Spotlight: Brewster Flats House


Expats Stu and Nancy had spent the last 10 or so living in Asia, and despite raising their family on the west coast, when it came time to put down permanent roots, the answer was Brewster.  Nancy’s father had built a small cottage on the top of a small hill on their lot that afforded peeks of the Bay from the front of the house.  We decided to save the existing foundation,  and rebuild up from there to create a larger and brighter family home that still fits in the streetscape of the existing seaside neighborhood along the Bay.

In addition to gathering art from all over far East, the homeowners saved many items from the existing cottage including the brick flooring from the old sunroom to use in the new mudroom. These touches help to remember the old but the new is decidedly more modern. With high ceiling and large double hung windows, the new living room is bright and airy.  The new kitchen facing south has a dramatic vaulted ceiling and more windows overlooking the leafy backyard.

The large open floor living, dining and kitchen have natural light all day, with a small cozy study located off of the dining area.  This office serves are workspace as well as gallery.  The master bedroom is located to the east with a spa-like master bathroom.  The functional mudroom entry connects living areas to garage with functional pantry and laundry areas. The 2nd floor contains 2 additional bedroom and connected bathrooms with high cathedral ceilings.

Project Details:

  • Location: Brewster, Massachusetts

  • House Type: Single Family Residence

  • Construction type: New Construction w/ salvaged brick fireplace and foundation

  • Extg House sqft (demolished): 1680 sqft

  • Renovated House w/ new addition sqft: 2770 sqft

Builder: TA LaBarge

Photographer:  Dan Cutrona

For more images: Brewster Flats House



Brewster Flats house Construction slideshow

Spotlight: Historic Harwichport Cape


Homeowner’s Steve and Peggy from Dallas Texas asked us to help them create a real family gathering space in their historic Harwichport home. The home, which has been in Steve’s family for over 100 years, consists of an historic half-Cape (the antique), a dated 50s kitchen connector and a 1980s addition (the annex).   Steve grew up coming to Harwichport in the summer and wanted to provide that for the next generation.

We decided to leave the antique and the annex largely intact and worked on connecting them better with a more modern gathering space that could accommodate their extended family.

The modern addition acts as connector – from old to new, inside to out and front to back.  It consists of a large kitchen, dining and living areas.  Since the existing rooms are all small and have low ceilings, we thought the new modern rooms should be expansive and have some height to them. The spaces are all open to one another, but the living room ceiling is vaulted to follow the gabled roof line.

From the exterior the new addition gabled entry signals a more modern approach in the back.  It pulls visitors to the new entry into the new living room.  The new simple bluestone patio in the back is a private oasis for summer parties.

The Clients hope to spend more time in Harwichport moving forward!  

Project Details:

  • Location: Harwichport, Massachusetts

  • House Type: Single Family Residence

  • Construction type: Renovation & Addition

  • Extg House square footage: 2407 sqft

  • Renovated House w/ new addition sqft: 2844 sqft

Builder: George Davis Builders

Photographer:  Dan Cutrona


Kitchen before renovation/addition

Kitchen before renovation/addition

Kitchen after renovation/addition

Kitchen after renovation/addition

Game room/Dining room before renovation

Game room/Dining room before renovation

Game room/Dining room after renovation

Game room/Dining room after renovation

Living room renovation before

Living room renovation before

Living room renovation after

Living room renovation after

Backyard before demo and addition

Backyard before demo and addition

Backyard after demo and addition

Backyard after demo and addition

Historic Harwichport Cape Construction slideshow

Spotlight: Net Zero Lexington House

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These clients in Lexington MA came to us with an idea of creating a new net-energy zero home for their family of five.  The husband is self-employed and wanted a large office that could accommodate clients.  The wife makes jewelry and wanted a place to be able to work on her craft. The three kids are in high school and college (when they aren’t travelling the world!) but this new home was to be their family’s hub and home base.

We worked on an existing site with a rundown 1950s ranch that was removed.   We sited the new house, connector and garage to maximize passive and active solar.  The garage is located closer to the busy street while the house overlooks the gorgeous backyard oasis with lots of glass overlooking the owners own landscape design.

