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Green Inspirations

sustainable architecture

Photo by John L. Moore

Provincetown builder Deborah Paine set eyes on a broken-down waterfront cottage in Provincetown’s West End and immediately knew she had a challenge. “The post-and-beam frame wouldn’t even hold a bolt,” Paine recalls of the historic three-story home. Zoning and historic regulations restricted her to the same footprint, which meant a total of just 1,620 square feet on all three floors. Paine began with plans drawn by architect Derick Snare of Snare & Snare in Somerville and embellished them along the way, constantly conferring with her crew and the homeowners, Elise Cozzi and Penny Sutter.

Paine knew from the start that Sutter and Cozzi were kindred spirits. Although the cottage had to be torn down, the homeowners encouraged Paine to repurpose, recycle, and reclaim whenever possible. All the siding and flooring was saved and used in projects such as the winding staircase, complete with drawers built into the steps and a custom-made iron handrail. “All the carpenters made things by hand,” Paine says. “Ideas came up as we went along; we were always devising and creating.”

Energy conservation measures are still in development. “The owners charged us with making this as energy efficient as we possibly could,” Paine says. She created an “incredibly tight envelope” with closed cell foam insulation and wired the house for electric heat. The radiators have gel liquid centers, which are excellent for retaining heat. (There is a backup gas stove on the second floor.) Photovoltaic panels on the roof supply much of the energy, proven by $12 electric bills. Hot water is supplied on demand by two tankless Rinnai brand water heaters. Paine and her crew also pre-wired the house for a vertical-access wind turbine that they hope to install. The house has artistic flourishes throughout, many reflecting the owners’ creativity and mutual affection. Sutter surprised Cozzi, a retired pediatric dentist, with a dog ramp for their treasured pet, an elderly teacup poodle. As Paine says, “there’s a lot of heartfelt stuff in this house.”

The logistics of working on the house, landlocked and almost unreachable, were stunning. With what Paine calls “a little piece of Yankee ingenuity” and help from the community, she and her crew built a staging area in the West End parking lot and ran a gangway to the site, over the beachfront of very generous neighbors. “You know the saying, ‘it takes a village?’” Paine says. “Well, we put a village together.”

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