First in 2-part series

By M.E. Jones

Correspondent

SHIRLEY -- When David Posluszny bought an acre of land off Catacunemaug Road early this year, the property came with a vacant, circa 1930's house.

Nearby railroad tracks didn't bother him, but the dilapidated house was a teardown.

Now, a brand-new, energy-efficient house stands in its place, just as he'd envisioned.

The structure was "95-percent finished" when an Oracle reporter visited in late August.

Posluszny searched quite awhile before finding a place in Central Massachusetts that met his green building criteria, including a suitable site for solar. Renovation or new build, the cost of his zero net energy dream house had to be affordable, he said.

Green Ideas

His project was well planned, Posluszny said. And he saved for years to make it happen.

Posluszny, a National Guardsman whose military resume dates back 10 years and includes two overseas tours of duty, is currently a student at UMass, Amherst, where he's pursuing a degree in green building design. He's also gaining specialized, on-the-job experience, working for himself.

Building the house was a full time job, and most of his nest egg went into the project. The payoff would come from sweat equity, energy savings and homely comforts. Meantime, Posluszny and his wife conserved their resources. "My wife kept her day job," he said.


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Inspiration

It was during his first deployment in Iraq that he got "hooked" on the zero-net-energy idea, Posluszny said, in part because it made sense to explore alternative energy sources. Mostly, though, it was a personal choice, focused on cost-effectiveness.

Keenly interested in green building concepts and determined to do it himself, he designed and built a modest but modern, self-sustaining, energy-efficient house that he and his wife can live in, comfortably and affordably, for the foreseeable future.

Down with the Old, Up with the New

After demolishing the existing old house, Posluszny started construction on the new one, achieving year-round southern exposure for solar power by removing a few tall trees. The roof was engineered to hold a 5-kilowatt solar array, he said.

Zero net energy means "I produce as much as I consume annually," he explained. And he aims to collect data to prove it.

Solarize Shirley

Posluszny was the first in town to sign up with New England Clean Energy, he said. The firm is the state-approved provider for "Solarize Shirley," a branch of the "Solarize Massachusetts" program. Assessed for suitability, the company pronounced his property good to go at "88-percent solar fraction," he said.

Asked what it takes to get a 100-percent rating, he said an ideal location would be an open field, "no shade at all."

Posluszny took down about 28 trees, most at the front of the house, where the cleared yard served as a staging area during construction. The rest of the lot is pleasantly treed, including evergreens that would shadow the solar array only in December, he said.

With 150-feet of road frontage and no abutters except the railroad, there are no neighbors' trees in the way, either, and the new build met zoning requirements because the old one did. He avoided the need for a variance by adhering so precisely to the former footprint that the sill atop the foundation looks "wavy" in places, Posluszny pointed out.