After about four years of trying, we were finally passing papers. The old Trustees of the old Cambridge Cooperative Club were welcoming new people onto the trust. I had volunteered, and convinced Dan, one of the other housies, to step up to being a trustee with me. The snow was flying, the slush and salt accumulating at the Porter Sq mall, but we were there, with two current trustees, ready to meet at the bank to have the documents notarized. Finally.

We had been in touch with Litu, one of the trustees who had lived at the house from the mid-80’s to about 1997, for a few years trying to get together for this. He has been very supportive, but things just never quite got together. For the Trust to accept new members, we needed two existing trustees to sign in each new trustee. Litu lives in Cambridge still. Somehow Paul, the one current housie who lived in house in the last century, was in touch with Litu, and had emails for a few other old housemates. All the trustees are former housemates. The current housemates are supposed to be the trustees, but we have a situation where, until today, all the trustees lived outside of the house.

I had been in touch with one of the trustees who lives in Australia, who wanted to be helpful but wasn’t really going to be able to sign anything. Tim, another trustee, would occassionally pass through town from his artist existence in Vermont, but he was hard to get in touch with. Another Trustee, Jennifer, did indeed live in Cambridge, but had expressed interest in actually resigning and was never available. And these folks I had identified after going through a lot of old names on bits of filed paperwork in the house which had turned up as dead end leads.

After numerous attempts to convene, we finally got in touch with another Paul, who had also lived in the house in the early 80’s and was a trustee. He lived in Medford! He came to a house meeting and we caught up; he hadn’t been to the house in 20 years and was thrilled with how things seemed to be doing all right. He had been involved in the last “trustee turnover event” when he had been here, and was happy to help us get things straight again.

So we agreed to get together this Wednesday at 8:30 to get the papers signed to bring in Dan and myself. I was thrilled that we managed to get together and no last-minute winter storm was going to set us back. By nine o’clock, we were done. Next stop: the Registry of Deeds to record it all.

Cambicoop Re-Roof Etc…

Taken from:

Starting on the Roof Project

We are finally getting the project off the drawing board.

The goal is to have renewable energy installed on our roof, and to have a roof that won’t leak. In the process of working toward that, we have realized we need to do a lot more. Including: overhaul the structural load-bearing capacity of the house, re-build the roof, and remove the three old boilers and hot water heater and get a new super-efficient device which will do everything all at once.

The first thing to do is the structural work. With our trusty architect Garth Goldstein, we have identified what needs work and enlisted the services of Community Builders Cooperative, a construction and renovation group based in Somerville. They are indeed a worker-owned cooperative and it’s exciting to work with an ally in the Cooperative movement.

Here are some pictures of the work.

Our building permit

We dug four holes for four new posts to support the weight coming down from above. One post is directly under the main first floor post, which, for forty years, has not had anything directly under it! (no wonder the house shakes when you run up the stairs!) and at the south end of the house, one new beam in the basement will ride on the other posts. At the north side, the street side, the load in the outside wall will be secured better on the foundation.

The holes for the posts’ foundations created a lot of debris. It looked kinda funny down there for a couple of days. Basically, the new posts created a line of support extending straight down from the walls above. Previously, the upper stories’ weight traveled to the first floor, and then spread across to two lines of posts/lolly columns in the basement. It was a poor design that has been needing correction for many years.

Here is one of the new posts under the new load-bearing beam at the south end of the house, on its new foundation block. The jack and light-colored wood will soon be removed. The house is already shaking less!

Here we are in the main living space of the first floor. This is where many walls were removed in the 60’s and the dark-colored wood beam across the ceiling and the post in the middle were left to support the house. No offense to the designer who implemented this, but it really isn’t the best situation. Our project will double the carrying capacity of the ceiling beam and increase the post by 200% in order the transfer more of the house’s weight directly to the new basement post below (not pictured in this document, but similar to the last picture above), rather than rely on load transfer through the fabric of the rafters and flooring to non-structural walls in this story and auxiliary columns in the basement. The bright-colored stuff in this picture is wishing someone a Happy Birthday.

Here is where, at the south end of the house, we installed more load-bearing columns inside the wall on the second floor. This would connect with a column in the kitchen below and then to the new large 3-columned beam in the basement. Although it was a bit intrusive in these rooms, it was all sealed up very nicely in the end.

And here is Garth the Architect and Steve the Carpenter looking at the replaced/enhanced structural members on the first floor. You can see how the column and the beam are much bigger than they were before, and actually, stronger materials. They are already making the house sounder, and will be important as we re-build the roof. Although we will remove many layers of old membrane and roofing material which has just been accumulating up there, and that weight will be reduced, we are looking at a ballasted solar PV array, which will be weighty and thus the improvements to the structure of the house.

I thought I had a picture of the finished product; if I find it, I’ll put it up here. We are all happy to talk about this component of the total project any time. Just email us.

Helpful Random T-dude

I was adding value to my charlie card at the Church St node of the Harvard Sq. T stop and overheard a couple of women behind me debating which exit to use. One of them had a foreign accent so I figured it might be helpful if I asked…
“Where are you going?”
“The Harvard Museum of Anthropology”
“The museum…well…it’s that exit over there, and well, I’m going that way, why don’t I show you the way?”
“Okay!” they said and I was glad I had interacted. I live on the far side of the museum from the square about two blocks. They were at UMass Boston in an anthro class, or the one was. Her friend, with the accent, was just out for a random adventure.
I started pointing out the landmarks – “this is the Yard where the freshmen live. This is the Science Center. That building is the Memorial Hall, it also has Sanders Theater on one side.”
“It looks like the churches in my country”
“Where are you from”
“Oh that’s neat. I once worked with a woman from Albania. Arzana. I can’t remember her last name. She used to play a lot of italian music.”
“Oh I love italian music!”
“Here we are at the museum. The anthropology stuff is in the back. You’ll get a map when you go in. Enjoy!”
“Thank you!”
And they were off. It was nice to be helpful.

