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      Blog :: 2010

      Aiming 4 One Gigabyte Per Second. Vermont, e-State

      Trophy house at river's edge, slate stack fireplace crackling, four star stainless appliances, red birch shimmering floors, tiger maple cabinets, track lighting, bling, eye candy, bells and whistles.

      In spite of the sheer perfection, Claire (our fictitious character) Johnson's internet connection crawls, she patiently and at times not at all so patiently waits for the seemingly modest website to appear, the youtube clip that cranks to an intermittent halt, the streaming on demand Netflix film that crashes and brings on the unexpected intermission or worse yet, an error message highlighting the glaring inadequacy in her life: she's too far off the center of the grid, technologically trapped in that tempting but teasing gray area of existing but incomplete access.

      Claire Johnson is experiencing what realtors and developers already know. Homes without boradband access and solid cell phone coverage can be more challenging to sell and stay on the market longer than their better connected bretherin.

      e-State Vermont here we come. To every nook and cranny, the four corners, to every take-back-Vermonter and granny pining to Skype with the li'l ones across the shining seas. Public delcarations, promises and unshakable determination.

      So... When?

      With iPads flying off the Small Dog shelves, iPhones & Androids taking over the airwaves and bandwith, you and I spending more and more time in cyberspace and aiming for instant information sans delay, many of us look to the day that optical fiber will be as widespread as the common telephone and power lines.

      Aiming for One Gigabyte Per Second.

      Smartening Up

      U. S. Sen. Leahy (D), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), Rep. Peter Welch (D) and Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas (R) Friday July 2nd announced the largest public investment in broadband infrastructure ever made in Vermont.  Federal agencies have awarded two Vermont telecommunication organizations a total of $47.1 million in federal economic recovery grants to build fiber optic networks that will help form the core of Vermont's broadband network and bring high-capacity, lightning-fast, affordable broadband bandwidth closer to end users.

      In September Senator Sanders spoke of 172 Million in recent funds received by the state to help achieve statewide broadband access.

      Senator Patrick J. Leahy announced October 28th over $17M in competitive awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) to the Northeast Cyberinfrastructure Consortium (now there's a mouthful), aka NECC, a coalition of five states (VT, ME, NH, RI and DE) to build a high-speed fiber optic network across the five states, linking universities and research institutions.

      Optical Color Code
      U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke announced the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) was awarding a $33.4 million grant to the Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA) and a $13.7 million grant to the Vermont Telephone Company (VTEL) through NTIA's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).  The two grants are part of a $7.2 billion broadband investment program that Congress and President Obama crafted as part of last year's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
      VTA is using the funds to build Vermont Fiber Link, a statewide, mid-mile fiber network increasing bandwidth and reducing broadband costs to state offices, healthcare institutions, schools and other critical customers.
      Broadband Infrastructure Leahy, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who pressed for inclusion of broadband infrastructure funding in the economic recovery package, added, "These federal investments are the largest public investments in boosting broadband access in Vermont's history, and the benefits will ripple throughout our economy... This is the vital first step in delivering state-of-the-art broadband service to every Vermonter."
      "It is no overstatement to say that the future of Vermont's economy depends upon the swift and complete deployment of broadband throughout our state." said Welch, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet. "This grant is a major boost to Vermont's communications infrastructure. It will provide broadband access to key institutions and bring us closer to our goal of a truly connected state."

      Smartening Up

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      "Ensuring that all Vermonters have access to broadband service is a top priority of mine," said Governor Douglas.  "We've been working hard to achieve that goal through the e-State initiative, the VTA and support of other broadband initiatives."

      Douglas, who launched the e-State initiative in 2007 as part of his Vermont Way Forward, that led to the creation of the VTA, noted that during the past legislative session Vermont invested $2 million in the Capital Bill that will contribute to this project and another nearly $3 million for his Backroads Broadband program to help service those hardest to reach Vermonters.

      A ten per cent increase in wireless phone penetration translates, according to the GSM Association, into a 1.2% increase in GDP.

      And Governor Douglas expands "it revolutionizes our telecommunications infrastructure by setting the goal of making Vermont the nation's first "e-state" where quality data and cellular voice coverage and high-speed broadband are available to every Vermonter anywhere within our borders, at anytime--by 2010.

