The next stop on my West Coast Tour took me to a project that I had seen a presentation on at one of the PHNW conferences. Tad Everhart, himself a CPHC, decided to walk the walk – he is renovating his own home (while occupying it!) His wife is very much on board with the Passive House retrofit and was just as eager to talk about it as Tad. Their project was even mentioned on the Oprah show.
The neighborhood that Tad and his family live in is a quiet little neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. I found it to be quite a tight arrangement of housing, but after sitting on the front porch a few minutes and observing the layout I could sense a feeling of community would be found there as people would be likely to visit easily. A woman came out down the street and played fetch with her dog while I surveyed the neighborhood. No cars were allowed to be parked on the street which allowed for room to exercise the dog. Tad and his family are big proponents of bicycle use and after having seen the neighborhood I would imagine that was a feeling shared by others who lived there. This was a neighborhood that considered their impact on the land and arranged for a denser living arrangement than I had seen before, yet it was quite a friendly and appealing street. Passive House was a natural to bring into that kind of environment.
Unfortunately it appears that I focused more on the details than the big picture and I totally missed the opportunity for a picture of the house! (Fortunately, Tad provided one – thanks Tad!) It is the details that sets this project apart from some of the other Passive House projects I visited on this trip. Tad is really looking into products and techniques that will make his project a success. He is also very into educating people on the Passive House standard (as are many of the projects that I visited – this is a very giving community!) Around the house there were slips of paper pointing out the different attributes of the remodel that were left from a recent tour of the project.
The slips of paper weren’t the only things around the room – there were monitoring devices that Tad had Graham Wright of http://wrightonsustainability.com/ set up so that the project could be documented. Sealing tape around windows and unfinished vent ducts were also making the statement that this was still a construction zone.
Tad showed me the material he chose for the next step of the project – R-Tech Fanfold EPS board by Insulfoam that he will use to insulate the floor joists. The fan fold aspect of this material was important – collapsed to a 2’x4’ dimension, it could easily be passed through an access hatch and then opened to a usable size for insulating. It had poly facing on one side and foil facing on the other. Tad couldn’t get cellulose insulation to work in that location – he was worried about moisture being a problem, so this product will fit nicely (right through that access hatch!) Tad has already installed rigid foam on the inside and outside of his foundation walls. The Larsen trusses attached to the outside of the original house were filled with Green Fiber cellulose, though he did foam the front wall at the porch so as not to lose any depth from the porch.
Tad showed me the stash of products he has used including gasket material which he is really sold on. He says a gasketed seam won’t leak. He also had plenty of El Dorado Battens for air circulation behind the siding, aerogel strips that were used as thermal breaks, another bag of insulation – and as Tad excitedly described what got used where I recognized all the signs of someone who spent a lot of time thinking about their project as well as the products that would make it an even better project. Inside the house Tad had already installed oversized electrical outlet covers he found that would allow for additional gasketing and air sealing. Tad really spent a lot of time focusing on details. He even discussed the need for interior insulated trims.
Outside he showed me how the front porch was thermally broken from the house by hanging the deck off of an LVL, and the “truth window” where his meter was so that people could see the cellulose in the wall and touch it. He was quite proud of how he planned the front door installation where he extended the door and built up the threshold so that there could be continuous sealing at the door with a gasket that went all around. There was an existing bay window on the front of the house that posed additional insulating and air sealing issues – it was insulated on the inside with EPS that was then taped.
In addition to thinking about the details of the products that went into this retrofit, Tad also thought of the ways the house would be used. The Zehnder HRV (that the kids have named “Harvey”) provides the fresh air for the home, but there is an additional feature that has been added to the system. The existing switches in the bathrooms that used to run the fans have been wired to provide power to a damper that shuts off the ducts for the main part of the house and allows the 3 bathrooms to be exhausted at a higher rate. Tad did have the really cool Zehnder bath switches installed as well that could increase the exhaust for those rooms independently for a set amount of time. Speaking of venting the bathrooms – Tad was able to work with the building department to get a Studor Air Admittance valve system installed for his home so that he would not lose heat through a traditional plumbing stack pipe.
The kitchen was the last room we toured before heading out the very cool Innotech tilt and turn door with a transom that Tad had installed. In the kitchen the lighting had been replaced with LED lights – some on a dimmer. There are also plans to have a light well installed to bring natural light in from above so that even these energy saving lights would not be needed at times.
Touring the house was fun – I like the idea of retrofitting an existing structure. Retrofitting it while living in it takes a special kind of patience! Seeing it in process was helpful (from the earlier talk Tad gave on the project I had seen some pictures of the early construction) and I was impressed with the attention to detail as well as the desire to share what he has learned. It is this kind of pioneering “can-do” spirit and excitement that will take Passive House into neighborhoods everywhere.
Next up – A West Linn, OR Passive House with custom glass touches…