Passive House: The House of the Future | Sheri Koones

Passive House: The House of the Future | Sheri Koones

smaller_version_400x400Posted: 05/08/2014

From our old friend Sheri Koones in the Huffington Post yesterday. We appeared in prefabulousher popular 2012 book Prefabulous + Almost Off the Grid: Your Path to Building an Energy-Independent Home.

The Passive House (or Passivhaus) (PH) was first established in Germany and is quickly becoming a standard in many parts of the world, including the United States. Whereas other important standards, such as LEED), focus on many environmentally friendly aspects of the home, such as site location, sustainability, materials, water efficiency and so on, Passive House only focuses on energy and ventilation.

Inspiring and Building the Next Generation of Residential Energy Professionals

DOE STUDENT CHALLENGE DESIGN AWARDSThe Challenge Home Student Design Competition seeks to inspire the next generation of architects, engineers, construction managers, and entrepreneurs to design homes that meet requirements for zero energy ready performance that are affordable and market-ready. In turn, the competition provides students with skills and experience for careers in clean energy.

This week, the U.S. Department of Energy announced today the winners of the first competition. The winning teams produced market-ready, state of the art design solutions for high-performance homes that are energy efficient, comfortable and durable. The designs are for zero energy ready homes, meaning their high performance features sharply reduce energy use and all or most of the remaining energy use can be offset with renewable energy.

MONTAGE DESIGN TEAM WINNERSWe are honored that one of the winning teams, Montage Builders – Northern Forest, thanked Tedd Benson and Bensonwood Head of Engineering Chris Carbone for inspiration and support. Tedd and Chris met team members and SUNY – ESF students Michelle Tinner and Peter LiCongo recently at the NY Green Building Conference where he was a keynote speaker and Carbone led a session on “Designing and Building with Heavy Timber.”

Montage Builders – Northern Forest student team leader Michelle Tinner describes her team and their influences this way:

“We were very inspired by Tedd’s use of the word montage. Here is how we define the term as it relates to our team name: Montage Builders – Northern Forest. Montage, a combination of different elements that forms a unified whole, references our teams diverse multi-cultural and multi-generational aggregation of perspectives and experiences, which is the key for the success of our design.

Northern Forest acknowledges the importance of regionally specific design and the default (pre-development) landscape of our region – used for accurate site ecosystem service assessment.

Our team was unique in that we brought together students and faculty from three different educational institutions – all other teams represented just one. We also integrated may different disciplines which supported our holistic approach. We have communications designers, interior designers, architects, landscape architects, environmental scientists, engineers, and construction managers on our team.

An important parallel between Tedd Benson’s approach and our’s is the use of natural materials, the reliance on traditional ecological knowledge, and the reference to historically relevant architecture. We used American Craftsman style architecture which was popularized by a local designer Gustav Stickley. The style is inherently honest and promotes the use natural materials like wood, which is locally available and environmentally preferred, it discourages functionless additions such as fake dormers (the McMansion’s failed attempt at not looking silly), and can be found throughout Syracuse’s neighborhood ensuring that our design would fit the local pattern language. Many of the other designs at the competition were modern.

We were all delighted to have Tedd attend our presentation at the New York State Green Building Conference. He smiled at us the entire time we were up there presenting – probably because he was pleasantly surprised that we were using his favorite word. Having his support and that of Chris Carbone, who got us a timber framed pergola quote at the 11th hour was encouraging and meant a lot to us.”

DOE CHALLENGE HOME LOGOThe team was led by three faculty advisors: Paul Crovella, Ken Bobis and Kevin Stack.

Right now, there’s a need to develop cost-effective designs that are at least 40-50% more efficient that a standard new home. These homes are so energy efficient they offset all or most annual energy consumption with a renewable energy system, such as solar.

To support this increased demand, the Energy Department’s Building Technologies Office is helping to develop a strong workforce with core competencies in building science, including direct entry workers, recent college graduates, and those in continuing education through a number of high-impact initiatives and programs, such as the Guidelines for Home Energy Professionals, Solar Decathlon, and the Energy Department’s Challenge Home Student Design Competition.