      We would be the first state where every community redefines civic involvement with local blogs, online forums and real local content.The first state where every classroom has its own wiki and every student can access the library at Oxford, tour the Louvre or converse with a peer halfway around the world--all from their rural home in the mountains of Vermont.

      Vermont would be the first state where entrepreneurs can experience our exceptional quality of life and our amazing landscape, all while being constantly connected to customers and markets across the globe."

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ayZVjQ8qBg&fs=1&hl=en_US]

      Smartening Up

      Brian Dubie & Peter Shumlin, in their campaigns for Governor, both campaigned on securing broadband access across the state by 2013, the same three year period Governor Douglass had aimed for. Here are both Dubie & Shumlin in their own words.

      For more information on the e-State expansion, check out the Vermont Telecommunications Authority site

      To expand or sell your Vermont holdings, visit Maple Sweet Real Estate @ www.maplesweet.com, call 1.800.525.7965 or email info@maplesweet.com

      Solar Vermont, eShine

      Parabolic dish and stirling engine system, concentrating sunlight to solar power.

      Solar orchards?

      That's right, step right up and purchase your little piece of paradise much as you would your own cemetery plot. Bask in hot water from the sun's radiation. Cover your roof with silicon. Shoot for the stars and plant a dozen massive kinetic solar trackers across your meadow and really make a splash. Solar is hitting the big time, a figurative and literal fruition.

      From Hinesburg to Waitsfield, north, south, east and west, the rush to embrace alternative energy is on.

      Wikipedia: "Solar energy, radiant light and heat from the sun, has been harnessed by humans since ancient times using a range of ever-evolving technologies. Solar radiation, along with secondary solar-powered resources such as wind and wave powerhydroelectricity and biomass, account for most of the available renewable energy on earth. Only a minuscule fraction of the available solar energy is used."

      Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana, in this April 21 photograph.

      Parabolic dish and stirling engine system, concentrating sunlight to solar power.

      Millions of gallons of spilt Deepwater Horizon oil this spring and summer have brought the issue of fossil fuels, global warming and the importance of alternative energy into sharp focus and Vermonters are taking action.

      Here in the Mad River Valley, solarscapes born almost overnight are transforming our scenic byway, our anti-development oasis into a high-tech crucible and a new reality in which local opposition forms against the visual blight of such high-tech colonization in an environment prized for its bucolic, undisturbed beauty. Wind farms, geothermal, hydroelectric and most beloved of all, it seems, from rooftop to tracker, here comes the sun.

      If you've caught the fever or are just plum ready to reduce your carbon footprint, here are two of many Vermont partner companies offering Vermont solar system installation options.

      Alteris Renewables The sun will never announce a rate hike. Experience. Expertise. Results.

      The number one solar and wind energy installer in the Northeast for homes and businesses. Solar Electric. Alteris solar installations provide 1/3 or 1/2 of your electricity needs, though they can be scaled up to provide 100%. They collect energy through photovoltaic (PV) cells, which are made of very pure silicon. These cells are electrically linked into modules which are linked to arrays.

      How Alteris Solar Electric Energy Works

      Parabolic dish and stirling engine system, concentrating sunlight to solar power.

      Electricity is produced as photons of sunlight hit and penetrate the silicon, bumping electrons into a flow, in a process known as the photovoltaic effect, which produces DC (Direct Current) electricity. This DC current is passed through an inverter, which converts the electricity to Alternating Current (AC) to match the American standards of AC frequency and voltage. & No Money Down.

      Parabolic dish and stirling engine system, concentrating sunlight to solar power.

      groSolar. Distributor, installer and integrator of solar energy solutions for residential and commercial installations. Founded in 1998, groSolar is the largest 100 percent U.S.-owned distributor in the solar industry, and is the fourth-larrgest installation company in North America. The company has offices and warehouses across the US, distributing solar electric and solar hot water systems from offices in VT, NJ, NY, CT, MA, MD, DE, PA, and CA. groSolar integrates components from leading solar manufacturers including Canadian Solar, Motech, Heliodyne, SMA, Fronius, and UniRac into simple solar energy solutions for customers that generate clean, reliable energy for decades. groSolar is a mission-driven company dedicated to providing high quality solar energy solutions and whole energy appreciation. groSolar's venture capital investors include NGP Energy Technology Partners, SJF Ventures, and Calvert Social Investment Fund. Sign up for a free evaluation. groSolar's mission: your peace of mind.

