New subdivision brings together energy-efficient homes and low-cost wood-pellet heat
“I strongly believe that this is the future way of creating home space,” said BJ Otten.
Otten wears, among other hats, that of general contractor for “The Colony” Subdivision, off the Sunday River Road in Newry.
Plans call for The Colony to eventually have 65 or more homes, ranging in price from $450,00 to over a million dollars.
Plans also call for most of those homes to be Bensonwood Homes.
The insulated panels that make up the shell of Bensonwood homes are fabricated in the company's Walpole, N.H. factory (the company prefers the term “studio”) and assembled on site at The Colony.
The homes are designed to be highly energy efficient and quickly assembled.
“They're really built twice,” Otten said, “once in the computing model, where they actually determine where every screw goes, as we'll as other obvious things like light fixtures and outlets.
“Then you come out in the field and build it.”
A home can go from foundation work to occupancy in less than six weeks, he said.
“You can't match the speed of construction and still get the r-35 walls, r-40 in the roof, airtightness to the point of one air change and 50 Pascals an hour.”
Most of The Colony's Bensonwood homes, should their buyers agree, will be heated by wood-pellet boilers produced by Maine Energy Systems of Bethel.
The Colony's first such home, currently being assembled, will have 2,400 square feet of floorspace, and will use an estimated three tons of wood pellets a year.
The annual heating and hot water bill will be approximately $750, half or less (depending on oil prices) of what it would be for a similar size oil-heated home.
And both those figures reflect heating costs for a Bensonwood home, rather than a less energy-efficient home constructed in the traditional manner.
The look and floorspace of The Colony's Bensonwood homes can vary greatly, while maintaining the same overall footprint.
“We can add different components to the house and it can grow from 1,500 square foot to 4,200, without any dramatic changes to the footprint of the building.” he said.
For example, additional floors can be added.
“The garage could be two stories and have a master suite above it.” he said. “It's just in the way the pieces interlock.”
And homes put together in this manner can be more affordable.
Architects and builders, Otten said, “are part of the price of custom homes -- and are painful.”
“This is a completely designed building, and we'll be able to pass along the savings in the design aspect to our customers.”
“This is an opportunity where two leaders in getting off the carbon bandwagon, can work together,” he said.
“Bensonwood is all about limiting the use of fuels, and Maine Energy Systems is all about limiting the fossil fuels aspect of it.
“Over the years people have gotten comfortable building big, huge square-foot buildings, and they don't really give any thought to how that is going to consume fossil fuels, or consume any sort of resources.”
“I plead guilty of it as well,” said Otten, who worked as a general contractor in the Denver area before moving back to Bethel.
“I didn't have the knowledge or the wherewithal to understand that if you take extra steps in the beginning to create an energy-efficient building, it won't be as great a draw on resources.
“I think it's all about evolution, learning what works and making it affordable.”
The bottom-line benefits of The Colony's approach, he said, are the sustainability and the renewable aspect of the pellet fuel and the home construction.
“Marrying the Bensonwood home system with the Maine Energy Systems wood pellet boiler produces a sustainably built dwelling with very low annual operating costs, that is heated with a locally produced fuel, and can be erected and weather tight in a matter of days.”
While the costs of Bensonwood homes in The Colony may be beyond the budgets of many home buyers, smaller homes from the company begin in price at $150,000.
For more, go to: Bensonwood.com.