Platinum and green in full bloom on Brent Street

By 
Pat Tarantino, Special to the Reporter
Sep. 1, 2011

Ignoring looming storm clouds, Codman Square residents and city officials came out to Wainwright Park on Saturday to celebrate the opening of Dorchester’s most environmentally sustainable home.

Located at 81 Brent Street, the new three-unit home was designed by Codman Square residents Cynthia Loesch and Ivan Liriano to showcase what they consider “green living” principles, minimizing their environmental impact and is expected to net the Dorchester’s first-ever LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum rating.

Loesch said that after years of lobbying for developers to implement green design practices in the area through the Codman Square Neighborhood Association, the couple chose to try their own hand at green development and show neighbors that sustainable homes can be a reality.

“One thing that always came up [in our discussions with developers] was sustainability, we would always ask ‘maybe you could ad some solar panels to this project,’” Loesch said. “You just don’t see projects like that in our neighborhood, so we decided to do it ourselves and show others it’s totally possible.”

The house features a laundry list of green features that are expected to bring in the highest-possible LEED rating; from energy efficient appliances, solar panels, and insulation that cut monthly electricity costs by 45 percent to a 1,000-gallon tank built beneath the house to collect rainwater and sustains a garden composed of local, noninvasive plants.

Despite the extensive work that went into the house, Loesch said environmental tax rebates kept the cost of building around $450,000, on par with building a similar non-green home.

Loesch said that while not every homeowner would be able to replicate all the green technology packed into the building, she hopes the home will serve as guide for future projects.

“We intentionally went overboard with this house, we want people to walk through and see all the possibilities and pick the features that suit their needs,” she said.

Judging from visitor’s reactions during the open house walk-through, 81 Brent may not be the only green home in the area for long.

Homeowner Michelle Yee said she has been considering making environmental improvements in her home, but seeing the finished product on Brent street cemented her plan.

“It’s really impressive what they’ve done here,” Yee said. “The home is modular and cuts down on construction waste, which I wish we had done and now we are really considering applying solar panels to our roof, the savings are there.”

Many of the contractors who worked on the Brent Street home were also in attendance and said they have received an increasing number of homeowners curious how they can live in more sustainable homes.

“More and more people are coming in and asking about building to LEED standards,” Westchester Modular Homes president Scott Jones said. “There’s a little more to it and it can be too costly for some, but the interest is there.”

Mayor Thomas Menino and State Representative Russell Holmes attended the open house and commended the couple for setting a strong environmental example. Menino also mentioned that neighbors should expect an $860,000 investment project across the street at Wainwright Park in the coming months meant to encourage further activity in city green spaces.

Standing outside 81 Brent Street, Menino shook hands with Loesch and Liriano and reflected on the couple’s finished product.

“It’s a beautiful house,” Menino said as he stood outside 81 Brent and shook hands with Loesch and Liriano.

Loesch was first to reply, “And once we’ve got the park done, you’re going to want to move in too.”