LEED Platinum-Certified Bensonwood Project Wins 4th Award

A view of the Burr and Burton Mountain Campus Academic Building as you approach from the road.

A view of the Burr and Burton Mountain Campus Academic Building as you approach from the road.

The LEED Platinum-Certified Burr and Burton Academy Mountain Campus in Peru, VT, which Bensonwood designed, engineered and built, is a recipient of the 2014 Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence.

Environmental excellence awards have been given since 1993 to recognize efforts and actions of Vermonters to conserve and protect natural resources, prevent pollution, and promote environmental sustainability. To date, more than 200 efforts have been recognized.

“These projects contribute significantly to Vermont’s environmental quality and encourage others to take similar actions to protect our resources,” said Deb Markowitz, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. “They demonstrate the importance of innovation and partnerships in enhancing and sustaining Vermont’s environmental quality.”

Award winners will be recognized at the Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility Annual Spring Conference on May 14 at the Davis Center on the University of Vermont campus in Burlington.

front of BBA's mountain campus by Bensonwood

The front entrance of the LEED Platinum-certified, net-zero energy building.

This is the fourth award in the past four months for the building. BBA’s Mountain Campus also won Efficiency Vermont’s 2014 Better Buildings by Design “Best of the Best” in Commercial Building Design and Construction, recognizing innovative and integrated design approaches for energy efficiency in Vermont’s commercial and residential buildings.

BBA Heater

The ultra-efficient masonry heater in the school building is integral to warming the building.

In November, the Mountain Campus earned a prestigious Engineering News-Record “Award of Merit” and in January 2014, it won the “AIA New Hampshire Merit Award.” The AIA jury said: “The respect for the environment is as integral to the architecture as it is to the mission of the school. The jury appreciated how the structure, columns, and framing define the composition and are a metaphor for the forest setting.”

Like Unity Homes and other Bensonwood custom timber frame projects, the building was largely prefabricated offsite and erected quickly in the forested setting to minimize impact to the local ecology.

Industry Insider: Tedd Benson – Timber Home Living

Industry Insider: Tedd Benson – Timber Home Living.

One of the most celebrated homebuilders in America, Tedd Benson is a true champion of the traditional timber-frame home — with a modern twist. 

Tedd Benson, Founding Owner, Bensonwood

Tedd Benson, Founding Owner, Bensonwood & Unity Homes

Ask any member of the timber-frame community who has had a major impact on reviving the art of traditional timber framing in recent years, and you’ll most likely hear the same response time and time again: Tedd Benson. READ MORE

Passive House Wins Award for “Best Energy-Efficient Project”

Steven and Barbara Landau’s Norwich, Vermont, Passive House won The Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Boston (BRAGB) Prism Gold Award for “Best Energy-Efficient Project.” Bensonwood, who designed the prefabricated insulated panels and constructed the timberframe shell, was honored as part of a highly-skilled green building team that included energy modeling and mechanical consultantsZeroEnergy Design, consulting architect Paul R. Bilgen, general contractor Estes and Gallup, and custom window and door maker, Architectural Openings. The innovative, sustainable home previously won the 2012 Efficiency Vermont “Best of the Best in Residential New Construction” Honor Award.

The 17-inch recycled foam sheet insulation provides R-75 value and a vapor barrier below the slab. All hot water is provided by two rooftop, flat-plate solar collectors with an electric on-demand water heater for backup. One kilowatt heating mats located under floor tiles in the bathrooms supply radiant heating, and air exchange is managed by a Heat Recovery Ventilator whose operation automatically adjusts, depending on temperature, humidity, and occupancy. In the kitchen/living room a sealed combustion chamber wood stove serves both as cooktop and bake oven, as well as a source of supplemental heat. The eco-friendly 2,457 square foot home also earned 41 Home Energy Rating index points, meaning it is 59% more efficient than a standard new home.

