Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Green River Commons

Condominiums in Greenfield, Massachusetts

The Green River Homes community are seven sustainable, comfortable, and beautiful one level condominium townhomes with easy access to public transportation and downtown Greenfield, MA. Courtesy photo.

The Green River Homes community are seven sustainable, comfortable, and beautiful one level condominium townhomes with easy access to public transportation and downtown Greenfield, MA. Courtesy photo.

By George Harvey

In August of 2015, Green Energy Times ran an article about the R. W. Kern Center, at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. That article, “This is How You Do It” (, described what might be the toughest and most inspired standard around for sustainable buildings, the Living Building Challenge (LBC).

That article also brought into sharper focus Wright Builders, Inc. in Northampton, Massachusetts, which was the general contractor for the Kern project as well as the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, both in Amherst, Massachusetts, and both LBC projects. I called the International Living Future Institute, which administers the LBC, and asked a simple question, “Has anyone ever done this before?” They were quite surprised by a single builder undertaking the challenge on two buildings at once. They had never expected it would happen.

Wright Builders, Inc. works not only for institutions, but builds and develops homes for all sorts of people on a range of income levels. They are working now a new project that perfectly exemplifies this, a seven-unit condominium designed to be kind both to the environment and to the occupants’ pocket books. Moderate income people often do not have access to the best of building science and design. Collaborating with the Town of Greenfield, Massachusetts, Wright Builders is working to change that.

Green River Commons in Greenfield, developed by Green River Homes, LLC, with Wright Builders as the general contractor, has seven homes. It consists of two buildings, one of three units and the other of four. They are sited close to shopping, regional transportation, some great restaurants, theater, and the arts of a great community. The condominiums have indigenous landscaping, off-street parking, river views, and comfortable interiors featuring wood and tile flooring.

What I find loveliest about this is that the homes can be occupied without any sense of guilt about environmental effects. They are built to a standard Wright Builders calls “net zero capable.” What this means is that when all the demands for energy are combined, they can be offset by a solar installation on the roofs.

The double wall construction, cellulose insulation, Pella triple glazing, air sealing, and orientation are designed so that the heating and cooling needs can be covered by energy coming from the rooftop solar. The lighting, appliances, and other needs for electricity are also supplied from the same solar. The homes are equipped with state of the art Mitsubishi heat pumps and Rheem hybrid water heaters, along with ERV systems for ventilation. The units will have HERS ratings estimated to be 44 or lower, which means they will require 44% of the energy required by a standard home built to current specifications, 11% less than the current code minimum requirement.

Each owner will have the opportunity for solar system ownership for no more in monthly cost than the projected energy bills, and with little or no down payment through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. The solar systems that will ultimately go onto the roofs are not pre-installed, in order to afford buyers the optimum use of grants and tax credits for their own benefit. That can be done in consultation with Pioneer Valley Photo Voltaics, a locally owned Coop that is considered an industry leader.

Wright Builders and Green River Homes are partnered with Freedom Credit Union for construction and customer financing needs.

All the homes are built to the same identical standard. Three of the home’s costs are labeled “market rate,” while the other four are defined as affordable to families at 80% of median income. The prices range from $145,000 to $200,000 for one and two-bedroom homes, with areas of 560 and 720 square feet respectively.

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