Western New England's Sustainability Leader

A Word From Our Founder, Jonathan Wright


The move away from fossil fuels to electrification is exciting, and also has huge climate mitigation potential. However, just fuel swapping is not the answer, because if the environmental burden of electric generation is simply moved to someone else's neighborhood, nothing is accomplished.

Thinking wholistically, it is important to understand the sources of power in our region. At present, we are fifty four percent natural gas for power generation, and only about eight percent renewables. Against this backdrop, considering the one hundred percent increase in power needs contemplated for electrification is a huge challenge.

We will need much more solar and wind at scale, more Canadian hydro. We will need better transmission capacity. We will need long and deep individual home and building solutions, along with campus solutions like we see happening at Smith and Amherst Colleges.

The work of ISO New England, the Grid manager, in terms of managing and balancing this powerful electric resource, is quite remarkable. Moment to moment they are balancing the demands and the supplies, "handling" something that moves about 680,00 miles per hour, and calling on power from more than three hundred sources around our region. Doubling this capacity in thirty years requires a quantum lift in terms of planning and investment.

Back here in our homes and buildings, there is so much we can and need to do. Let's start with the new basics. Wright Builders, Inc. can help home and building owners make the transition with the needed expertise and commitments that yield decarbonization, comfort and long-term value.

We need much better buildings overall. Net-Zero should be the building code for all new buildings and also additions and renovations of more than thirty percent assessed value, with grants and subsidy to support that goal based on incomes. A massive rethink of public rental housing such as what has recently been accomplished at Salem Heights has huge potential for carbon reduction. . https://www.poah.org/salem-heights-renovations

Every effort, both grand and modest, can contribute to the mitigation of disastrous climate change trajectories, while providing a platform for innovation, prosperity, and job development. Let's get to it!

North Amherst Library

Wright Builders has been busy working with our friends from the Town of Amherst and Kuhn Riddle Architects on a renovation and expansion of the historic North Amherst Library. Enabled by an anonymous donor, the $1.7 million project will create accessible entrances, a wheelchair lift, bathrooms and a community meeting space for groups of up to fifty people.

The additions require a slew of structural components to connect old to new, making a relatively small sized project quite complicated. The library was originally built in 1893 by Charles Henry Haskins as a centerpiece to the North Amherst and Cushman economic districts. The ornate details throughout the building, so carefully laid by Haskins, have been painstakingly removed and catalogued to be used again. Meanwhile, in the addition we are applying the same diligence to detail and design, while incorporating new building technology and materials.

Just three years after the library was originally built, the North Amherst and Cushman districts were connected by the North Amherst branch of the Amherst-Sunderland Railroad, solidifying the area as a social and transportation hub. Now, 110 years later, we are seeing a renewed interest in this area, including the new Mill District shops and apartments, located on the old Cowls sawmill site.

This is such an exciting project to be part of and an integral piece to the revitalization of the North Amherst Village. We are so proud to be the builders that have been selected to continue the legacy of this beautiful North Amherst landmark.

Easthampton's River Valley Co-op

River Valley Co-op Easthampton opened to great excitement on July 1, 2021. The expansion represents scores of new jobs, and markets for dozens of local and regional farmers and providers, as well as a benchmark success for such a young enterprise.

Wright Builders' involvement in the project dates back four and a half years from the opening, spanning many months of site search, planning, and engaging with the many constituencies and partners. The design from Thomas Douglas Architects is both inspired and efficient. The site planning and engineering from Berkshire Design Group ingeniously integrated storm water management and natural landscapes. The interior is bathed in natural light, and, both inside and out the views of Mount Tom hold sway.

The building's exterior shell is very efficient, with high levels of insulation and excellent glazing. In fact, only about 17% of the energy load is for heating and cooling the building. The rest is for refrigeration and cooking!

Combustion has been limited to high recovery water heating, make-up air for the range hoods, and some cooking surfaces, as electric options for these functions are just not available yet. The rest of the energy profile is all electric, with heat pump technology fully deployed. The advent of COVID-19 early in construction lead the Co-op team to ramp up the air cleaning systems, resulting in a very comfortable and healthy interior.

