Located on the banks of the Assabet River, this LEED Silver-rated new home represents an alliance that spans a much broader body of water. “The owners are both from Dublin, Ireland,” says architect Douglas Dick, whose design reflects both his clients’ heritage and their adopted homeland. Its simple gabled forms and stone masonry end walls recall traditional Irish farmhouse structures. Its other finish materials “were more inspired by classical New England farmhouse forms,” Dick says.

Dick laid out the main wing in linear fashion, orienting first-floor common spaces and second-floor bedrooms toward the river. “The screened porch was a huge part of the program,” he adds. “It’s located at the far end, so it doesn’t darken any of the windows.” An intersecting wing holds a three-car garage, utility spaces, and guest quarters with a private stair. The interior is characterized by what Dick calls a “transitional” style, an essentially open plan in which “each space is defined, but also open to the other rooms.” The jury noted the house’s disciplined design, calling it distinctive yet “representative of the region.”

The owners were equally interested in aspects of the house that don’t show at all. “They’ve got a keen knowledge of and interest in sustainability,” Dick says. The design team used energy modeling software to compare various building sections for performance and payback period. The winning combination includes an insulated-concrete-form foundation, 8-inch-thick SIPs for exterior walls, and a truss roof with 24 inches of medium-density foam insulation.

The result is a building envelope that approaches Passive House levels. “At 50 Pascals, we ended up with an air-exchange rate of 0.87, by far the lowest we’ve achieved,” Dick says, “and that’s in a house with two fireplaces.” An independently ducted heat recovery ventilation system runs continuously to keep indoor air fresh. With a 11.5 kilowatt solar panel setup, the house achieves an impressive HERS rating of 11.

On Site To take advantage of rate incentives offered by the local community-owned power company, this house has three separate electric meters: one for standard plug loads, one for the geothermal HVAC system, and one for charging electric cars.