Habitat finishing up energy-efficient Cornwall home

CORNWALL — Kayla Selleck will have an extra special story to tell her 6-week-old daughter, Zoey, if she ever asks about the origin of her family’s Cornwall home.
“I was out working (on the home) the day before I delivered her,” Selleck said on Thursday.
It was all part of the obligatory “sweat equity” that Habitat for Humanity home clients pay into the construction of their homes, which are built with volunteer labor and low-cost supplies to produce affordable abodes for people of modest means.
Kayla, her husband Scott and their four children will make the move later this month into their new, 1,400-square-foot home off Carothers Lane. It is the second of four Habitat for Humanity of Addison County homes planned for Cornwall’s first-ever affordable housing subdivision. Habitat worked in concert with the town and a multitude of donors to lay the foundation for the subdivision on a 13-acre parcel, of which 11 acres will remain open.
“Since as far back as 1991, we have been preaching the fact that we have been needing to have affordable housing for Cornwall,” said Roth “T” Tall, a longtime resident of that town and leader of Habitat’s building committee. “This was a golden opportunity.
Hall, amid the hum of skill saws at the work site, said the homes are making a long-held goal a reality.
“We have preached this forever,” Tall added. “Now we get a chance to practice it.”
A core crew of around a dozen people, along with the Sellecks, has spent about a year working on the new home. Church and service groups have also pitched in at times. In all, roughly 250 people will have had a hand in the project by the time it is completed, according to Tall.
As of last week, workers were tending to some of the final tasks, such as interior painting, siding work, and finishing a small out-building. The floors were being readied for carpeting.
Harold Strassner was among those sawing and hammering at the site last week. He has proved a valuable member of the team, having worked in the construction and maintenance industry for many years prior to retiring around four years ago. His resume includes 28 years in facilities management at Middlebury College, followed by a teaching stint in the industrial arts department of the Patricia Hannaford Career Center.
 “There were many years when I sat at home, knowing these buildings were being built around Addison County, saying to myself, ‘I should go out and check on that and get involved,’” Strassner recalled.
One day, he received an invite to become the construction manager on a Habitat project.
“I jumped right at it, without even thinking a minute,” Strassner said. “I enjoy it. I wanted to get back into construction. It’s my opportunity to do something with Habitat and for people. This crew is a great crew to work with.”
The volunteer crew meets when it can, and has thus far toiled a combined total of more than 80 days on the Selleck home.
And what a home it is.
Professional architect Jean Terwilliger was instrumental in designing the Cornwall home and its many energy efficient features that should limit the Sellecks’ annual heating bill to around $300, according to local Habitat officials. It is the third Habitat home on which she has worked.
The new Cornwall home has twice as much insulation as a typical house, according to Terwilliger. The 14-inch-thick walls (containing 9.5 inches of cellulose insulation) are more than twice as resistant to energy loss than the average house wall, while south-facing windows and ceilings are fortified to minimize heat loss.
There are also eight inches of insulation foam under the home’s foundation slab, and an electric air-source heat pump will use the difference between outdoor air temperatures and indoor air temperatures to cool and heat the Sellecks’ home.
“We could call it ‘Fort Terwilliger,’” Tall quipped.
The idea, of course, is to make sure the resident family can financially swing the annual operating costs for the home, for which they will hold an interest-free mortgage with the county Habitat organization. Habitat board member Chris Robbins, a member of Middlebury’s energy committee, secured more than $20,000 in grants to help lower the project cost.
 The home is expected to cost around $130,000 — considerably less than comparable Cornwall houses.
“I think what Habitats across the country are doing is thinking about what the monthly costs are to the owners and wanting to really keep that to a minimum,” Terwilliger said.
Tall credited local businesses with being incredibly generous in providing materials for free or at cost.
“I walk into a business and say I am from Habitat and say ‘I’d like X, Y and Z,’ and they say ‘Do you want it in red, white or blue,’” Tall said.
The Sellecks are grateful to have the new home at an affordable price.
“I’ve pretty much lived in apartments my whole life,” Kayla Selleck said. “For our children to have a home that’s affordable for us is amazing.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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