The house is designed with superinsulation strategies including a double wall and roof insulation values. This superinsulation, and near airtight envelope with ventilation, reduces the heating and cooling load so that the entire house is heated and cooled with several mini split heat pumps.  Everything in the house is electric, by design to match the electric production of the photovoltaic panels on the garage roof facing south. Over the course of the year, the solar panels provide enough energy for the entire home!

The interiors of the home are modern and open.  The IKEA kitchen opens to a dining area and open vaulted living room with balcony above. There’s a quieter study/bedroom to the east, and several bedrooms on the second floor.

Project Details:

  • Location: Lexington, Massachusetts

  • House Type: Single Family Residence

  • Conditioned Area: 4212 sqft

  • Conditioned Volume: 52458 cubic ft

  • HERS Index:  42 (calculated w/o renewable, w/ renewable net zero ready)

  • ACH:  0.72 Air Changes per Hours


  • Heating/Cooling: Wall Mounted MSHP

  • Ventilation System: ERV

  • Appliances:  All Electric

  • Water:  Heat Pump Hot Water Heater

  • Lighting:  Energy Efficient LED Lights through Mass Save Program


  • Ceiling:                        R:  60

  • Exposed Floor:            R:  40

  • Above Grade Walls:  R:  40

  • Foundations Walls:     R: 19

  • Slab:                            R: 20

Construction Details:

Builder: AEDI Construction

HERS Rater:  Home Energy Raters LLC

Photographer:  Kyle Caldwell


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Net Zero Lexington Construction Slideshow

Cape Cod Home - Chatham Stage Harbor House

Thank you so much to Cape Cod Home for featuring our Chatham Stage Harbor House  in their Spring 2018 issue.  It was a wonderful project to work on with great clients in a beautiful location!

In 2014 we started working with a fabulous client on their new family’s home in downtown Chatham. They bought a small cottage on a charming street right off of Main Street but knew they needed a larger home with a second story to accommodate their family, and extended family. The lot was small, but lovely with old trees and views to stage harbor. We collaborated with the owner’s daughter, an architect in New York city to create a multi-generational home that accommodates their 90 father on a first floor bedroom as well as college kids and extended family.  The main living space is an open living, dining and kitchen with a pantry tucked off it. There’s a screened porch beyond that offers indoor /outdoor living in the summer months.  We tried to use as many windows as possible to keep the space bright and airy. While the street façade has windows, we kept it a little more solid for privacy but the back is a wall of windows overlooking a bluestone patio. Thanks to Cape Cod Magazine for the feature and Dan Cutrona Photography for the amazing shots.  Toby the wheaton terrier stole the show as usual!


Full Article in Cape Cod Home:  Back to the Family

Builder:  Ta LaBarge

Framer:  Matt Andersen - Andersen Framing

Structural Engineer:  Mark McKenzie

Site Engineer:  Clark Engineering

Kitchen & Baths:  Classic Kitchen & Interiors

Windows:  Marvin Integrity - Marvin Design Gallery

Photographer:  Dan Cutrona

Writer:  Haley Cote

Cape Cod Home


Thank you to Cape Cod Home magazine for featuring our interview in the “next wave” feature of their Annual Guide. While it can be hard to self-reflect we are proud of the work we’ve done and feel so fortunate that we get to collaborate with some many great clients, engineers, builders and local vendors.  Cape Cod is a great place to work and we again are so lucky we have designed in many amazing locations and with a wide variety of styles.

 Check out the article here 


Best of Boston Home - Boston design center

A3 Architects was excited to attend the Best of Boston Home event Thursday evening at the Boston Design Center in the Seaport District.  We were honored to be named Best of Boston Home 2018 Sustainable Architect and it was wonderful to celebrate with other building and design professionals in such an awesome space. 

The Design center is a revamped historic warehouse built in 1918 – at the interior they have left the structure completely exposed – it was exciting to see the old mushroom cap columns next to the exposed ductwork. 

Thanks to Boston Home for hosting such a wonderful evening and congrats to all the winners!


