A collaborative project between Tufts and Boston Architectural College (BAC) last month unveiled the solar-powered centerpiece for a new sustainable housing development on Cape Cod.
The energy efficient home, which was originally built last year, marks the first complete living installment at the new development, Community Green in Sandwich, Mass., and will be the centerpiece of the development once it is finished, according to Colin Booth, the project manager of the Tufts-BAC group, called Team Boston.
The Curio House was designed and built by a team of Tufts and BAC students called Team Boston for the 2009 U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon.
It made its debut on Nov. 18 at Community Green, a 46-acre development project created by the Housing Assistance Corporation (HAC), a Cape Cod-based nonprofit. The organization aims to provide sustainable low- and middle-income housing that will also offer community educational programs and services to help improve the lives of residents.
AmeriCorps employee Becca Wolfson and Billy Traverse, network administrator for Barnstable County, will occupy the house and serve as the caretakers of the development.
Team Boston competed against 19 other houses in the 2009 Decathlon, which judged each house in 10 contests measuring the success of each house's solar power and design by both objective and subjective criteria.
The Decathlon is held every two years, and last year was the first time Tufts had ever participated, Associate Provost and Professor of Mechanical Engineering Vincent Manno, who partook in the project, said.
Antje Danielson, administrative director of the Tufts Institute for the Environment, cut the ribbon on the house at the unveiling event, which group members attended.
"Seeing the house actually in a development now, as kind of the core of this development and serving exactly the purpose they built it for, was, I think, a very emotional moment for them," Danielson said.
"I think the whole event was just like that," she said. "It was friends coming together to celebrate that this project has come to a really positive ending."
Other Tufts attendees included George Kosar, associate director of corporate and foundation relations at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and senior Arlin Ladue. Kosar spearheaded Tufts' fundraising for the Decathlon, while Ladue is working on a documentary about the project, according to Danielson.
Community Green will consist of 57 rental units, an agriculture program and an Enterprise Center geared toward economic development, according to its website.
Individuals in the community will be able to participate in job training in the areas of culinary arts, landscaping, green construction, organic agriculture, weatherization and clean energy, the website says.
Ben Steinberg, chair of the project's policy committee, said the team met with the cities of Boston, Medford and Somerville as well as commercial developers to discuss a location for the house.
Medford was interested in acquiring the house but lacked the funding to pay for it, according to Steinberg.
"They had the land, but they had no money to give us, and we needed to subsidize the cost of our project," Steinberg said.
The U.S. Department of Energy provides each team with $100,000, but Team Boston's total project costs reached $800,000, a typical amount, according to senior Matthew Thoms, the project's head engineering and photovoltaic consultant.
The dean of BAC, Jeff Stein, in 2009 met a representative from the HAC who expressed interest in buying the house, Danielson said.
Steinberg said the nonprofit paid $150,000 for the house. The remainder of the money came from fundraising.
Thoms said that Community Green was a good location for the house.
"We felt that Community Green was a better fit for the goals of the project in terms of trying to make the most impact on people who are going to be pushing the green movement," Thoms said.
"It's a sustainable community, and also it's a community that involves not only providing housing, but training and outreach to people who are in employment transitional situations," Manno said.
He said that Community Green had hoped to install the house in the spring but ran into permit delays.
Houses from the Solar Decathlon usually do not become private residences, Booth said.
"This is pretty unusual," he said. "As far as I know, there aren't any other houses from the 2009 Decathlon that have been sold to private owners."
Team Boston aimed to create a functioning, livable house, though this was not necessarily a requirement of the competition, Manno said.
"We knew from the beginning that we wanted to make a house that was marketable and could be sold," Thoms said.
Booth said the houses are often too expensive to be appealing to private buyers. "People typically wanted to sell them for as much as it cost to build them," he said.
Steinberg said that Team Boston emphasized affordability when designing and building the house. He said sustainability should not be limited to wealthy consumers.
"If you look at the green movement nowadays, a lot of it caters to the upper class," he said. "If we're not responsible and trying to solve problems for everyone in this world, then we really aren't doing our job."
"We couldn't be prouder for where it's going," he said, "because it really speaks to the mission of social equality and looking out for everyone."