DEVENS -- Emerson Green is a visionary residential development making its mark in New England.
So is Epitome, a patented composite foundation system made by a Midwestern-based company called Composite Panel Systems LLC, which is changing the way houses are built for the better.
Already an established norm in other parts of the country, Emerson Green is a perfect place for Epitome's high-performance, residential foundation technology to establish a local footprint.
With energy-efficient houses dotting its family-friendly streetscape and a built-in commitment to eco-conscious, community-oriented components such as sustainability, Emerson Green began breaking ground early on, making headlines when it was featured in This Old House Magazine.
Now, Epitome has added another dimension to its eco-resume, providing a finishing touch to the "envelope" designed to reduce energy use and up residents' comfort level.
Epitome foundations have an R-value of 13-16 (compare that to standard concrete foundations, which have the same insulating value as a pane of glass: zero). Epitome foundations are also waterproof and strong (used on container ships). And Epitome comes with a 15-year warrantee. Concrete providers offer none.
Emerson Green plans to use Epitome foundations for all future construction, said Kathy Knox, whose Real Estate firm has been marketing and selling homes in the development since day one.
The first Epitome foundation was installed one morning this week, for a new home under construction at the corner of Grant and Pine Roads. It isn't a new idea, a proven success in other parts of the country. But it may be the first of its kind in this area, she said.
The only downside that seems likely might be price. The material is still more costly than concrete and may add to building costs down the road, but for now, prices here won't go up as a result, agent Kim Knox said.
On the multi-factored plus side, she noted that Epitome foundations go in quicker than concrete, which apparently saved the day for a development in Connecticut. She sketched the scenario. A builder ran into trouble when hundreds of concrete foundations failed, with houses already on them. The houses were hiked up and new, composite foundation walls were installed underneath. That could not have been so easily accomplished with concrete, which must be poured and takes many hours to set.
With a flatbed loaded with Epitome foundation walls ready to go, a giant crane started lifting them in place at 7 a.m. An hour later, the job was nearly done. Typical time is two hours, start to finish.
Things shaped up fast.
The interiors looked finished already, like studs. Knox said they come ready for wiring, with pre-drilled holes, a value-added perk for a future family room or workshop. Another plus, a wide, slide-open window cut low into one wall provides outside access, rather than a bulkhead. A four-inch, poured concrete floor will be the only concrete in this basement.
Building inspectors from the area would show up later for a tour, Kathy Knox said, with walls all up and secured and Construction Supervisor Sean Ford on hand to show them around.
During a gala open house at Emerson Green a few years ago, co-hosted by This Old House, visitors strolled through a visionary work in progress. Only a handful of the few homes then on the street had been sold, including the spotlighted TOH home. Two or three families had moved in.
Now, 17 families call Emerson Green home as the development enters Phase Two.
At full build out, there will be 124 housing units here, single family homes, duplexes and 40 rental units. With several styles and sizes to choose from, prices range from the low $300,000's for a duplex to the mid $600,000's for a two-story colonial, like the one getting its Epitome foundation in today.