      Parabolic dish and stirling engine system, concentrating sunlight to solar power.

      Incentivize. In 2010, $5,275,000 in funding, made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund, is available to the Vermont Renewable Energy Incentive Program. This program requires the installer be a partner in the program. Here's a list of the Renewable Energy Incentive Program Solar Hot Water & Photovoltaic Partners. DSIRE, or the Database of Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency includes a detailed summary of Vermont's solar incentives.

      Visit Vermont's 9th Renewable Energy Conference & Expo this Thursday September 30th & Friday October 1st at the Sheraton Conference Center in Burlington, sponsored by such luminaries as NRG Systems and the much more familiar Green Mountain Power.

      For more information on solar power in Vermont, to sell or purchase your own Vermont property, contact Maple Sweet Real Estate at 1.800.525.7965, info@maplesweet.com or visit www.maplesweet.com

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djR7m4jzNfk]

      10 National Association of Realtors Market Facts for Uncertain Times

      Although the economy is soft and consumer confidence remains low, new data from the National Association of REALTORS® shows positive signs for the future.

      Here are 10 key facts to understand today's market.

      1. The economy is growing, though slowly. 2. The private sector is finally creating jobs. 3. Consumer confidence remains low, though clearly off bottom. 4. The 30-year mortgage rate is at generational lows and housing affordability is at a generational high.

      5. The national median-home price is stabilizing. 6. Home-price measurements are showing price stabilization. 7. Home price-to-income ratios have returned to fundamentally justifiable levels. 8. Economists expect price increases in coming years 9. Delinquencies are high but recent loan originations are performing well. 10. Patient home owners acquire substantially more wealth over the long term than renters.

      To see the statistics behind these facts, download the full NAR research report, Market Facts in Uncertain Times > (PPT: 1.39MB)

      Tracking Harrison Snapp

      Snapp Geometry

      It all started with a condominium on a renovation quest. Vertical fissure over fireplace, kitchen cabinets having seen better days. In search of the piece de resistance, the missing link, how to spin some magic for spice, add sparkle 2 great bones. Celebrate. Coming down to a barn beam to crown the hearth, missing link. Distressed beauty. The search on.

      Valley to mountain peak, wretched wood frame to historic agricultural storehouse. Kerney Brown on site. Dan Eckstein at Yestermorrow and an upcoming deconstruction class slated to bring down the long-standing barn across from the Fayston Elementary School. Matt Groom on the challenges of finding a beam 11 inches deep, plank alternatives. And the returned email and disconnected phone for the Weather Hill Company.

      Snapp Geometry

      Weather Hill work stands tall, testament to tradition and integrity. The email bounced back, line no longer in service... Had they gone under? Morphed to snow birds? Curious given the caliber and performance.

      Today the break. Pulling onto the highway dividing the Mad River Valley, seasoned green pick up cruising the Mad River Scenic ByWay emblazoned with Weather Hill's logo, two cars out. A chase worthwhile. Mile and a half later the driver must think me out of my mind or be exceedingly worried something is horribly wrong with his rig.

      Out steps Harrison Snapp.

      A kind smile, beard of the ages, talking story. "An 11 inch deep beam you say..."

      Snapp Geometry

      Creating award-winning museum quality combinations of old and new, unforgettable residential & commercial spaces from top to bottom. Condemned, exhausted 200-year-old buildings on the verge of collapse find salvation at the hands of Weather Hill, aka Weather Hill Design Associates; Weather Hill Building Co.; Heritage Joinery Ltd. Homes saved from fire departments on the verge of a practice burn or a bulldozer clearing the way for commercial expansion.

