The Passive House standardThursday, 12 April 2012

When we decided we wanted to move out to our property to live in a more rural area, we began considering what type of home to build. We knew we wanted an energy-efficient home constructed with environmentally sustainable materials. We read about homes that were solar powered with photovoltaic panels, LEED certified, net-zero, off-the-grid and passively heated with sunlight. We set out to educate ourselves about these options.

During the winter holiday of 2010, we stayed at LogHaven, an off-the-grid B&B near West Branch, Michigan. The beautiful log home here is augmented with a wind turbine, solar panels and large capacity batteries for energy storage. The proprietors explained how they came to live off-the-grid and the decisions they made in the process. They recommended that we subscribe to Home Power Magazine, an indispensable resource for projects of this type. It was in a letter to the editor of this magazine that we first became acquainted with Christina Snyder, a Michigan-based architect with a strong commitment to the Passive House movement. Days after we spoke with her on the phone, she presented a very compelling and informative session at a Reskilling Institute event near Ann Arbor. The enthusiasm we developed during that presentation has not diminished. Christina introduced us to Michael Klinger, a certified Passive House builder. Michael in turn put us in touch with Matthew O'Malia, Principal of G • O Logic, a Maine-based firm that designs and builds cold climate Passive Houses.

We like features of all green building techniques, but it is the integrated approach used in the Passive House standard that most appeals to each of our science backgrounds. The standard requires energy analysis at the planning stage and tests throughout construction to assure compliant performance. We gravitated to the concept of the Passive House for reasons of low energy input, comfortable living and sustainable building practices. Passive Houses maintain a relatively constant temperature and humidity and desirable turnover of fresh air. We also like how the standard requires one to examine sustainable lifestyles in addition to the building process.

Links of interest

G • O Logic

Energy Wise Homes

J F Shewchuck Construction

Bostwick Excavating

Hanneman and Fineis Concrete Construction

Northern Michigan Hardwoods

RTM Heating & Cooling

Bach Electric

GoldStar Hardwood

Randy Lalone Well Drilling

Nu•Wool Premium Cellulose Insulation

Weaver Tile

Passive House Academy

WKAR / Lansing Home Builder Pushes Green Envelope

Pro Trees Unlimited

MPC Cashway Lumber

Lumbermen's Inc

Spartan Painting

Reynolds Water Conditioning, Co.

Zehnder

Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating

Young Supply

Equilibrium Energy Spaces

PlantWise

 

Picture index

 

Home

 

April 2012

Breaking ground

Preparing the footings

Completing the footing forms

The Passive House standard

Compromises

Footings poured

Crawlspace walls

Concrete poured

Additional insulation

Drain tile wrapped

 

May 2012

Backfilling and compaction

Crawlspace backfilled

Support posts installed

Framing delivered and barrier installed

Installing TJI joists

Installing the subflooring

Installing the first floor walls

Preparing for the second floor

Straight, Plumb, Level, Square and now Airtight

Second floor taking shape

Attic joists

Roof trusses

Roof trusses and attic deck

Roof deck and overhangs

Fascia boards

 

June 2012

Crawl space insulation and roof

Made in Michigan

Special delivery

Crawl space preparation

First floor preparation, TJI base

Sealing air barrier

Soffits and tape seams

First floor concrete and first envelope trusses

Crawlspace concrete

Excavating, trusses and crawlspace stairway

Water line excavation

Stairway, window framing

Fiberboard installation

Fiberboard installation and wrap

 

July 2012

Framing crawlspace walls

Envelope, plumbing

Beginning of wraparound porch

Porch

Porch and ceiling

Wrap-around porch

 

August 2012

Wrap-around porch

Window installation

Preliminary blower door test

Insulation

 

September 2012

Wiring, insulation, porch roof

Siding

Siding progress

Well drilled

Mechanical system installation

 

October 2012

Insulation of inside wall

Drywall and siding

Drywall

Drywall and attic insulation

Drywall, mechanical system

Wood floors and exterior painting

Doors and cabinetry delivered

 

November 2012

Exterior concrete, kitchen cabinets

Upstair floors, porch siding

Painting, tiling, flooring

WKAR interview, floor finishing

Exterior concrete, crawlspace walls and floor

Crawlspace floor

Compressors, exterior lights, tile

Entrances: drive and house

 

December 2012

Trim work

Front entrance

Floors and windows

Exemplary results in blower door test

Walkway, bathroom vanity top

Counter tops

Kitchen back splash tiling

 

January 2013

Upstairs painting

Upstairs painting and trim

Downstairs door finishing

Upstairs floor finishing, water conditioner

Downstairs painting

Kitchen shelf, painting

Cabinetry trim, painting

 

February 2013

Cabinetry hardware

Final interior painting

First Holly Passive House Conference

 

March 2013

Certificate of Occupancy

Home

 

December 2013

Settled in

 

January 2014

Winter storm

 

February 2014

Winter

Snowshoeing

 

April 2014

Habitat restoration

 

May 2014

May

 

August 2015

Energy

 

February 2017

Life in a Passive House

 

December 2017

Are passive homes the future?