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A Small Town Confronts a Tough Reality: Housing Costs Too Much

An affordable Passive House project in New York State is aimed at helping workers crucial to a rural economy stay put

Posted on Feb 1 2018 by Scott Gibson

Despite its close proximity to New York City, Columbia County has managed to hang on to its rural character and agrarian economy. More than 100,000 acres remain open fields and farmland, tended by farmers, foresters, carpenters, and a variety of other tradespeople. The Hudson Valley setting seems idyllic, but there's a catch: the people who help keep farming alive can't afford to live here.

The median price of a home in one community, Ancram, is $289,000. Entry-level wages for many rural workers are less than $30,000 a year, not enough to carry the ongoing costs of owning a home.

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Image Credits:

  1. Image #1: Jeff Brink
  2. Images #2, #3, and #4: B. Docktor
  3. Image #5: BarlisWedlick Architects

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Habitat Chapter Sees an Energy-Efficient Future

An upstate New York chapter of Habitat for Humanity starts with Energy Star building and decides to up its game to the Passivhaus standard

Posted on Aug 8 2014 by Scott Gibson

An upstate New York Habitat for Humanity chapter was already committed to energy-efficient design when it began mulling over the possibility of a project built to the PassivhausA residential building construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor. Developed in the early 1990s by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, the standard is now promoted by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. To meet the standard, a home must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 pascals, a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (4,755 Btu per square foot), a maximum annual cooling energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (1.39 kWh per square foot), and maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot). The standard recommends, but does not require, a maximum design heating load of 10 W per square meter and windows with a maximum U-factor of 0.14. The Passivhaus standard was developed for buildings in central and northern Europe; efforts are underway to clarify the best techniques to achieve the standard for buildings in hot climates. standard — maybe not right away, mind you, but some time in the future. Then executive director Brenda Adams ran into a celebrated architect who had just wrapped up his first Passivhaus project. "What are you waiting for?" he asked her.

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Image Credits:

  1. BarlisWedlick Architects
  2. BarlisWedlick

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