      Design & architectural consultants, balance, proportion and scale. Quiet, radiant spaces of unmatched warmth, serenity & power. Owner Gregory & Carolyn Schipa, with Snapp, harking from Fayston, have been at it well over 30 years erecting and renovating landmarks across the eastern seaboard from here in the Green Mountains to Nantucket, Boston, the Carolinas, Virginia, DC, and beyond. Snapp's been with Weather Hill since 1974 and Greg started out on Nantucket. Val. Snapp's wife, works in color, painting & staining.

      Snapp Geometry

      Endeavoring to bring buildings to their former glory when most if not all  original detailing has been buried or eliminated during one facelift after the next. Using archival tools and techniques from hundreds of years ago, painstakingly bring history to the fore. Jack plane hand planing after removing modern mill roller marks in search of the 18th century.  Wooden Mallets & the Stanley No. 55, out of production since the early '50s, incorporating dozens of planes  for all Greek profiles: beads, curves, beak moldings, ogees, reverse ogees.

      Snapp Geometry

      Clients can select dismantled and stored structure elements from the Weather Hill collection or find their own. Existing footprints expanded with ells or carriage houses to encompass added bedrooms, a library or great room while upholding the Greek tenets of  fascia, soffit & frieze board proportions.

      Back to the disconnected phone line. Right, "we've moved" says Snapp, from Charlotte to Warren. New digs and direction, part of the Mad River Valley's nascent renaissance. Bloody good fortune for our Scenic Byway. And that barn beam... Snapp's checking for the appropriate element.

      If you'd like to receive an estimate from the Weather Hill Company for renovation or new construction, or learn more about this wonderful Vermont asset, email or call Maple Sweet Real Estate toll-free at 800.525.7965, or visit maplesweet.com for other options.

      Trusts, Trustmakers, Trustees, Beneficiaries

      Revocable, precisely as it sounds. A revocable trust (RT) then, is one which the grantor (aka settlor or  trustor) has the power to revoke even though the assets have been entrusted to and are owned by the beneficiary.

      As the grantor may revoke or alter (via trust amendment) the provisions of the trust and therefore maintains control during his or her lifetime, there aren't normally tax advantages involved. Furthermore, a revocable trust may allow the grantor to earn income from the trust during his or her lifetime.

      So why, you ask, involve yourself with a revocable trust? The answer is fourfold.

      One, you can prepare for mental incapacitation in which the RT can be administered by your Disability Trustee instead of by a court-supervised judge in probate (usually up to two years) or by a guardian or conservator which can last much longer, five, ten or even twenty years.

      Two, so the assets may pass directly to the trust beneficiaries.

      Three: privacy protection. By avoiding probate, which is public by requirement, the assets can convey without public scrutiny.

      Four, it pre-empts organization and requires you to get your house in order and be sure all title docs, account statements, corporate minutes, stock certificates etc are in order for the trust and helps avoid the calamity of your family or other beneficiaries having to bring order to your estate along with the associated confusion and potential discord.

      Bringing Order to The Estate

      A revocable living trust (RLT) allows you to exert some control from the great beyond (after you've made your exit) over the inheritance you bequeath. Better even, an RLT can take the place of a will and allows for the disposition of assets more quickly sans court supervision or probate. Revocable trusts become irrevocable, in most cases at least, only after the trustmaker dies and can be designed to break into separate irrevocable trusts for the lifetime of the spouse or husband, children or other beneficiaries.

      Au contraire, irrevocable trusts are often utilized by high net worth individuals to bequeath assets the control over which is released for charitable purposes along with the associated tax advantages for the trustor and protection from creditors. Once assets are distributed to the Beneficiaries, creditors can attach them as they can any other property owned by the Beneficiaries. The legal & tax consequences are significant as the assets funded into a revocable trust are still considered yours for creditor and estate tax purposes, without protection if you are sued while alive or from state & federal estate taxes once you pass away

      Per Wikipedia, 'A living trust, or inter vivos trust (inter vivos is Latin for "between the living"), is a trust created during a person's lifetime to either save money on taxes or set up long term property management.[1] All living trusts are designed to avoid probate proceedings and may in addition be used to reduce taxes, safeguard financial privacy, and to regulate the use of assets if the owner becomes incapacitated, and for other purposes.[1]"

      While the advantages of forming a trust, either revocable or irrevocable, are clear, there are certain disadvantages. First, there is more expense up front than simply writing a final will and testament. Nevertheless, a trust will allow your loved ones to avoid a costly court supervised guardianship over the long run.