Best of Boston Home 2018 - Sustainable Architect

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A3 Architects was honored to be named Best of Boston Home 2018 for 'sustainable architect' in November.  We continue to be passionate about our commitment to net-zero design- creating buildings that create as much energy as they use.  We are so thankful to have many clients who share this commitment and happily share their energy bills with us!  We appreciate the recognition as we continue to pursue energy efficient projects across the Cape and Islands, and beyond.  

Congratulation to all the winners!  We look forward to celebrating at the Design Center in Boston in December. 


A3 wins 1 Bedroom and 3 Bedroom Category in CCYP Housing Competition

A3 Architects was honored to be awarded first place in both the 1 bedroom and 3 bedroom categories of the Cape Cod Young Professionals design competition for affordable housing on Cape Cod.  We look forward to working with the CCYP to further develop these schemes into permit sets and have them constructed in the future.

The designs are all quite traditional and compact, again to address affordability. We are committed to low energy use homes, so all three were designed to be net-zero possible with the addition of photovoltaic panels.  While affordable housing is an issue on the Cape so are energy prices.  Fixing energy costs goes a long way towards addressing affordability.

Cape Cod Times Article on CCYP Housing Competition

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Behind the scenes of the Stage Harbor photoshoot


It’s so fun and rewarding to revisit projects after they’ve been lived in for a few months. We love to get final pictures for our portfolio, website and possible publication.  It is an exhausting day but well worth the effort.  In this post we share some behind the scenes action working with our favorite photographer Dan Cutrona. He’s so easy to work with and is a wizard with light. We are excited to see his final shots!

This house was easy to photograph in that the first floor is a series of open spaces – kitchen, dining, living rooms and screened porch.  We always try to get a series of exterior shots and in this case waited until the ‘magic hour’ to shoot outside. But the sun sets so quickly we only got about 4 shots in before losing the light. 


Southern New England Home

Check out the latest issue of Southern New England Home to see the feature on our Net Zero Quivet Neck House

The Quivet Neck project was developed on an existing site is an undisturbed 8 acre parcel in rural East Dennis with abundant wildlife, rolling stone walls and wetlands. The project will minimally disturb less than 1/4 acre on the site and faces the northwest for distant views of Cape Cod Bay. The proposed design is in keeping with the charming historic neighborhood of East Dennis. The shingled style with three gables on each side will provide a dramatic interior roofline for the main living areas located on the second floor, under the roof. All the rooms are oriented towards the exterior living spaces and the distant water views beyond. The house will be super insulated and produce nearly as much energy as it uses.

energy:  MA New Homes with Energy Star, Tier 3.  Solar panels on south roof by E2Solar, Dennis MA

builder:  Brian W Shanahan CO, Barnstable MA

photography by Dan Cutrona

magazine:  Southern New England Home

article by:  Kiley Jacques

blog:  Aerial Video of Net Zero Quivet Neck House

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What's a mini-split?

We wanted to share some great information about mini-split heat pumps that we received from Cape and Islands Self Reliance.  At A3 Architects, we typically specify mini-split heat pumps (ducted and ductless units) for a majority of our projects.  This all electric system provides heating and cooling and is two-to three times more efficient than electric resistance baseboard heating of the 1970s and 80s.  When paired with solar photovoltaic panels on your roof, heating and cooling with electricity becomes an efficient and affordable option.

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Wall Mounted MSHP at A3 Architect's Office

Wall Mounted MSHP at A3 Architect's Office

"What's a mini-split?"

Ductless mini-splits provide cooling, dehumidification and heating in the same unit, which typically hangs on the wall.   The compressor is located outside.  To cool, the unit moves the heat out of the building just the way an air conditioner does.  When it gets cold and you want to get heat from the unit, it reverses to pull heat from the outside air and pump it back inside.

Check out the great new incentive available through the MA Clean Energy Center (rebates up to $2,500) which include higher incentives for moderate income households and for replacing electric baseboard heating.  These incentives can be coupled with the incentive from Mass Save (rebates up to $300 per inside unit).  Mini-split units must be qualified, listed with and certified by the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), and meet the program SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) and HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) requirements.

Self-Reliance recommends that you consider the Fujitsu models as they offer the highest performance ratings for heating and cooling while being very energy efficient.

