Architect Shares Sustainable Housing Project

Stephen Messinger and Robert Principe

Mr. Messinger led the BAC-Tufts University team that competed in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2009 Solar Decathalon, a two-year collaborative design/build process that culminated with the installation and exhibition of 20 model homes on the National Mall in Washington.

The BAC-Tufts team’s entry, called Curio.House, is a compact modular house designed to be “sustainable, affordable and adaptable.” In addition to using solar energy for heat and hot water, Curio.House showcases innovative ventilation, lighting and window technologies and a variety of sustainable building materials. The team also designed custom and built-in furniture that folds and rolls to make the small living space more flexible.

Working with engineering students from MIT, the team developed a sophisticated digital feedback system that continuously monitors Curio.House’s energy and water consumption, so that a resident would know exactly how much energy the home’s systems and appliances are consuming at any given moment. Mr. Messinger explained that such a monitoring system empowers residents to make informed choices about their consumption. “People will do better if they know the impact of their choices,” he asserted.

Mr. Messinger stressed that the team was less concerned with winning the competition than with the opportunity to educate others on sustainable architecture. He said that about 20,000 people visited Curio.House during the three- week period it was exhibited on the Mall in 2009. This fall, Curio.House found a permanent home on Cape Cod as part of Community Green, a 46-acre green development under construction in Sandwich that provides 57 rental units, educational programs and job training for people who struggle with housing.

Mr. Messinger will return to Beaver soon to visit a few upper school math and science classes that are incorporating sustainability into class projects. His master’s thesis, for which the Hiatt Center’s Robert Principe is on the advisory team, combines sustainable architecture with social justice in the design of a community center and PK-3 school in Jamaica Plain.

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