      Second, it takes time. You'll need to contact your banks, investment and insurance companies, and transfer agents to change account and stock ownership and update beneficiaries; issue new stock certificates or assign partnership or LLC interests for closely held businesses; re-title cars and boats; and sign and record new deeds for real estate. For many, especially those in their later years, time is precious and this is the most inconvenient factor.

      time-is-ticking-away (2048×1536)

      Third, you still need to create a Pour Over Will & Final Testament to catch your unfunded assets and pour them into your trust.

      Fourth, the period to contest a trust is much longer than for a will, the latter generally 30-90 days, the former one to five years but sometimes longer.

      To further explore trust related issues, contact Maple Sweet Real Estate at maplesweet.com, via email at info@maplesweet.com, call toll free at 800.525.7965 or consult an attorney including those listed by Maple Sweet Real Estate.

      Facebook Defined

      Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg : "The mission of the company is to make the world more open and connected"

      Derived from the Phillips Exeter Academy printed student manual where Zuckerberg went to boarding school, Zuckerberg wrote Facemash on October 28th, 2003 as a Harvard University sophomore hacking dormitory ID images and generating 22,000 views in the first four hours online, later facing dismissed charges of breach of security, violating copyrights & individual privacy and expulsion.

      After putting it on Harvard's Kirkland online mailing list there were somewhere between twelve and fifteen hundred registrants. Initially limited to Harvard students, half of the undergrads signed up within the first month, and facebook later expanded to other Ivy Leaguers, university students, high school students and finally anyone 13 or older with a valid email address.

      Zuckerberg incorporated "Thefacebook" in 2004 and formally launched facebook with his Harvard roommates in September 2006 after purchasing the domain name facebook.com in 2005 for $200,000.

      By 2005, the use of facebook had become so ubiquitous, the generic verb "facebooking" was born describing the process of browsing others' profiles or updating one's own profile.

      Financial investors have included PayPal founder Peter Theil with a 2004 $500k investment, Accel Partners, Greylock Partners, and potential suitors Google & Yahoo. Microsoft purchased a 1.6% share of Facebook for $240 million in 2007, giving Facebook a total implied value of approximatey $15 billion and the same year Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing invested $60 million.

      This controversial social stimulant has been blocked in China, Vietnam, Iran & Syria. Over a dozen privacy and consumer protection groups filed actions against facebook for violation of consumer privacy rights. facebook privacy has  been compromised a number of times including the sale of fans and friends, most recently highlighted with Time Magazine's May 31st, 2010 cover story.

      60 Minutes televised interviewed Mark Zuckerman & did a piece on facebook in January of 2008 as the momentum was gaining and on facebook's challenges.

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UNrqz6X-AE&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

      For a concise review of criticism leveled at facebook, including successful lawsuits, see this Wikipedia article.

      According to Time, one in four browsing the internet not only have a facebook page but have been to the site in the last 30 days and 28% of the users are over 34.

      In contrast to MySpace which allows users to decorate their profiles using HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS),  facebook only allows plain text. iPhones, Google's Android and other smart phones are facebook compatible and some include facebook apps you can download for mobile posting and connecting.

      Create separate pages for each of your businesses separately from your individual profile which friends can shine favor on by bestowing their "like" blessings. Create groups like the one Time magazine put together to solicit the photos on it's cover of 1,295 savvy participating facebookers.

      A 2009 compete.com study ranked facebook as the most used social network worldwide by monthly active users followed by MySpace. Facebook is expected this year to include 500 million active users or "citizens".

      In December 2009, the New Oxford American Dictionary declared their word of the year to be the verb "unfriend":

      unfriend - verb - To remove someone as a "friend" on a social networking site such as facebook. As in, "I decided to unfriend my roommate on facebook after we had a fight."

      This year facebook announced work on the company's first custom data center in Prineville, Oregon. When completed this summer, the 147,000 square feet (13,700 m2) building will occupy 30 acres (0.12 km2) of the 124 acres (0.50 km2) site they purchased, and will house 35 employees. The company has soe 1,400 employees worldwide including the US, Dublin, Tokyo, Sydney and more, publishing in 70 languages while ensuring split second updates to keep the social interaction fresh.