Ductless mini-splits are easy to have installed and are quieter and more efficient than window A/C units and much more efficient than electric baseboard heating.  We have partnered with local installers who will do a free site assessment and provide you with a quote specific to your home or business.  You can sign up here, or call our office at 508-563-6633 or email

Wall Mounted Mini Split Heat Pump

Wall Mounted Mini Split Heat Pump

Floor Mounted Mini Split Heat Pump 

Floor Mounted Mini Split Heat Pump 

The above information was provided by Cape and Islands Self- Reliance.  Self Reliance is a non-profit based in North Falmouth that promotes energy efficient and renewable energy technologies.  Please visit their website to find out more about this organization and how you can benefit from their programs. 

Home Remodeling Magazine: Cape & Islands - Oyster Pond House

Check out the latest issue of Home Remodeling Magazine for a feature on the Oyster Pond House in Falmouth. We created a dynamic new kitchen with vaulted ceilings to connect an existing 1930s Cape to a new family room space in the back.  It was so fun working with the family to create their Cape home base that's perfect for entertaining and outdoor living. We love the cover shot - a new mudroom/bathroom space connected to the outdoor shower!

To read: Home Remodeling Magazine

article written by: Lenore Cullen Barnes

photos by: Dan Cutrona

builder: The Valle Group

SDLs vs. GBGs

Okay, you’re probably wondering what we’re talking about …

The short answer: GBGS and SDLS are the decorative grilles on a window. 

The next question you might have “is what are grilles?” …look left- we did a quick sketch calling out the anatomy of a 2 over 2 double hung window.

Now you might be wondering why we’re talking about this at all… From an architecture standpoint we love windows.  They do a number of things for a structure –let in light, bring in fresh air, they also articulate the overall feel of a space.   Large windows with no grilles provide an unobstructed view allowing the most light into a space.   Windows with a lot of grilles harkens back to a more traditional, historical style that you will see driving down historic 6A on the cape.  

A historical cape cod house might have a 12 over 12 window pattern.  This means that there were 12 panes of glass in the upper sash and 12 panes in the lower sash.  A modern approach to this look that allows more light in and less cost is a 6 over 6 or 6 over 1 window which is commonly seen on the cape.

Historically, windows were a collection of smaller panes of glass that were joined together by muntin bars.  These muntin bars were integral to having a larger window unit; but they were also a weak point of the window from an energy standpoint.  The bars were made of wood or metal that acted as a thermal bridge from the interior of a structure to the outside.   As technology increased we found ways to produce larger pieces of glass without the need of this joinery and eventually we began producing double glazed and triple glazed windows that are extremely energy efficient.  So, from a functional perspective we don’t need the muntins (or grilles), but from a decorative standpoint we can have them in one of two ways.

Windows with GBGs, Grilles between the Glass

GBGs or grilles between the glass are just as their name describes --- grilles that are placed inside the double glazed window.  This gives the look of a traditional window from a distance, but when you are closer to the window you see that grilles are inside the glass.   These windows appear flatter in comparison to a window with SDLS. 

Windows with SDLs, Simulated Divided Lites

SDLS are an architect’s preferred detail for window grills.  SDLS or Simulated Divided Lites are grilles that are applied directly to the surface of the glass and provide the most authentic look for the window while still providing the energy efficiency of a modern double glazed window. These windows appear flatter in comparison to a window with SDLS. 

Historic Details of 6A

Driving down 6A into Yarmouth port and through Brewster is a beautiful tour of historic Cape Cod architecture.   The weather has been so nice these last few days we decided to stop one morning and photograph a few of our favorite architectural details along this part of Old King’s Highway. 

Happy Fish Bakery - the classic black and white color scheme and decorative gothic style details

Happy Fish Bakery - the classic black and white color scheme and decorative gothic style details

Briar Patch Pediatrics - Brackets at porch roof

Briar Patch Pediatrics- Brackets at porch roof

Love these Scissor Brackets at this small historic home.

Love these Scissor Brackets at this small historic home.

