Welcome to The House That Blues Built

By Michele Lerner

Fourth-generation custom homebuilder Albert Cummings knows a lot about two things: building a high-performance home and performing the blues. Cummings splits his time between his custom home business and his music career as a renowned guitar player, who has performed and recorded music with his band and with music legends like Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, Sheryl Crow, Susan Tedeschi, and B.B. King. Naturally, now that he and his wife and business partner Christina Cummings are building their long-planned home in the Berkshire Mountains, the couple dubbed it the “the house that blues built.”

The couple has agreed to share their experience from permitting to completion through interviews, videos, and social media posts that will showcase their choices on process and products.

“What drew me to working on this project with PRODUCTS and Custom Builders is that I think the ‘flip-this, flip that’ stuff on television hurts our industry,” says Albert. “I wanted to show people how to build a super smart house in a scientific way that meets the stretch code requirements in Massachusetts. For me, the focus is on quality in the building industry.”

The Cummings have owned the land for The House That Blues Built (THTBB) since 2007, an 18-acre property with a pond and views that encompass mountains in Massachusetts, New York and Vermont, and church steeples.

“We bought this site for the views, and we’ve been coming just to sit out here and relax for more than a decade,” says Christina. “We’ve been able to position our home for the sunrise and sunset views.”

Functional design

The two-level post-and-beam style home, designed for relaxing, recharging and socializing, will include more than 3,400 square feet of living space wrapped on all sides by patios and porches.

“The whole walk-out basement downstairs will be the coolest part of the house, designed as a tribute to music,” Albert says. “There’s even a dedicated guitar room.”

The couple wants a comfortable guest suite for musicians on the road, a place to regroup and share their creativity.

“I think the kitchen will really wow everyone,” Christina adds. “We have a spectacular kitchen in our house now with a 15-foot island and this new kitchen will rival that.”

While the above ground lower level will provide space for music and guests, the upper level will include the open kitchen, a living and dining room with a fireplace, an office, a pantry and a family entrance with closets, storage and a powder room. The primary suite wing, which is adjacent to the laundry room, will include a bedroom, walk-in closet and luxury bathroom.

Collaborating for improved performance

The Cummings share a devotion to sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint. This house is meant to meet high levels of energy and water efficiency.  

“We’re eager to show how companies and products can work together to meet stringent stretch code requirements,” Albert explains. “The HERS rating must be 55, which we were able to reach based on the estimated performance of the insulation, windows and air exchange systems. Once we included the components we plan to include in house, we were able to get to a HERS rating of 45.”  

Massachusetts was the first state to adopt a stretch code in 2009. The code, which has been tweaked in subsequent years, is meant to result in buildings that are 20% more energy efficient. While renewable energy sources are encouraged, they’re not required by the code, which emphasizes energy performance and cost-effective construction.

The goal for THTBB is to use less energy, reduce the Cummings’ carbon footprint, and benefit the planet, Albert says. But the report also estimates that these performance improvements will save $9,348 annually on utility bills.

The Cummings family of builders has more than a century of experience with innovative building practices and quality craftsmanship, and that will be on full display throughout the team’s collaboration with PRODUCTS, Custom Builder, and a variety of suppliers as they aim to achieve new heights in the Berkshires. 

 


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