      Registrants beware. facebook is designed for maximum addiction, incorporating a series of what it calls "ah-ha!" moments crafted to pull you in to realize facebook is so smart it will be indispensible to your social future. If you aren't audacious enough to venture out in real life or digitally looking for friends to invite into your world on facebook, it will recommend them based on your circles of influence, interests, location and existing friends. Social intelligence avails itself.

      Here's  a tongue in cheek video on facebook etiquette to help ensure you're thoroughly schooled in the ins and outs of this brave new world:

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iROYzrm5SBM&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

      If you're feeling insecure, take your redemption campaign online. facebookers pay attention to how many friends they have and accumulate (or lose!) and you can spend hours searching facebook's database for every soul you've been introduced to and send out a zillion friend requests to expand your social empire. That is unless you'd like to eat dinner or do something real like go out for some exercise.

      Inside facebook headquarters

      At some point you may either tire of being so pubic or just want to leave the world of facebook behind. To delete your facebook profile, click here. Clicking on the link won't delete your profile immediately but will set you along the thread to get it taken care of.

      Information for this article is drawn from both Wikipedia and this week's Time Magazine articles including direct quotations.

      Check out Maple Sweet Real Estate on facebook, email info@maplesweet.com call toll free @ 800.525.7965 or visit www.maplesweet.com to sell or purchase Vermont property, receive information, submit your thoughts and comments or ask any questions.

      William Maclay on Net Zero Energy Buildings: Providing Stable Returns In An Unstable World

      Maple Sweet Real Estate is proud to present the following blog submission on Net Zero Energy Buildings from esteemed and highly accomplished Vermont architect, William Maclay. William Maclay Architects and Planners mission is to enhance the world we inhabit through making places for people and nature to live and to flourish with dignity, spirit, and beauty.

      Green design has taken on increasing importance and relevance for Vermont real estate purchasers, investors and home builders.  Bill Maclay's team is particularly well equipped to design homes and projects on the cutting edge of the carbon footprint revolution.

      Net Zero Energy Buildings: Providing Stable Returns In An Unstable World, by William Maclay

      Faced with multiple challenges from environmental pressures due to climate change, energy price volatility and the economic downturn, there has never been a better time to build.

      But we're not talking about any ordinary buildings--we are talking about the design and construction of buildings that minimize the use of natural resources and energy. Such buildings protect the environment, pay for themselves through improved efficiency, lower operating costs through stable energy costs and avoid the need for outside (fossil-fuel based) energy sources.

      We call these buildings Net Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB). There are very few standing in the United States today--many more are on the drawing boards. But simply put, Net Zero energy buildings should become the new standard in "green" building as they can provide the best long-term solution to the environmental, energy and economic problems we face.

      Net zero energy buildings (NZEBs) generate as much energy as they consume on an annual basis. The energy used is usually produced on-site and comes from renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal or biomass. Typically, the net zero building is connected to the electricity grid, using the grid as a balancing mechanism to accommodate the fluctuation of renewable energy sources.  Often, people will ask whether it's possible to achieve NZEB in the cold climates of New England. While it's certainly easier to achieve in warmer, southern climates, the net zero goal is very reachable, albeit more challenging, here in New England and other similar climates.

      How to Get from Here to There: Efficiency First, Renewables Second

      Because renewable energy sources are usually more expensive than non-renewable energy sources, the goal in any Net Zero energy building is to first reduce the energy needs of that building. Typically energy usage must be reduced by 50% or more (over current building efficiency codes). We call buildings that meet this greatly improved energy standard micro-load buildings.  After that renewables can be added cost effectively to make net-zero buildings.

      Net Zero in New Construction versus Existing Buildings

      Certainly, achieving micro load energy efficiency standards is easier and typically more cost-effective to do with a brand new building--essentially building it into the design plans from the outset. But it's also possible to do when renovating existing buildings. With 300 billion square feet of existing buildings out there, bringing energy use down and improving building performance in the already built environment offers tremendous opportunities for savings.

