Being on this West Coast Passive House tour really taught me something – there are a lot of excited people out there building some wonderful Passive House projects. The homeowner involvement and excitement has been great to see. This next project has been named “Project Green Home - the beyond platinum LEED, net-zero-energy, passive house.” The homeowners started this project as an opportunity to make a difference to the environment by building sustainably and it took on a life of its own as their excitement focused it to be more sustainable with each new step.
Project Green Home was another Quantum Builders project that Bronwyn Barry took me to. It was in a great location and was another “outside the box-y” house. Even though it was wrapped in Tyvek & SIGA tape, I could still see features that would give it wonderful character when complete. A small bumpout in the front as well as a small wing off the side add to the overall area of the building exterior and increases the difficulty of the area to volume ratio that is critical for Passive House success – but that doesn’t seem to be stopping Bronwyn or any of the designers I met. Sure they had to work at it to get the designs to work, but aesthetics are an important part of a home and I am happy to report they are not lacking in Passive Houses.
The gorgeous red Sorpetaler windows were a surprise and made me smile. It’s almost like wearing sassy red glasses – and these windows were sassy AND classy! These windows are designed to be about a .14 U value and their construction is very superior to windows that are normally installed in houses in the US. From the insulated frames to the superior glass that is installed, windows such as these are one of the key components of the Passive House and were thoroughly modeled for location and size prior to their installation so that the way they affected the buildings performance would be calculated in advance. It is this very careful attention to design detail along with the nicely constructed windows that allow the designer the ability to bring character to the home. Sorpetaler is not the only window manufacturer that makes windows that work in Passive House projects, Optiwin, Serious, and Cascadia are just a few of the other manufacturers out there that are being used by projects, so you do have choices.
This project was more than just new construction – it was an exercise in how far sustainable could go. Materials from another building that was carefully deconstructed for re-use were used. Water conservation through rainwater recycling, water efficient fixtures, material selection such as recycled tiles, FSC lumber, and even the material used in the concrete slab were all sustainable choices incorporated into the project. Advanced framing, a Daikin Altherma heat pump water heater, radiant flooring and even focusing on the emissivity of the roof by choosing light grey (the planning department vetoed white) as well as future PV solar and electrical vehicle charging station planning show that no detail was too small to make a sustainable choice on. The homeowners even have a website with more information on their project.
And what about that material I saw on this project that I thought would be good for retrofit projects I hinted about in the last article? It is called “Owens Corning Energy Complete”. It is a sprayed in place low expansion foam product. When considering a Passive House retrofit one of the trickiest problems is not having the construction open for easy air sealing. This looked like it could be useful in some of those less than ideal air sealing locations. If you want to read more about it, go to: http://www.ocenergycomplete.com/system/
Next up – Pippin the wonderful terrier mix who lives with Sarah & Stuart in their Eugene, OR Passive Home. Blake and Larry Bilyeu of Bilyeu Homes, Inc. did a marvelous job on their Passive House project.