Near Boston, a Red House Designed to be Green

A teardown renovation in Cambridge, Massachusetts, comes with a mandate for maximum efficiency.

Not long ago, a real estate developer approached Moskow Linn Architects of Boston with a challenge: Could they design a teardown remodel of a 1950s ranch-style house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, following standards set by the Passivhaus Institut?

The firm’s principals, Robert Linn and Keith Moskow, responded by designing a modern, 2,959-square-foot house, preserving the existing foundation and first-floor framing. The house, which was completed in 2013, sits on an elevated embankment, and is oriented to capture views of the adjacent Fresh Pond Reservation and the Boston skyline beyond.

A second-floor “bridge” spans the main living space and the garage, serving as a buffer against the traffic on the busy street out front as well as a visual nod to New England’s signature covered bridges. The bridge houses the bedrooms, which offer unobstructed views of the pond and the city skyline.

Inside the house, the architects used oak cladding that was reclaimed from another project as a way of saving on the bottom line. Elsewhere, a concerted effort was made to make the house as energy efficient as possible. The structure itself is super-insulated, and the high-performance, PVC-membrane roof has been outfitted with photovoltaic panels that are expected to keep the family’s utility bills under $800 a year. Triple-paned insulated windows contribute to the structure’s tight seal, and a layer of clear film was added to guard against stray golf balls from the nearby Fresh Pond Golf Course.

While the Red House, as it is known, ultimately did not meet the standards for Passivhaus certification, it is a highly efficient and inviting home for its residents.

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