When John Abrams, founder and CEO of South Mountain Company in West Tisbury, Martha’s Vineyard, tackled a decrepit 1943 cottage in Aquinnah, the rebuild included a deep energy retrofit. The homeowners, a professional couple in Washington, D.C., with five children, knew they had their architect and builder when Abrams said a teardown wasn’t inevitable. “We liked the idea of saving something old,” the homeowner says. “John was the first one who said he could work with it. We had a meeting of the minds very early.” Abrams, the founder of the employee-owned company, also felt a solid partnership. “They were sensible, adventurous, and trusting,” Abrams says of the couple. “The collaboration was really rewarding.”
Abrams used several strategies to save energy. Along with South Mountain designer Derrill Bazzy and engineer Marc Rosenbaum, Abrams wrapped the entire house with insulation and installed triple-glazed windows, reducing air leakage by 90 percent. Then the crew installed air source heat pumps and a heat recovery system for ventilation. The final touch was a solar electric system on the south-facing roof.