Best of Boston Home 2010
While it sometimes seems that every business on the planet has added “eco-friendly” to its credentials, smart homeowners should look beyond the label to make sure there’s expertise—and a track record—to back it up. Greater Boston’s most environmentally conscious firms didn’t add “green” as an afterthought: They began with a philosophy, and have remained true to it.
MARYANN THOMPSON ARCHITECTS
A longtime pioneer in sustainable architecture, Maryann Thompson has been turning passive lately—which impresses us even more. She’s getting certified in Passive Housing, a German movement that strives to slash homes’ energy usage by 90 percent. Given that its common-sense principles mesh well with Thompson’s dedication to simple green solutions, we expect to see beautifully designed, incredibly energy-efficient homes popping up all over the Hub in the coming years.
14 Hillside Ave., Cambridge, 617-491-4144, maryannthompson.com
It won’t cost you a penny to have Nexamp cofounder Dan Leary or one of his team come out to your home to assess the cost of installing a wind turbine generator, solar panels, or a geothermal pump. But don’t expect a standard sales pitch. Leary believes knowledge is power, and so he uses the company’s proprietary Web-based “Road Map” program to educate potential clients about the value of renewable technologies. And should you make the decision to go green, Nexamp will design and install your system of choice, then continue monitoring your energy consumption in real time though its high-tech IT platform.
21 High St., Ste. 209, North Andover, 978-688-2700, nexamp.com
BOSTON GREEN BUILDING
In this greenwashed age, lots of contractors say they’re environmentally conscious. But it takes a tremendous amount of time and education to transform a standard builder into a true green leader. Brian Butler has done just that, fully committing his company to the eco-friendly cause and ensuring that all his employees are fluent in the latest innovations. The result: In only a few years, BGB has upgraded dozens of homes with Energy Star PVC-free windows, bamboo kitchen cabinets, recycled flooring, and photovoltaic panels. Even better, BGB offers a range of alternatives to conventional construction tactics, and practices “open billing,” which means clients get to see the base labor and material costs along with the final markup.
218 Lincoln St., Allston, 617-202-3777, bostongreenbuilding.com
EAST COAST GEOTHERMAL
Until recently, getting a geothermal heating and cooling system meant tracking down an engineer, a site planner, and a well driller—and then trying to get all of them to speak the same language. Frustrated by the lack of turnkey solutions for installing a geothermal system in his own home, Philip Wheeler joined forces with two engineering colleagues to form ECG. The two-year-old Clinton company handles the entire process, from consulting and drawing up systems to installing and maintaining equipment. As a bonus, ECG helps customers and their accountants navigate the piles of paperwork needed to get federal and state tax credits for energy-saving home improvements.
464 High St., Clinton, 978-368-4091, eastcoastgeothermal.com
For the latest information on sustainable building, look no further than the 10,000-square-foot Nexus Green Building Resource Center. Set up by the Green Roundtable, a Boston nonprofit that aims to make eco-friendly design and construction mainstream, this clearinghouse can help anyone—homeowners, architects, builders, designers—reduce their carbon footprint. Tap into the online database to find local green professionals, or visit the library, where you can see samples of PVC-free carpet tiles and no-VOC paints, among other items, as well as find reference materials on things like solar panels.
38 Chauncy St., Boston, 617-374-3740, nexusboston.com
BUILDING MATERIALS RESOURCE CENTER
Your gleaming Sub-Zero has arrived; your glossy granite countertops are ready to be installed. Before you can enjoy them, though, you have to get rid of that old Frigidaire and beat-up Corian. Sure, it’s tempting to call a junk truck, but the greener move is to donate still-usable appliances and materials to the BMRC, founded in 1993 to help divert millions of dollars of building materials from landfills. The center accepts a surprising variety of goods, from light fixtures to cabinet hardware, and sells them at minimal cost to low- and middle-income homeowners—meaning you can not only take pride in your own renovation, but also feel good about aiding someone else’s “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” project (while getting a tax write-off in the process).
100 Terrace St., Boston, 617-442-8917, bostonbmrc.org
SOLAR DESIGN ASSOCIATES
In the 35 years since its founding, Steven J. Strong’s firm has designed the world’s first solar-powered neighborhood, Olympic center, and major-league baseball stadium. (Strong was even brought in by the White House to replace the solar panels that had been removed during the Reagan era.) If SDA’s résumé doesn’t convince you, the images of its finished projects will. Custom-designed private residences seamlessly incorporate photovoltaics, geothermal heating, and wind power, while the firm’s commercial projects continue to break new ground.
Harvard, 978-456-6855, solardesign.com
F. D. STERRITT LUMBER
Thanks to visionary vice president Jack Mackin, Sterritt Lumber has long been a leader in the green building industry. Founded in 1841, this Watertown operation was the first retail lumberyard in New England to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Since coming aboard, Mackin has made a point of educating homeowners, builders, and architects about the most planet-friendly building options, as well as supplying them. At Sterritt, eco-conscious flooring means more than bamboo; you’ll also find responsibly sourced woods like American cherry and Spanish cedar. Plus, Sterritt carries plenty of formaldehyde-and-urea-free and low-VOC products, making it a one-stop resource for green building.
110 Arlington St., Watertown, 617-923-1480, sterrittlumber.com