My wife and I spent the last week of July relaxing at the southwestern tip of Prince Edward Island. There's not much there except a small harbor filled with lobster boats, a lighthouse, an inn, a restaurant (we stayed in a sweet little apartment above the restaurant - from our balcony we looked at the beach, the harbor, and the Northumberland Strait), endless cropland stretching to the horizon in every direction, and 55 giant wind turbines towering over the fields.
South Mountain Company
In 1980 a woman named Madeline Blakeley called me to ask me to look at a piece of land with her. She was a librarian in her early sixties whose husband had recently died. They had no children and had always lived in rented apartments. Her dream was to own a piece of property.
She had $7,000 in cash. A realtor showed her a lot priced at exactly that, but all her friends advised her against buying it. The property sloped steeply south to a beautiful little valley, a perfectly matched solar exposure and view. But it was right beside the main road from Vineyard Haven to Edgartown, which was very loud and loomed over the property. Except for that proximity and the fact that the whole lot was a hillside, it was a lovely site. There was nothing else on Martha’s Vineyard within her price range.
Several weeks ago my old friend Marc Rosenbaum arrived on Martha’s Vineyard. He often arrives on Martha’s Vineyard. For 20 years this distinguished, nationally recognized building performance engineer has been arriving here to consult with us – to help us make better buildings. For 30 years he has been responsible for some of the most advanced buildings in New England.
When he arrived here last Tuesday, it was different than most times.
Cheers and tears. That’s the way of a Vineyard housing lottery.
On Tuesday, March 30th, a standing room only crowd packed the meeting room at the Howes House. At stake: seven new LEED platinum houses at Eliakim’s Way off State Road in West Tisbury. There was a mix of nervous applicants, expectant children, public officials, and housing advocates.
In the front of the room David Vigneault and Terri Keech of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, lottery administrators, explained the process. A complex matrix of preferences and qualifications was so arcane nobody could actually understand it. The crowd chuckled when David finished his explanation and said, “Is that all clear?”
I’d like to share some nice press SMCo has received recently.
The first two are recent articles in local magazines about projects of ours.
In the last post I talked about the upcoming Lake/Hodgson Deep Energy Retrofit open house. It was a big success, a perfect event. On a gorgeous blue-sky winter day we were joined by an enthusiastic crowd of 35-40.
The crew had done a stellar job readying up, and the placed looked about as pretty as a just-insulated house with no walls or ceilings can look!! The questions were intelligent, and it was instructive to see how a house at this stage – where everything is invisible – is a wonderful educational laboratory.
Afterward I received the following e-mail:
Thanks again for the open house — very informative; inspiring, even. I don’t know how many clients would go for this profound rebuild instead of a new design/build, but, whether in a new or retrofit, the energy efficiency is impressive.
At Habitat, we’ve been building pretty good houses for an amazingly low price, thanks, in part to you. One of our homeowners came to us a few months after moving in and asked, “Our electric bill is $15 a month. Is that right?” Efficiency is the gift that keeps on giving.
Thanks for coming Jon. And everyone else too. Today it looks completely different – everything covered up with smooth plaster. You only get one chance to see the bones and the muscle.