framed houses. Having no building experience, I needed help. I sent an email to a company called Northeast Precision Panels, and a man by the name of Ralph Lord called me back. He listened to our needs and wants, and suggested we get in touch with Alan Rossetto, who had built the most energy-efficient home in Vermont in 2003. Ralph sent us a copy of an article written by Alan and published in _Fine Homebuilding_ magazine depicting the Vermont house. We loved the look, feel, and concept of the house. We contacted Alan and began what would become a wonderful, thoroughly educational and fulfilling experience as owner/builders.
DIY design takes shape
Once we made our decision to build this way, the first thing to do was to figure out what we wanted to build. We decided that a simple 1-1/2-story 24-ft. by 28-ft. rectangle box would fit into our budget when it came to the cost of the panels. Alan then asked us to draw a picture of how we would want the interior of the house laid out. Looking at Internet plans helped us here. Considering the concept and function of the house, we came up with an open floor plan on the ground floor and three bedrooms (small but functional for sleeping) upstairs. We sent our basic (perhaps crude) drawing to a designer. After meeting with him at the site, we retained his services. In consultation with the designer and Alan, we began a back-and-forth via email until we ironed out all the details and were satisfied that our design would achieve our conceptual and budgetary objectives. We had read that the single most common reason for cost overruns is changing things in mid-build. For this reason we tried very hard to cover everything in the original design and also made a commitment to our design despite what we might realize later. —Dave Glasser is a saxophonist who has worked with Sarah Vaughan and Dizzy Gillespie, among others. His website is