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Our downeast solar home

Construction

 

We found that choosing the right builders made all the difference to our project. That may sound obvious, but we found that our builders' commitment to renewable energy was as important to them as the quality of their work.

 

We first met our builders at a house site that they were constructing for a friend of ours. We had met this friend by chance and he invited us to go and see what his builders were doing.

 

The builders' commitment to energy efficiency was clear - right from the start. Most of them were living in their own self-built solar homes. They had also been commissioned to build a solar-powered house that was off-the-grid.

 

Their commitment to being energy-efficient was just part of their mission. They sought out the best deals for us and made it a priority to find raw materials locally. Our specification was that local was best, provided there wasn't too much difference in cost.

 

As a result, our flooring, decks and shingling are from sustainable wood produced here in Maine. Also, our granite kitchen surface is from Deer Isle - right down the road from us.

 

One of the slightly unusual features of our construction project was that we paid our builders on a time-and-materials basis.  Most construction projects are on the basis of a fixed price contract, with a built-in markup on all materials and services bought in. Instead, we paid our contractors by the hour, and paid at cost the materials and services they bought.  This gave us a lot of flexibility and control over costs and procurement decisions, but we need to monitor progress against costs closely to ensure the project stayed in budget.   We would only recommend this method if you know and trust your contractors.  

 

Our top tip: Ask your builder if they have ever built an energy efficient home. Even if they haven't had the opportunity to do this, they may still be committed to your project. A good sign is if they have tried to be energy efficient in their own homes or offices. If you get a blank look, move on.

 

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Early stages of consturction, view of north side.

 

A view of the north side of the house during early construction.