      Conclusion

      Clearly, net zero energy buildings offer a tremendous opportunity for countering the environmental, energy and economic pressures we face today. But they will not become the standard for how we develop our buildings and communities overnight. It will take a concerted effort to educate business owners (and the public) about the potential these buildings offer and change the way we think. By taking a longer term view and seeing our buildings as the investments they truly are--investments into our energy future, the well-being of our planet and the health of our businesses--we will be moving toward a more stable, productive and sustainable way of life.

      Some examples of Net Zero projects by Maclay Architects:

      River House, Moretown, VT

      The River House is a Net-Zero residence set on a stone dam abutment above the Mad River. It directly connects to the location through the use of site-harvested stone in both the building and the landscape. The house uses a super-insulated envelope, a 15 kW on-site photovoltaic array, and a ground source heat pump to achieve its Net-Zero energy goals. The linear structure is accented with three daylight monitors rising through a sedum-covered extensive green roof.

      Dartt House, Waitsfield, VT

      Renovations to this 1800's era farmhouse, located in the historic village of Waitsfield, balanced concerns for preserving historic character and reducing energy demands. Insulating within the existing walls and roof preserved the historic quality of the building exterior, while improving efficiency. Similarly, high-performance, triple glazed windows were installed within existing frames. Energy reducing appliances, an air source heat pump, and heat recovery ventilation further reduced building loads.  These measures improve thermal comfort and indoor air quality to a micro-load building that is ready for an 8.5kW photovoltaic system to be installed in 2010 or 2011. This house is next to Maclay Architects offices which will be net-zero in 2010 with the addition of a 17.5 kW photovoltaic installation.

      Putney School Field House, Putney, VT

      The Putney School desired a new field house to meet their growing needs for high quality sports, wellness and social spaces, while seeking to create a model for the future that could be used as a tool for learning about the school's core values of environmental based learning, sustainability and social consciousness.

      The school also asked the design team to provide a building well-integrated into the existing campus and character of the local Putney community. With its 36.8 kW array, it is projected to be a net-zero building in 2010.

      Learn more about these projects at  www.maclayarchitects.com

      Special thanks to William Maclay for writing this, and to Lisa Sawin, Kevin Dennis & Eileen Hee of William Maclay Architects & Planners for their support in bringing this piece to press.

      To list or look for central or northern Vermont real estate, email info@maplesweet.com,  call toll free 1-800-525-7965 or visit www.maplesweet.com

      Cotswold Furniture, Pinnacle Craftsmanship

      John Lomas,  Cotswold Furniture designer & owner,  attended the London College of Furniture over two decades ago and, fortunately for Vermont, settled here to launch Costwold Furniture, today including a three story restored barn production facility in Whiting & a gallery in the heart of Stowe two minutes north of Main Street on the Mountain Road.

      From lumber selection to finishing, Cotswold is striving for perfection in every detail of the furniture making process. The finest American hardwoods--American Black Cherry, Quartersawn Northern White Oak, Black Walnut, and others--are used to provide balance and symmetry in the completed piece. These are joined by time-tested techniques--Mortise and tenon, dovetail, bridle, and cross-halving joints--that guarantee integrity for many life times over.  Oils are hand-applied to create silky soft surfaces. Finally, each piece is signed and dated by one of the five craftsman, and inlaid with a pewter squirrel medallion with a motif  taken from a 1904 Ernest Gimson design for a pair of andirons.

      Cotswold's designs are inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement in the Cotswolds in England, the Shakers in America and John Lomas' understanding of classical proportion.  Cotswold work is known as Transitional Furniture Design that combines traditional as well as contemporary elements resulting in furniture that fits well into both worlds. Cotswold strives for designs that will be as pleasing and relevant 50 or 100 years from now as they are today.

      Collections include: Pinnacle with an Asian flair, decorative Fountainbrook, arts & crafts Gloucester & Chalford, robust Farmhouse & Chalford,  antique inspired Regency, & the elegant Sapperton.

      The Stowe gallery features heirloom quality Cotswold Furniture and accepts special commissions including cabinet design. The gallery also includes transitional Tibetan and Arts and Crafts hand knitted wool rugs,  and home decor offerings include lighting, hand-blown glass, pottery, metal, stainless steel and fine art.

