Passive House residential construction is still such a rarity and curiousity in the U.S. that many projects designed to meet the standard have their own blog forum and accompanying photo galleries. Passive House in the Woods, in Hudson, Wisconsin, is one such project.
The progress of Passive House in the Woods, or PHitW, has been assiduously documented by its designer, Tim Delhey Eian of Minneapolis-based TE Studio, and the project builder, Morr Construction Services of Shoreview, Minnesota. At this point in the emergence of Passive House in North America, PHitW is among 23 single-family residential projects that have been certified or pre-certified by Passive House Institute U.S. The Midwest, in turns out, is home to a bunch of them. There are, for example, eight in Illinois, where there also are two planned Passive House retrofits and two planned multifamily projects aiming for Passive House performance.
PHitW, though, will be a first for Wisconsin and certainly an anomaly in Hudson, which is about 20 miles east of St. Paul, Minnesota.
Hoping it will inspire others to build to the standard
By the end of last week, exterior insulation was being installed on the three-story, three-bedroom 1,940-sq.-ft. house, which likely will be completed by early summer. Constructed with insulated concrete forms, the exterior walls are expected to provide R-70 thermal resistance, while the slab is designed to deliver R-60 and the roof R-95. The rooftop will serve as an observation deck and accommodate a 4-by-10-ft. solar thermal collector. Electric power will be provided by a 4.7 kW solar power system, whose average annual output is calculated at 6,750 kWh, enough to cover the home’s predicted 4,200 kWh annual usage and feed power back into the grid.
The attached garage is built with advanced stick framing to reduce the amount of wood used and is clad in exterior-grade gypsum sheathing. To avoid air transfer from the garage to the house, there is no door connecting the two buildings; rather, the garage features two doors for vehicles and a south-facing door for pedestrian access. The garage’s flat roof is designed to accommodate a layer of tray-planted sedums, helping improve the view from the house rooftop, while water runoff will be captured in rain barrels for use elsewhere on the site.
The home’s owner, Gary Konkol, a general-practice physician, recently told the Hudson-Star Observer that with his focus on the use of sustainable materials and desire to live in a home built to such a high performance standard, “I’m putting more into it than I’ll ever get out of it financially. But I’ll get other things out of it.” His hope, he says, is that the home serves as a model that will encourage construction of others that meet Passive House criteria.