BRAGB, a trade association affiliated with the National Association of Home Builders and Home Builders Association of Massachusetts, has represented the building industry since 1944 and is one of the leading trade associations in New England.

Burr and Burton Academy

A view of the Burr and Burton Mountain Campus Academic Building as you approach from the road.

A view of the Burr and Burton Mountain Campus Academic Building as you approach from the road.

At Bensonwood we’re proud of our nearly 40 year history as the premier designer/builder of energy-efficient timber frame, hybrid, and other high-performance homes.

But we have also built a strong reputation for designing and building LEED certified, energy efficient and architecturally striking commercial buildings and specialty structures.

Recently, Bensonwood Lead Architect Randall Walter and other members of our architecture and engineering team designed the Burr and Burton Mountain Campus Academic Building.

Dedicated on August 23, 2012 in time for the opening of the school’s fall semester, the building is designed to be a living classroom with a goal of achieving LEED Platinum designation and Net-Zero energy status.

BBA Heater

The masonry heater is a focal point within the “Clearing” in the Mountain Campus Academic Building

Randall worked closely with the Burr and Burton team to ensure that the building not only fit into the natural surroundings of the site but truly became part of the learning experience for students, blending scientific architecture with artistic abstraction. Design features include ceilings inspired by the structure of the underside of a leaf, a skylight that casts light on the native Vermont slate clad masonry heater, between two reclaimed oak trees primary walls splayed at 14.5 degrees, celebrating the variation between true north and magnetic north in southern Vermont.

In keeping with typical Bensonwood design and construction practices, locally sourced materials where used wherever possible.

Speaking at the dedication ceremony Randall noted that a quote by Winston Churchill inspired the design – “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”

Below Randall has provided additional information on some of the features of the building:

Size

  • Primary building area: 4000 square feet
  • Total building including overhangs: 6200 square feet

Building Materials

  • Marvin Ultimate clad Triple glazed windows and doors (R-5)
  • Cellulose insulated walls (R-35) and roof (R-60)
  • Red Oak – log posts from Alstead, NH & BBA campus
  • Nordic-Lam – engineered timbers – Canadian black spruce
  • Eastern white pine – rafters & ceiling boards
  • White and red pine wall boards (red pine from BBA campus)
  • Hemlock – rough sawn, random width siding from NH and VT
  • Western cedars – exterior posts and beams
  • Sliding barn doors – reclaimed local barn board, oak frames
  • VT sourced maple benches and window sills
  • VT Shadow Grey slate tile
  • VT Verde Green brushed marble counters and hearth

Interior and Exterior Finishes

  • Vermont Natural Coatings – whey based finish – used on all wood and concrete surfaces
  • All finishes have low or no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Performance

  • Wood burning masonry heater
  • Air-source heat pumps
  • Energy Recovery Ventilators for fresh air
  • Photovoltaic arrays (Sept/Oct install) to achieve Zero net energy
  • All plumbing fixtures exceed EPA water sense standards
  • Preliminary blower door test below Passiv standards for air infiltration (495cfm@ACH50)

Construction Schedule

  • Foundation installed November 2011
  • Prefabrication offsite over winter
  • Site access reopened April 2012
  • Delivery of prefabricated parts and assembly begins May 2012
  • Building completed in 4 months
  • Waste management plan exceeded LEED requirements – near 93% waste diversion
  • Anticipated LEED points 82-83 (Platinum threshold is 80)

First Unity Home: Part 1: In the Shop

Our first Unity Home is on-site this week. A five-person team will be raising a Xyla in a just a few days.

In this video (1 of 4 on our YouTube channel) Jay Lepple, Bensonwood’s Building Systems Team Leader demonstrates the features of a wall panel that was recently fabricated in our shop for this home.

This is video 1 of 4, with other videos demonstrating window and siding installation in shop, and the benefits of the Computer Aided Design (CAD) in our off-site construction process.

Walls in the shop

Wall panels packed and ready for wrapping before being trucked to the site