Dan Rockhill's Studio 804 is such a wonderful idea for teaching architecture. He and his team design, build and then sell a house every year in challenged parts of Kansas City, and each is an innovative mix of design and technology. This year, with the Prescott Passive House, it is not only going LEED Platinum but it's also a prefab Passivhaus.
Last year's Springfield house was a bit over the top and a bit expensive for the market; it is still for sale. This year's Prescott House is more economical and aimed at the affordable housing market.
They build the houses prefab for a good reason: the school is in Lawrenceville and the houses are built in Kansas City, a bit of a hike for the students. Designboom describes the green features:
A 16 inch thick insulated wall assembly and a 22 inch thick insulated roof assembly provide the basis for a home that seeks a 90% reduction in heating and cooling energy. The airtight assembly nearly eliminates nearly all heat transfer through the building envelope, keeping all heat gained from the high performance glazing within the house. The energy recovery ventilator and thermal masses seek to further maintain a constant interior temperature, reducing nearly all need for additional tempering support. Outside, clotheslines discourage the use of an electric clothes dryer, one of the most inefficient of the otherwise energy star rated appliances.
In the spirit of the age-old Japanese shou-sugi-ban tradition, the exterior of the Prescott passive house is clad in a charred douglas fir rainscreen. This low-maintenance assembly yields a UV protected dark black finish to the house. Recycled paper windowsills and countertops, bamboo flooring, and concrete thermal mass floor complement the clean white interior walls and ceiling.
Daniel Akst wrote a great article in Metropolis earlier this year, describing the Studio 804 development process.
The overall experience can be brutal. The first semester, devoted to studio work, is integrated with other classes, but then the real work begins. Students give up part of their winter vacation, workdays start by 7 a.m., and toward the end of a project, everyone is working seven days a week, sometimes into the night. Although esteemed, Studio 804 is not overwhelmed by applicants every year. It's just too tough, says Rockhill. But those who get through it seem to understand what they've accomplished. "I have a hard time putting into words how much I learned being put through that trial by fire," says Jared Eder, who is now with the firm Ellerbe Becket in the other Kansas City. Asked about Rockhill, Eder says with something like awe that the man who runs the program "knows more than he'll ever let you know that he knows."