SANDWICH — Early next year, the first residents of a neighborhood 11 years in the making will move in to an energy-efficient house built originally for a competition by college students.
Becca Wolfson and her boyfriend, Billy Traverse, were all smiles Wednesday as officials from Housing Assistance Corp. cut the ribbon on the Curio House, an 800-square-foot home built from recycled wood and featuring solar panels that will supply all of its electricity, at the Community Green.
Community Green is a 46-acre development off Victory Circle near the Sandwich Industrial Park that evolved from a controversial project once known as Dana's Fields.
Wolfson, an employee with AmeriCorps, and Traverse, a network administrator for Barnstable County, will act as caretakers for the property, said Rick Presbrey, CEO and president of Housing Assistance Corp.
In exchange for reduced rent, the couple will assure the house's systems are in working order, offer tours to prospective donors and even feed chickens expected to arrive on the property this spring, Wolfson said.
"We're excited," she said. "We're for all things sustainable."
Curio House was built by students from Tufts University and Boston Architectural College for the 2009 U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon. It was one of 19 houses built for the competition and may be the only one being used as an actual home, said Antje Danielson, administrative director of the Tufts Institute of the Environment, who helped oversee the project. "We're really happy this house has a purpose now," she said.
That was apparent in the tears of Michelle Stadelman, a student at Boston Architectural College, who was the project director. "This is kind of a dream come true to see our vision come to life," she said.
Curio House, which means "precious box," was purchased for $150,000 and delivered by flatbed truck last fall from Washington, D.C., to the Cape, where it remained in storage for a year. Last month, it was moved from Bourne to Sandwich and is almost ready for Wolfson and Traverse to move in.
The house was built not just to keep energy prices down but to make them non-existent, Presbrey said.
Solar panels on the roof generate enough electricity to power the house with some left over to sell back to the grid. The house also features five solar thermal collectors, which use sunlight to heat the water used in sinks, showers and the radiant-heat flooring. Rain water is collected from the roof and used to irrigate plants in the yard. And floor-to-ceiling windows are also strategically located to take advantage of the winter sun.
All of the features create what Presbrey calls a "dramatically energy-efficient house."
Curio House has a modern look, but its materials are basic, Stadelman said. The cabinets were made from plywood. The bed, which is just across from the kitchen area, can fold up into the wall and a bookcase rolls to turn the space into a living room.
Curio House is one of five single-family homes planned for the mixed-use development, Presbrey said. A second house, being designed by Boston Architectural College, is another energy efficient-building planned for a family of four, he said.
Presbrey said Housing Assistance Corp. continues to work on other funding sources for the overall project.
"We're going to take our time and do it right," he said.
Community Green will eventually include a community center and more than 50 one-to-three-bedroom apartments — 15 of which will be used to move "recently homeless" people into apartment living and provide them with work, Presbrey said
During his remarks to a house full of guests eager to see the Curio House, Presbrey made brief mention of the controversy that dogged the project in the beginning. In 2007, a court case was settled with neighbors who originally objected to the scope of the project, and the necessary permits were granted.
But Wednesday was a chance to celebrate with apple and pumpkin pies and pats on the back. "It does take quite a while to see affordable housing, sustainable housing come together," said Jack Delaney, president of the board of directors for Housing Assistance Corp.
"The wave of the future in the building industry is sustainable. There's no doubt about it. ... I'm glad to see Housing Assistance Corp. is leading the way."