Compact Retirement Cottage
Ashfield, MA



Transform a poorly converted former pole barn on an uninsulated slab into a cozy, energy-efficient dwelling within a frugal budget.

A couple nearing retirement wanted to expand their weekend retreat into a comfortable, fully accessible home with predictable energy bills where they could age in place.  Located on a rural state highway, the narrow lot was further constrained by wetlands and the existing septic system.  They initially contacted Quigley Builders to manage construction of a prefabricated addition.  Mary showed how a site-built design could better meet their goals and limited budget, and deliver lower energy bills over the long term.  The clients were active participants in the design process as well as construction, completing many of the interior finish details themselves.

Working with a local architect who provided schematic plans, Quigley Builders took up the existing floor, added insulation to the existing slab and around the perimeter, and laid a new sub-floor.  Reconfiguration of the interior included a 16'x20' addition.  Walls for the addition were built from structural insulated panels (SIPs).  SIPs were also wrapped around the existing structure, then covered with metal siding.  To increase both a feeling of spaciousness and solar gain, the existing roof was removed temporarily and the walls raised two feet.  In winter, sun pours in the long south face, but the roof overhang shades the interior during summer.  Additional cellulose in the attic and dense pack cellulose in the walls complete the insulation package for the home.

Propane furnace and electric air conditioning have been replaced by an efficient mini-split heat pump.  A Zehnder heat recovery ventilator provides fresh air and helps to circulate the conditioned air as well.


Cranework |  Harold’s Garage, Northampton MA
Electrician |  Poissant Electric, Ashfield MA
Energy Certification | Center for EcoTechnology, Florence MA
Excavation & Concrete | Harris & Gray, Ashfield MA
HVAC & Plumbing | George Propane, Goshen MA; Zehnder America
Insulation | Cellu-Spray, Florence MA
Recycling & Waste Management | Austin's, Whately MA; EcoBuilding, Springfield, MA
Schematic design | Kraus-Fitch Architects, Amherst MA

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