Out over the parking area and on the roof are solar panels installed by PCV2 totaling just short of 1 MW. At this writing, the long delays and intricacies of interconnection have STILL not led to the "ON" switch being deployed, but it is coming. All indications are that this entire facility will operate at net positive electric annually, which is a regional, if not a national, first. Hats off to the management, staff, community owners, farmers, builders, designers and everyone lese for believing in this transformative project! We at Wright Builders, having previously undertaken major renovations at the Northampton store, are honored to have contributed to the success of this new location.

Pine Meadows Development

A long held 100-acre family golf course becomes a reforestation project with a unique development component. Wright Builders, Inc. played the central role of Development Manager and then Design-Builder for the four homes.

Pine Grove Golf Course was a beautifully situated small family style golf location, enjoyed by Northampton and regional families for decades. The owners wished to retire, and the City of Northampton envisioned a preservation and recreational opportunity for the bulk of the land. That concept for gradual reforestation and accessible trails throughout was planned and executed by Northampton's longtime Planning Director, Wayne Feiden, as a carbon sink and place of reflection and respite.

On a wooded section in the Northwest corner of the property, where a hill with a cell tower was existing, five lots were designed using common driveways and municipal water. An Owner-Developer with great vision and values, but inexperienced in development details, purchased these permitted lots in 2019.

Wright Builders, Inc. acted as the Development Manager for the lots, a project which comprised some key elements:

  • Three of the five building lots are tucked in and around the edges of the forestation.
  • Two homes are at the edge of the meadows.
  • Less than 9% of the parcel is developed.
  • Northampton Zoning requires tree replacement unless the construction is for a Net-Zero building. Using these zoning tools, Wright Builders and the site designers identified areas for clearing that strategically allow for solar electric power homes despite the westerly hill shading and the preponderance of trees.
  • Berkshire Design Group worked through many plan iterations to achieve a set of prime lots, one of which was reserved for the Owner-Developer.
  • The covenants for the project which Wright Builders outlined in draft are unique in that the developer does not release the building for construction until it is modeled to be Net-Zero, or better. These covenants are part of the codified special permit.
  • While the project is not complete, so far, the HERS ratings are -17 and better!
  • All of the homes meet, or will meet, the following standards certified by a third-party rater: the City of Northampton's Stretch Code, EPA's Energy Star, Water Sense, Indoor AirPlus, and DOE's Zero Net Ready.
  • The home designs that Wright Builders developed are generally modern in character while responsive to the landscape, and utilize sustainable wood construction methods, and where needed make imaginative use of the natural grades.
  • Except for a woodstove or fireplace, the buildings are combustion free.
  • In addition, the subdivision had to be designed and constructed to maintain all storm water flows to pre-construction levels.
  • Sales were handled by the Owner-Developer's realtor, with concept designs and pricing from Wright Builders. In this way the home designs were controlled according to the covenant, the developer had confidence in the design integrity and Wright Builders, as "Preferred Builder" had the construction contracts to support the months of consultation and permitting processes.

The Project offers a window into how an experienced Builder-Developer can add value without having to undertake the broad financial risk of land acquisition. Like all good things, partnering makes for efficient utilization of skills and resources. For this project, Berkshire Design Group especially, and Pioneer Valley Photovoltaics and Northeast Solar, all made important contributions to the solutions. The Owner-Developers have a fabulous site with breathtaking views, a sustainable forever home, and a group of like-minded neighbors not too close, but still proximal!

These are just some of the amazing organizations and events which Wright Builders has supported in 2022. Wright Builders believes in giving back to the communities that we live and build in. We love our corner of New England and hope to help preserve its beauty and support its people for decades to come. We appreciate our customers who help make that possible and we look forward to another amazing year of construction!

We have made it possible for you to click the links below to learn more about these wonderful causes.