Time Flies when you’re networking!

Suddenly, it’s past three. I only had lunch an hour ago. The day moves at a new pace when you are focused on yourself. I am only getting into the rhythm. There used to be so many little requests flying at me, so many messages to respond to. One day again, but for now, pleasant.

HEET Weatherization Power!


HEET Weatherization Barn Raising

On October 24th, 2009, the International Day of Climate Action sponsored by, the house was a-bustlin’ with activity!

The local energy efficiency organization HEET – Home Energy Efficiency Team – came over with a horde of volunteers to do a weatherization “barn-raising.” Our Coop had been selected as the site to swarm on this fine day. HEET barn-raisings are a great way to get involved with the community and participate in direct action to weatherize old buildings and improve their energy efficiency. This time it was in coordination with the larger day of climate action to reduce carbon emissions. Many different projects were approached and dispatched.

By the end of the day, the assembled crew had tended to all ends of the house – from basement windows to insulating the actual pop-up hatch to the roof, and everywhere in between. Comparing a blower-door test from before to after, we were able to reduce air leakage by 16%, which was much better than the 12% pre-event estimate.

There are still a few places where we could look for further savings. Eventually, we will remove the open-flue boilers and hot water heater, where air can go right up the chimney from the basement. Our windows, while they were replaced in the 1990’s with insulated inserts, have over time settled into less than full efficiency, and could use an expensive “tune-up” to increase their ability to hold heat in the house. These might be for further down the line, as they are expensive projects which don’t have rapid paybacks. But volunteers installing weatherization strips is a great way to shore up your energy efficiency.

Thank you HEET! We’ll be out there helping at the next energy efficiency barn-raising!

Here are a few photos from the event.

Installing foam insulation in the chinks of the foundation masonry.Installing storm windows on the exterior…Caulking the jamb at the basement door…Adding a strip of Q-Lon to the kitchen door…And after a whole bunch of other activities around many windows and doors, the gang assembled to have a good lunch of sandwiches donated by Whole Foods.And what Barn Raising would be complete without a little ho-down! HEET Rocks! Thank you HEET and all your wonderful volunteers. We all learned by doing, and did a good thing for the planet!

To Start Working Again

Hello Folks, I am hot on the trail of new work. I have launched a networking effort to identify new opportunities and I hope you can help me. Do you know of a good place requiring the help of a sustainability consultant? Let me know. I want to help improve organizations’ environmental responsibility.
Thanks for your help!

Getting started on a roof project


The Start of a Big Project

I have lived at the Cambridge Cooperative Club for about four years. We are a residential group house of 10 members who live together in an effort to be more sustainable and sensible. Perhaps those concepts are basically the same.

There is more about the Coop at our main site: In terms of being environmentally progressive, we try our best. We conserve water, we compost food waste. We purchase organic food and have a share of a local farm CSA. We cook vegetarian meals for house dinners once or twice a week and do not purchase meat for the house (we have an “open pantry” system – all food is shared in common)(unless you have a special something you brought home from a restaurant or whatever and put your name on it so no one else eats it)…

We have had an energy audit from Conservation Services Group through NStar our electricity and gas utility. Thus we have switched out almost all the lightbulbs in the house and water faucet/showerheads for efficient devices. Each autumn, we line the windows with plastic sheeting to cut down on drafts, and this seems to be a very good practice. We keep the thermostats set low and on timers to be even lower in the middle of the night. In general, we are all trying to reduce our ecological footprint.

Each summer, we usually have a garden in the front yard to grow some of our own food. We also keep a few tomato plants up on the roof where they really like it, although getting water up there is a bit of a chore. I have enjoyed growing these things and enjoyed soaking up a few rays reading up there from time to time.

The roof has had troubles over the years and there is a leak in the central drain. This occasionally causes moisture to enter the house and cause leaks in the upstairs. It especially occurs when there is a heavy slush load on the roof in late winter snow storms. Sometimes the moisture seems to short out the fire alarm system and cause a false alarm. This sounds pretty crazy as I write it but indeed, this is what has been going on in the last year.

So we’ve decided to fix it. Actually, about two years ago, we applied massive amounts of goo and roofing contractor tape to all the seams of the membrane up there and really stopped the leaks. But at some point, we need a real repair job. In fact we should replace the roof.

In fact, we should re-build the roof.

In fact, we should design a comprehensive ECO-ROOF to be, first of all, integral and preventing moisture entry to the house; to have a better access system (right now it’s an old rickety ladder and an unhinged hatch); to have space for some modest recreation and growing some plants; and best of all, to have a solar array to capture some of those rays for energy applications in the house!

The ECO-ROOF is coming! The ideas got flowing in conversations among housies and it’s time to put it into a plan. I have a friend who is an architect and I’m going to see him in a couple of weeks so maybe we can get this thing mapped out.

From Moscow! With Love


Prior to our epic train ride across Russia to catch the eclipse, we spent a few days in Moscow. It was a great experience. I recall a nice enough hostel, meeting up with Teddy’s friend, and eating some good vegetarian food.

We saw a lot of the sights – but not Lenin’s tomb.

The main area of Red Square was massive, quite pleasant, and mostly locals. We found out we could drink in the park there. And shop in the underground mall. A nice Korean couple from Des Moines took the picture of the three of us below.

It was perfect weather. Delightful to be together.