Episode 20: Embodied Carbon With Mike Maines

E3 - Energy and Efficiency with Emily is a podcast dedicated to energy efficient home building in cold climate areas of New England. This week we invited our good friend and frequent guest, Mike Maines, back to the podcast to talk about embodied carbon. If you follow along with any of the Paris Climate Agreement or Climate Change in general, you maybe have heard we need to get a handle on our carbon emissions sooner rather than later. In today’s podcast we talk about what that means for the building sector and you as a homeowner building or renovating your home.

For More Information on Mike Maines:



Michael grew up on an old farm in central Maine, learning practical skills and spending a lot of time working and playing outdoors in woods, fields and water. During high school he became interested in timber frame construction, where the skeleton of the building is expressed with large timbers and traditional all-wood joinery. He knew he wanted to design and build beautiful, natural, expressive homes for a career, but was torn between going to college for architecture, engineering, or another field. He chose to attend Tufts University and earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, with a minor in Architectural Studies, graduating with honors and with an award for entrepreneurial achievement. He had spent every break during college working as carpenter or woodworker, and used his savings and award money to buy an old Volvo station wagon and some tools, and spent the next several years working as a fine woodworker, carpenter and contractor all over New England, mostly in Cambridge and Nantucket, MA.

Michael and his wife-to-be decided they would move from Somerville, MA to Portland, ME in August of 2001. The events a few weeks later hastened their move, and in early 2002, Michael found a job as a drafter at a respected residential design/build firm near Portland. Over the next twelve years, Michael worked in various roles at the company as they grew to more than five times their size when he started, including a stint back in the field as a foreman and project manager, but for the last several years he managed the design department and business development as they established a new cabinetmaking division and took on some of their largest and most successful projects to date.

Throughout his career, Michael had studied building science and energy efficiency, and the more he learned, the more frustrated he grew with not being able to convince clients to implement strategies that were better for the environment. He and his wife had also decided to relocate from their small urban lot to have more land for their growing homesteading activities, and to be closer to their parents, so in 2014 they moved to a farm established in 1830 in Palermo, Maine, between Augusta and Belfast, about 75 miles north of Portland.

Michael had been interested in the Passive House building energy standard since he had first learned about it in 2006, and got a job with one of the premier builders of Passive Houses in the US, who happened to be starting a shop to build the most energy efficient buildings in the world, indoors, in Searsmont, Maine. Michael’s title was Operations Manager, but he performed a wide variety of tasks to help bring the new business from concept to a successful venture. He learned a whole new paradigm during his 15 months as an employee there, and subsequently earned the designation “Certified Passive House Consultant,” which means he is qualified to design buildings that use 80-90% less energy to operate than conventional buildings, and that are healthier and more comfortable than other buildings as well.

As exciting as it was to help start a new venture, Michael missed using the skills he had learned helping hundreds of clients design new homes and renovations, so in early 2015 he started a new firm, Michael Maines Residential Design. He understands that not every client is interested in building a certified Passive House, but he works with them to find a balance of efficiency and cost, while making sure that the home or renovation is beautiful, functional and healthy for its occupants and the environment. Michael works all over Maine, with current projects in Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Belgrade and Rockland. He also works on more remote projects, currently including Rhode Island and Chicago, using the advantages of digital communication whenever possible.

You can catch his articles in:

FineHomebuilding, Green Building Advisor, and Green and Healthy Homes Maine

To read the article on Low Carbon Construction that we discussed in this episode click HERE