The Montague Urban Homestead, winner of the Mass Zero Net Energy Challenge, is a one-story single-family dwelling, located on a sunny .25 acre. Currently a rental property, we took into consideration the goals of the owner, as well as the current tenants. The tenants were interested in growing food and medicine, having some privacy from the neighbors, and creating an outdoor gathering space. The owner of the property was interested in a landscape that complemented the Net Zero abode, with gardens providing food for two tenants from June to September.
We looked into framing the design around the Living Building Challenge (LBC), by analyzing the current site and what improvements would need to happen to meet the Challenge requirements. We had a solid start in that the house is already Net Zero Certified, and the clients are interested in food production and water reuse. Wastewater reuse requirements were a more challenging hurdle, as there are regulatory restrictions for gray and blackwater systems on compact suburban lots. Rainwater catchment from the small roofs of the home and shed would provide water for irrigation and a few household activities, but would likely not suffice for year round water needs.
Keeping the site, the client’s goals, and the LBC imperatives in mind, we created a design that maximized the use and productivity of the property by designating areas for food production, pollinators, wildlife habitat, and people. Public, semi-public, and private spaces were scattered throughout the property, catering to both residents and guests. This diverse assemblage of spaces unites in the front yard with a small gathering lawn surrounded by a grape-covered arbor, vegetable beds, herb beds and several fruiting shrubs. The property can now be a demo site for tour groups, showcasing food production, water harvesting, soil building, pollinator habitat, and urban privacy screening strategies – while residents can enjoy the newfound privacy, beauty, and delicious food this verdant landscape offers.