Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wanted: Visionary Artist Homebuyer with Cash

Must be willing to live on the edge (in Roxbury) and eschew market forces. Desire to inhabit an innovative "delightful" new dwelling, the construction of which rankles the BRA, realtors, and banks, essential. To apply send a notice of interest to these people. But do it fast or the opportunity to be part of a truly cutting edge, sustainable housing development will be lost.

Highland Park based design/build company, Placetailor is committed to the ultimate sustainable development: small and very, very energy efficient.

The problem is that "market forces don't want you to build small and smart," said Simon Hare, Placetailor contractor. "They want you to build bigger and dumber".

In constructing a three-unit dwelling on the corner of Highland and Linwood Streets, Placetailor "naively thought we could raise the bar and pull things in the other direction but at this point we are overwhelmed by the market," Hare said.

Hare and his colleagues want to build to the most stringent existing energy efficiency guidelines, Passive House.

The architectural plan has gone through several iterations. It currently consists of one one-bedroom unit of 550 square feet inspired by the 100 year old Japanese silk maker's house in the Children's Museum, one two-bedroom unit of 880 square feet and one three-bedroom of 1200 square feet which, as the most traditional unit, is considered by Placetailor to be the Grand Dame of the project.

Because the units are smaller than what is typically built in this country, (current trends aside) banks are hesitant to make loans on the units, which cost more per square foot than ordinary construction. Likewise, realtors don't want to sell units that don't fit the "bigger and dumber" housing model they believe all Americans want. And the BRA, Hare said, "doesn't want to upset the neighborhood which is conservative but the least of our worries".

"The right thing to do for a sustainable project is efficiency, efficiency, efficiency," said Hare. But Placetailor is also "trying to make the units delightful, inspiring places to live in and grown old in," he said.

Shortly after purchasing the weed choked lot back in April, Placetailor began making it a better place by erecting a white picket fence, and planting flowers and shrubs. They later added a community bulletin board to the property to provide enhanced community communication.

This past weekend, Placetailor took a break from the project to determine how they will move forward with construction - as small and smart as they originally envisioned or something closer to the bigger and dumber model that the market seems to think is a good idea.

Without visionary, solvent buyers the market may win.

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