"Traditional" Design Meets Passive House Efficiency In Oregon


Images via owners' website

Most Passivhaus or Passive House designs we have shown on TreeHugger have tended to be modern, but Sarah Evans and Stuart Rue tell Green Building Advisor that "We wanted our house to fit in with the surrounding neighbourhood." At Jetson Green, a commenter makes the point that "It is nice to see more traditional styling reaching higher levels of performance. Many people aren't up for the boxiness of the modern design and the trend in green homes has been so modern that many folks think that is all that can be green."

But I will point out that it is hard to do good traditional design to Passive House standards, because the engineering drives so much of the design. That's why none of the blogs covering this house show the straight-on front elevation; it becomes obvious that the windows on the east side are way too small and out of proportion. Traditional design has rules, as does Passive design, and it is obvious from this photograph that the rules are different.

One might also point out that this house is no less boxy than the modern passive house designs we have shown; it is in fact a perfect box. Every jog and corner is a problem in passive house design as it creates an opportunity for a thermal bridge. The only place that the talented architect Nathan Good could have any jogging fun was with the garages.

But once one gets past the issue of style, Stuart Rue and Sarah Evans have built a great demonstration of how Passive House design really can work to make a comfortable, healthy home that runs virtually on body heat.

The walls are double-stud with almost a foot of Greenfiber cellulose insulation (made from recycled newspaper, you can still read bits of it). Windows are our favourite Serious Windows, with a U value of .105 (R 9.52, which is why even with the best windows in the country you have to be careful of how big they are and where you put them.) Serious Windows has posted a video of the builder, explaining the house:

The only mechanical heating and cooling in the house is a mini-spit heat pump with 12,000 BTU of heat and 9,000 of cooling. Some houses use that much energy for their bedroom.

Inside, they have used natural materials (wool carpets, wood floors) and minimized the use of products with VOCs. The owners have been writing a terrific and thorough blog about the process, while the builder, Bilyeu Homes, did a thorough presentation about it for the Passive House Northwest Regional Meeting in April.

Nice work, even if I have trouble calling it "Traditional."

More on Passive House Design:
Forget Energy Star and LEED, Green Building is Passivhaus
A PassivHaus Renovation: Heritage Meets Energy Efficiency
Bamboo Screens Shade Stunning French Passivhaus
Passivhaus Comes To California, Shattering Stereotypes

Tags: Architects | Oregon | passive house

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