Creating a Sustainable Transportation  & Energy Vision for the 21st Century



AltWheels Regional Hero: Thinking outside the renewable-energy housing box


Jackson Madnick poses outside his Wayland home

with a section of the passive-solar system

to be installed on its roof.



  • Home: Wayland, MA
  • Public house tours: Available Saturday mornings
  • Greening work: Jackson is renovating his two-story, 3,000-square-foot house, which he bought in 2000, to be 95-percent energy efficient with zero reliance on the grid. He is using a combination of the following: passive solar power; wind power; geothermal power; super insulation; more than 30 tons of distributed thermal mass, which is essentially an energy battery that absorbs heat during the day and releases it at night; the most energy-efficient EnergyStar appliances available; and compact fluorescent light bulbs. He plans to complete the work by Spring 2008. He figures the previous homeowner spent more than $500 a month on energy costs. Once he completes his project and is feeding power to the grid during the day, he estimates his monthly energy bill will be as little as $50.
  • Inspirations: R. Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller, a visionary and inventor; Harold “Doc” Edgerton, an MIT engineering professor; Edward Bernays, one of the fathers of the field of public relations; and his own mother, Pearl Madnick. “Together, they showed me I can do a lot more in life than I think I can. They also encouraged me to think ‘outside the box’ and have an enthusiasm and joy for education. In addition, they urged me to not look at the norm because most people lack a big enough picture of the world. And they taught me the benefit and value of doing social work.”
  • Impact of work: While Jackson’s house has about the same amount of floor space as when he bought it, he has nearly doubled the amount of usable space. However, once he completes the energy-efficiency work, his electricity bill will be only 25 percent of that of the previous homeowner. As a result, he will increase the energy efficiency of the house by a factor of eight on a square-footage basis. “When the sun shines and it is zero degrees outside during the winter, it is a comfortable 72 degrees in the house with no heat turned on.”
  • Economics of work: Jackson calculates he has so far put around 10,000 hours of his own labor into the house and spent tens of thousands of dollars to date on materials and other labor. He figures he will more than recoup this expenditure in the way of energy savings over the next decade or so.
  • Recommended information resources: Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth book, movie and website,