Nantucket Island Living

Green Comes to Nantucket

By Kirstyn Peterson

The Green Movement is evolving and growing.  As more evidence comes to light about climate change and the environmental challenges our planet faces, communities all over the world are beginning to take action to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, seek alternative energy sources, and improve public health and the overall health of our environment.  Nantucket is no exception to this progress and is home to many innovative people and businesses that are putting sustainable, Green business practices and technologies to work.

Along with more traditional strategies of recycling, carpooling and supporting organically grown produce have come some promising new ideas surrounding Green design and construction.  Shay Construction & Achristavest, a custom builder located on Nantucket and in Philadelphia, is one company that is incorporating sustainable, Green concepts into its business practices and philosophy.  Dixon Shay of Shay Construction & Achristavest describes Green buildings as structures that are designed and constructed with an emphasis on resource-efficiency, environmentally responsible building techniques, occupancy healthy, effective use of energy and reduced or limited environmental impact.  In describing Shay Construction & Achristavest’s approach to Green building he states that “at Shay Construction & Achristavest, we believe environmental considerations are extremely important part of the design and construction process.  In light of the significant environmental and healthy issues we face today and the ever increasing cost of energy, we feel a great sense of responsibility ensure that our projects are sensitive to the environment, utilize resources effectively and efficiently and create healthy environments in which to live.  This is true for all of our projects, from small additions to historic renovations to large estate properties.  Working with designers, architects and owners to achieve goals has made building even more rewarding for us.”

The increased awareness of environmental issues and concerns is helping homeowners realize their ability to reduce their impact on our planet in a meaningful way.  Until recently, many people may have been discouraged by their apparent inability to make a significant impact on global warming and climate change.  Green design and construction provides a unique opportunity for people to design, build and live in structures that are healthy for their occupants and the environment.  Taking into account the environmental impact of new houses or renovations empowers owners to be environmentally responsible and improve their health at the same time.

There are several government and private programs that are leading the way in encouraging environmentally friendly construction.  The most prominent is the U.S. Green Building Council (“USGBC”) and its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED program.  LEED’s Green Building Rating System is a third party certification program and nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.  Through LEED design, planning and certification process USGBC provides owners, architects and builders with the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on the performance and environmental impact of buildings.

The inspiring standards established by the USGBC and its LEED program have helped motivate companies like Shay Construction & Achristavest to adopt similar values in their building and construction ethics.  19 Shimmo Pond Road is a great example of a project that incorporates numerous Green building attributes.  One Green strategy that was adopted in building the residence was the utilization of the high-tech panelized construction.  Panelizing is the process by which pre-engineered wall sections are manufactured in a controlled factory environment and then shipped to the building site for final construction.  Shay notes that this system significantly reduces the waste that is generated during conventional framing process.  This reduction in waste is important in that today approximately 30% of debris deposited in landfills is construction and demolition related.  In addition, because the panels can be assembled quickly once on site, the building can be constructed and made weather tight very quickly.  This reduces the potential for mold and mildew, which can shorten the life of a building and lead to poor indoor air-quality.  This risk is particularly great in moist climates like that of Nantucket.

Several innovative technologies were also used for the heating and cooling systems at 19 Shimmo Pond Road.  By using hydronic radiant heat in the foundation slab, Shay Construction & Achristavest was able to provide a stable, efficient heat source that helps prevent moisture, mold and mildew from invading the home.  In conjunction with the radiant heat, Shay Construction & Achristavest used an open-looped geothermal air conditioning system.  Shay explains this system requires no outdoor condensers, cools the home using the natural cooling of the earth and is 25-30% more efficient that conventional air-conditioning system.  The system can be converted to provide heat during the winter months and provides significant energy savings over conventional systems.  In addition, a Life Breath 125 whole house energy recovery ventilation unit in the house improves indoor air-quality and minimizes energy loss by introducing fresh, filtered air into the house while extracting energy from the conditioned air that is being expelled.

Considering alternative insulation methods is critical in building sustainability.  The type of insulation used and the manner of installation can significantly impact the energy efficiency of a building.  Environmentally friendly Icynene spray foam insulation was used at 19 Shimmo Pond Road.  Icynene is expanding liquid foam that is sprayed into the roof and wall cavities of the home.  The foam reaches and seals the tight spaces and hart to reach areas that can reduce a home’s efficiency, all without the harmful chemicals that traditional insulation contains.  The use of Icynene increases the overall performance of the home by limiting air leakage, reducing airborne sound transmission, preventing moisture intrusion and creating a healthier indoor environment.

Another business making a difference ton Nantucket is the Nantucket Reuse eXchange (aka ReX).  ReX is a non-profit organization that focuses efforts on recycling through an online marketplace of recycled goods.  The founders of ReX aim to help islanders reduce their overall environmental impact on a local and global level by encouraging and facilitating the reuse of building materials and other household items. As land fills on Nantucket, throughout the U.S. and all over the world become increasingly stressed by construction and demolition debris, resources like ReX become vital players in the Green movement.  ReX also provides a unique and valuable resource for island builders to locate and reuse materials that may be unwanted by others but of historic or other value to island projects.

These sustainable, Green concepts and strategies have a substantial impact on energy and resources used and the waste produced during construction.  At the same time, they help create healthier buildings that will benefit homeowners and have a reduced impact on the environment for years and generations to come.  As such, it is no surprise that Green design and construction has become popular among the home owners who pride themselves on being environmentally responsible – particularly on Nantucket.  We know how important it is to protect the beauty of Nantucket.  Responsible design, construction and recycling allow us all to be a part of keeping this island as exquisite as nature intended.


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