Sonya Newenhouse’s home — a 968-sq.-ft. three-bedroom in Viroqua, Wisconsin, that she shares with her sister, Astrid, and their roommate, Bjorn — is a source of both comfort and marketing potential. Comfort because the house, which was certified to the Passivhaus standard in early November, is handling the onset of winter without a hitch. Marketing potential because the house also is the model for what Newenhouse is pitching as a “kit home” package of plans, materials, and consulting services that will help her clients build homes of like size and performance.
Newenhouse is president of Madison Environmental Group, a green building and sustainability consultancy that has developed designs and construction documents for homes of 600, 800, and 1,000 sq. ft. (in one-, two-, and three-bedroom configurations, respectively) that would meet Passivhaus requirements for airtightness, heating, and primary energy use, and also would qualify for LEED for Homes Platinum certification. As noted on an MEG summary of the prototype project, the kit-home package also includes special building materials, a detailed specification sheet for the remaining building materials, project management assistance, and green construction consulting for clients as they progress through the building process.
In a blog posted shortly after the prototype home was certified by Passivhaus Institut, Newenhouse writes that one reason Passivhaus is the centerpiece of her kit-home strategy is that it addresses what she sees as an ecological imperative in new-home construction. “If we’re going to take responsibility for reducing our energy footprint and prepare for the future,” she says, “it’s critical to leapfrog our building efficiency standards. No longer is 25% or 50% more efficient good enough — 80% to 90% more energy efficient is what’s needed.”
The NewenHouse, as the prototype has come to be known, joins the Passive House in the Woods, in Hudson, which was supervised by architect Tim Eian, who also has been guiding a couple in Minneapolis on a retrofit of their three-bedroom house to Passivhaus Institut’s EnerPHit standard.
The prototype’s slab and exterior walls are insulated to R-57, the roof to R-100. Dense-packed cellulose fills the rafter bays and the 16-in.-thick double-stud walls. The building is designed to accommodate both solar hot water and photovoltaic systems. Newenhouse estimates that the total annual electric demand for the house, with its three occupants, is 6,119 kWh.
Newenhouse arranges tours of the house by appointment, and also will play host to an open house from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. on December 23.