      Cotswold Furniture is certifiied by Smartwood to use FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) lumber and support responsible forest management worldwide.
      To purchase furniture or order a commission, visit www.cotswoldfurniture.com, call 888 253-3738, email: stowe@cotswoldfurniture.com or visit the Cotswold Furniture gallery in Stowe.
      To list or search for Stowe or any central or northern Vermont property, visit www.maplesweet.com, email info@maplesweet.com or call 800-525-7965.

      Radon, Taken Seriously

      January is National Radon Month, a great time to better understand this highly radioactive, odorless, colorless & tasteless gas that, given prolonged exposure, is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

      The United Nation's World Health Organization (WHO) states radon is a worldwide health risk in homes. Dr. Maria Neira of WHO said that "Most radon-induced lung cancers occur from low and medium dose exposures in people's homes. "  Click here for the World Health Organization's Handbook On Indoor Radon

      A Radon Electron Shell Diagram

      Here's a January Vermont Department of Health (802-863-7281)  Press Release on Radon:

      BURLINGTON - The winter heating season is the best time to test homes for radon, a colorless, odorless gas present at elevated levels in about one out of every seven homes in Vermont. Prolonged exposure to radon is the second leading cause (after smoking) of lung cancer in the United States, and is responsible for more than 20,000 deaths annually.

      The Health Department is encouraging Vermonters to test their homes for radon in January as part of National Radon Action Month.

      "Exposure to radon is preventable and fixable through proper venting techniques," said Austin Sumner, MD, State Epidemiologist for Environmental Health.

      The cost of having a certified professional properly ventilate a home can range from $800 to $2,500, depending on the home's characteristics.

      Radon gas can get into your home from the soil and the water supply. A house can act like a large chimney, with warm air rising and escaping out upper floor windows and through cracks in the attic. This creates a vacuum at the lowest level of the house, which can pull the radon from the soil into the house. Because radon levels can change daily, weekly and seasonally, a test of three to 12 months (ideally including a heating season) gives the most accurate measurement of exposure. Radon testing should be done in the lowest level of living space in the house.

      A Radon Electron Shell Diagram

      For a free long term test kit, email your request to radon@vdh.state.vt.us. Put the words "radon test kit" in the subject line of your email and be sure to include your name, phone number, and both your mailing and physical address, or call 1-800-439-8550.

      To obtain a short-term test kit for $25, contact the Vermont Health Department Laboratory at 863-7335 or 800-660-9997, or visit www.healthvermont.gov.

      Kits also are available through http://fairbanksmuseum.org (click on Explore, then Radon Education), or by e-mailing radon@fairbanksmuseum.org.

      From the Wikipedia article on Radon: "Although radon exposure has only been conclusively linked to lung cancer, further studies may be needed to assess the relationship between radon and leukemia. The effects of radon if ingested are similarly unknown, although studies have found that its biological half-life ranges from 30-70 minutes, with 90 percent removal at 100 minutes. It has also been shown that radon progeny can attach itself to the smoke of cigarettes, which then become lodged within the lungs. It is considered likely that the combination of smoking and radon exposure increase risk synergistically."

      The Environmental Protection Agency is a great source of information on Radon including their publication, A Citizen's Guide to Radon in which radon test levels are addressed. "The average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L, and about 0.4 pCi/L of radon is normally found in the outside air. The U.S. Congress has set a long-term goal that indoor radon levels be no more than outdoor levels. While this goal is not yet technologically achievable in all cases, most homes today can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below."

      Professional Radon Mitigation has been shown to effectively reduce the concentration of Radon and Vermont Radon Mitigation Specialists guarantee the house will re-test below the recommended EPA levels following the installation of the vacuum based ventilation systems.

      The map below is from the EPA and shows all but two Vermont counties have a Zone 2 predicted average indoor radon screening level of between 2 and 4 pico curies per liter.  Chittenden & Grand Isle Counties are Zone 3 with less than 2 pCi/L and are classified as low potential zones. None of the Vermont counties are in red Zone 1, which averages over 4 pCi/L.

      For more information on Radon, connect to www.maple sweet.com, email info@maplesweet.com or call toll-free 800-525-7965 with questions.

      A Radon Electron Shell Diagram