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

A3 Architects 6.26.18-5.jpg

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


A3 Architects 6.26.18-15.jpg
A3 Architects 6.26.jpg

Net Zero Lexington Construction Slideshow

Brewster Flats Blower Door Test

Blower Door Test at Brewster Flats House by  Home Energy Raters

Blower Door Test at Brewster Flats House by Home Energy Raters

After insulation is complete we typically test houses for air tightness.  This is done by a blower door test.  The required tightness by code is 3 ACH (or air changes per hour).  We are typically targeting around 1 ACH.  During this test, we typically find several “weak links” in the envelope. Often one can feel the draft around windows, at the plate or around masonry fireplaces. 

Our HERs rater is locally based in Sagamore Beach Home Energy Raters.

They are a 3rd party meaning they aren’t connected to the builder or architect and therefore have an independent role in evaluating the tightness of the house. They provide us with a final HERs certificate required by building code, effectively proving the home is in compliance with the current energy code.

In addition to testing air tightness, the HERs rater typically tests duct tightness.  They also provide an independent visual inspection of insulation and mechanical systems.  After their feedback we typically tighten up a few areas and have them test again at the final inspection.

  • Area of Conditioned Space:                      3,437 ft2
  • Volume of Conditioned Space:                 35,233 ft3
  • Loss:                                                           CFM at 50pascals
  • ACH                                                            1 1/2*

*This test was done after insulation, but before drywall was installed. We found some areas that needed additional insulation and air sealing.  The contractor will address these areas and another blower door test will be performed when the house is near completion.  We expect the final test to be around 1 ACH. 

Street View of Brewster Flats House

Street View of Brewster Flats House