Everett Kramer is not a builder—by trade, anyway. Yet building science drives his every decision these days. He designed this house for his family, and is well into its construction. Located in Germantown, NY—climate zone 5—the three-volume shed-roof structure is intentionally simple for two reasons. First, it makes things easier for the first-time builder. And second, it supports Kramer’s hope for a carbon-neutral house operating at near-Passive House levels. He also admires modern design, and wants the house to be practical for a farming lifestyle.
Kramer put three years of research into his design plans, which include a 2300-sq.-ft. main house, a 430-sq.-ft. studio/office/guest house, 1000 sq. ft. of combination deck/patio space, and a garage.
Of course, cost was a consideration. “I spent a few years nerding out about Passive House and strategies for building a super-durable, low-maintenance home,” he says. “After looking at lots of options for prefab and predesigned houses, I decided I could save a lot of money on the project by designing and building it myself.”
Although he started out aiming for Passive House performance, his thinking changed after reading about the Pretty Good House on GBA. “That made a lot of sense to me—using Passive House principles but not being completely attached to all of it,” he explains. His mindset allowed for some flexibility, as in the case of the large lift-and-slide doors, which don’t meet Passive House standards but they enable the house to be smaller. When they are open, they create 10-ft. openings in two walls, which results in one large space connecting the main house to the studio. “We get this big house when everything is open in the summer and we are entertaining,” Kramer says, “but in the winter, we close it off and…