Image Credit: Ferut Arhchitects (images 1 and 2); Franciscan Earth Literacy Center (images 3, 4, and 5) The straw-bale walls of Little Portion Green are designed to provide R-50 thermal resistance. Installating Millcell insulation in the foundation bed, in early October. Little Portion Green last November. The roof was on by mid-December.
Ohio has turned out to be a busy place for projects aspiring to exemplary energy efficiency, including Passivhaus performance. A three-bedroom, 1,800-sq.-ft. home near Dayton was completed in 2010 and since has been Passivhaus-certified. And a 2,500-sq.-ft. home is being built to the standard on the grounds of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, which will display the house as part of “Climate Change,” a nationally touring exhibit scheduled for display at the museum from July 23 through December 31.
Another project focused on energy efficiency – a straw-bale house under construction in Tiffin, Ohio – should be completed in the coming months. It is a 1,500-sq.-ft. two-bedroom house being built by the Sisters of St. Francis of Tiffin, whose mission includes elder care, health care, education, and ministries in Mexico. The overall aim of the project is to spread the word that an energy-efficient home can be comfortable, affordable (despite the cost of straw-bale construction), and easy on the planet. Little Portion Green, as the house is called, is intended to inspire construction of energy-efficient homes in Seneca County and serve as model for straw-bale construction done well.
“We want this facility to be attractive,” Mike Conner, chief of the Earth Literacy Center, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Francis in Tiffin, told the Toledo Blade after the project got underway last fall. “We want people when they see it to go, ‘Wow. How’d they do that? I want to do something like that.’ ”
Salvaged materials, local straw
The project is being financed through Sisters of St. Francis fund-raising initiatives, whose success largely determines the pace of construction. As of November, the cost estimate for the project was about $100,000, and the hope is the house will be completed in time for the Ohio Solar Tour, a statewide open-house presentation scheduled for October 2 and 3.
Conner told GBA that fundraising has gone well, and that the $100,000 estimate for the construction of the house is holding up. Separate funding that had been lined up for a photovoltaic system and wind turbine has fallen through, however, and so the project team has set its fundraising goals beyond the original $100,000 budget.
As the Blade story notes, Little Portion Green’s construction is being managed by Sister Jane Omlor, whose past credits include the construction of a straw-bale chapel in West Virginia. She is expected to be Little Portion Green’s first tenant.
Ferut Architects, based in Elyria, and Passivhaus-design specialist HarvestBuild Associates, in Columbia Station, are providing the technical guidance for the building, which resembles a small Ohio farmhouse. The metal roof is made from recycled steel, and salvaged items are used for interior fixtures, including doors, hardware, railings, and other fittings. The underside of the concrete slab is insulated with Millcell, a foam-like material made in Germany from recycled glass.
HarvestBuild principal Mark Hoberecht told GBA that the approximate R-values will be 30 for the foundation, 50 for the walls, and 70 for the roof. The house will be equipped with Loewen triple-pane windows and an UltimateAir RecoupAerator energy-recovery ventilator. Hoberecht also noted that the original ambition for the project was to build it to the Passivhaus standard, “but the floor plan doesn’t lend itself very well to maximizing the Treated Floor Area (thereby minimizing the heating loads per square foot), and with their funding uncertainty, the higher cost of better windows just didn’t fit into their budget.”
He also explained that because the project relies fairly heavily on volunteer labor, properly addressing all of the necessary Passivhaus details would have been cost-prohibitive. “They’re about half-way through construction,” he added, “and looking back, we made the right decision to not pursue Passive House certification.”