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Experiment in Green Living
By Kathi Scrizzi Driscol

Energy savings win praise for North Truro home

Jeff Rogers considers his North Truro house to be his “mad-scientist experiment.”
When his parents’ retirement brought him back to Cape Cod four years ago to take over the family hardware store and lumber yard, he couldn’t quite leave behind his career as an environmental consultant. Rogers decided to concentrate his passion for helping the planet by renovating his own home.
“I felt I was giving up part of myself and part of my career with all the environmental things I had been doing,” he says. “I decided I was going to ‘green’ my own life, and that was the house project for me.”

I t started with some energy-saving features and just kept growing into nearly every decision in every room of his house – from windows placed for passive solar heating to smaller details like dual-flush toilets, compact-fluorescent or LED lighting, Energy Star appliances, floors of cork and coconut palm wood, and no-formaldehyde cabinetry.

One concession was granite countertops, which he acknowledges aren’t “technically green” but came from Maine so didn’t require a great deal of fuel for shipping.

“My wife and I are geologists, and we wanted some stone in the house,” he says.

With solar and geothermal power systems to supply all his heating and electricity and massive amounts of insulation, Rogers ended up creating the greenest house in southern New England. More than a year ago, his house became the eighth in the country to earn the highest “platinum” LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating from the U.S. Green Building Council and still is one of just three in Massachusetts.

“I went from ‘I’m going to green my life a little’ to ‘This is going to be the premier green house in New England,’” he says.

The experience with his house led Rogers to open New England Green Building last year as part of his family’s Conwell Lumber Company Inc. in Provincetown. The pioneering business sells green products and serves as a referral to area green services, recently earning Rogers a CiGoGreen Award for Vision, Leadership and Action from the Cape & Islands Renewable Energy Collaborative.

“His knowledge, his house and his business are all really important to helping other local consumers go green,” says president Chris Powicki. “He’s shown you can do it.”

Rogers’ house is an “exceptional” example of green renovation and he is “an ideal client,” according to Mark Price, residential green building project manager for Conservation Services Group, which oversees this region’s projects being considered for the council’s LEED rating. “He’s a rare client because he’s so gung-ho about this,” Price says. “Jeff really went out of his way to do as much as he could. ... He’s educated, he’s motivated and he’s open-minded.”

Price often uses Rogers’ house as an example when talking to clients or addressing groups of architects, builders or others in the industry, because Rogers’ home isn’t a high-end, extreme project.

“To see a home on a modest budget by a normal guy who has a family and is environmentally conscious, (you think), ‘It’s something I could or couldn’t do.’ ... It’s not out of reach,” Price says.

Rogers describes his creation as “a run-of-the-mill, vanilla-looking house. Unless I start talking, except for the solar panels on the roof, people have no idea this is one of the great green houses in the country. This is a normal-looking house. What’s different is how it’s put together.”

His next wishes: completing the basement with all-natural wall finish and eco-friendly carpeting, creating a vegetation-covered “green roof” and setting up a personal wind turbine to generate power from his breezy North Truro location.

Rogers is happy to talk about and show the details of his renovation to reporters, customers, environmental groups and anyone interested in making a change – whether to their own homes or, on a larger scale, to how people think about environmentally friendly building. And his house has become his own best advertisement for the company and eco-friendly products that have brought his family’s two-decade-old business into the green-oriented 21st century.

Rogers decided to start New England Green Building after he ran into so many roadblocks doing his own home renovation. Three years ago, “no one was selling any materials, pretty much in New England, not just Cape Cod. There wasn’t anywhere to go to ask questions, to see samples, to buy materials,” Rogers says. “If there were, it was because someone happened to have something and someone else had something else, not because it was a green-building thing.”

Rogers’ father was a developer and Rogers grew up in the family business so was familiar with construction already. Now a LEED Accredited Professional, he designed his home-renovation project himself and supervised local contractors, who shook their heads at his plans and made him guarantee that he would be ultimately responsible if part of the renovation failed.

He hopes his new company saves other homeowners some of his frustrations over that process. At the store and through his Web site at, Rogers sells flooring, paint, insulation, cabinetry and other products in an inventory that’s constantly growing because new products are becoming available so quickly now that it’s hard to keep up.

He has been compiling a referral database, trying to connect people with builders, architects, cleaners and other services dedicated to being green. He leaves out educational materials and has brought in lecturers to spread the word. When he recently added a Radio Shack outlet to a section of the store, all the renovation was “green” so Rogers has examples of success on the premises.

He has stocked the hardware store with green products, too, putting those alternative choices on the shelves next to regular products and marking them with special green tags. Cleaning products have been most popular. “It took away some of the stigma to have them right on the shelves with the other products,” he says.

Rogers has seen the momentum building in green construction and home products and is happy to help lead the charge as the Lower Cape answer man. He can do his best convincing by simply bringing questioners home to North Truro.

“Once they see the house,” he says, “they see it’s possible to do.”