Simple, angled porch brackets and large picture windows at the Town Crier Antiques

Simple, angled porch brackets and large picture windows at the Town Crier Antiques

Brewster General Store  - the Brewster General store is an iconic stop along this part of 6a with its tall front porch with large over-sized store front windows and decorative brackets.

Brewster General Store - the Brewster General store is an iconic stop along this part of 6a with its tall front porch with large over-sized store front windows and decorative brackets.

Affordable Net Zero Eastham House

In February of this year, we broke ground on a small affordable net-zero house. We are committed to making net energy zero work for all.  The clients owned an 850 SF cottage in Eastham on a small lot. The cottage had no foundation so we demolished it. 

The new design is for a 1780 SF house. The form is simple – again for affordability – 2 gables connected by a small connector piece.  One wing houses the master bedroom and an open living/dining/living room.  All rooms have south facing glazing for passive solar heating. The smaller gable consists of a garage and guest room, while the ‘connector’ contains mudroom/entry and guest bath.  These simple forms allow the framing costs to remain minimal.


Some strategies when considering to cost effective ways to get to net zero:

Raised Heel Energy Truss

Raised Heel Energy Truss

1. Truss roof

Instead of framing with convention lumber (typically 2x10s) this roof framing is designed to be a truss.  There are many advantages to using trusses. One is affordability.  They are installed easily in one day with a crane so there’s a major labor savings.  Secondly, the truss consist of 2x4 and some 2x6 members so there’s a significant savings versus the 2x10 lumber which is good for costs and sustainability.  Finally, these trusses are designed to allow 14-16” of blown in cellulose insulation so that are much more insulated than a typical roof especially
Triple Glazed Window and Double Framed Wall

Triple Glazed Window and Double Framed Wall

2. Double framed wall

3. MA Energy Star Homes



4. Photovoltaic panels




We often use double wall construction when attempting to get to net-zero. We essentially double the amount of insulation. The only additional cost is extra cellulose insulation and some additional 2x4 studs. We are using


All of our new construction project participate in this worthy program. We work very closely with our HERs raters ( to energy model the initial design and then optimize the insulation/mechanical strategies.  During construction, the HERs raters test the project for air tightness. Our goal is always tier 3, the highest level where there’s typically around $8,000 to $10,000 in rebates/incentives, as well as a tax credit.


To get to net-zero, we need energy production. The most effective way to do this is by adding solar panels. We are so lucky to work closely with E2 Solar ( on our projects from the beginning. WE evaluate for shading and production. Sunpower panels are the most efficient on the market and reliably make more electricity than we plan on. 

4. Mini split heat pumps





5. Operating expenses


Since we are now making electricity on our roof, guess what we want to heat and cool with? Electricity!  While gas can be efficient, we LOVE mini splits. These are small room sized split systems that provide heating and cooling. When we reduce the loads by adding insulation, we can heat and cool the entire house with one mini split.  We often add others for reduncancy BUT talk about energy savings! We added insulation so that one mini split (cost $4000 installed) can heat and cool a small house.  A typical house requires a new installed $30,000 fossil fuel heating system.  


Most builders/architects create budgets based on construction costs, but we think it’s important to consider operational costs as well. What will you monthly energy costs be? WE can help project that with energy modeling!  We look over the course of a year since we often find there’s surplus of electricity created in May & June (no heating or cooling loads, but long sunny days) that can be utilized in Dec. and January (high heating loads, low sun angle)
BlueskinVP 100  -   tri-laminate polypropylene wrap  

BlueskinVP 100 tri-laminate polypropylene wrap  

West Elevation of Net Zero Eastham House - Screen porch is framed and  E2 Solar  was on site yesterday preparing the roof and electrical service for solar panels

West Elevation of Net Zero Eastham House - Screen porch is framed and E2 Solar was on site yesterday preparing the roof and electrical service for solar panels

View of LIving Room - Double Framed Wall and Triple Glazed windows. 

View of LIving Room - Double Framed Wall and Triple Glazed windows. 

Raised Heel Scissor Truss

Raised Heel Scissor Truss

Triple Glazed Windows & framed Double Wall

Triple Glazed Windows & framed Double Wall