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Green Building News

Prescott Passive House: A Class Project

The latest project from the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Planning’s design-build program aims for Passive House certification and affordability

In the Sunflower State. The Prescott Passive House, an affordable-housing project of the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Planning’s Studio 804 design-build program.
Image Credit: Studio 804
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In the Sunflower State. The Prescott Passive House, an affordable-housing project of the University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Planning’s Studio 804 design-build program.
Image Credit: Studio 804
By the time Studio 804 students celebrated groundbreaking for the project, on February 1, they had prefabricated a steel A-frame for the front porch and tested the blown-in cellulose insulation they would use on the exterior walls. Windows for the project were made by Austria-based Zech Group. During snowy weather, Studio 804 students spent their days in a university warehouse prefabricating framing components, concrete countertops, and the operable louver system that would be installed on the exterior. During the fifteenth week of the project, the first layer of wallboard went up and loose-fill cellulose insulation, made by Central Fiber Corporation, of Wellsville, Kansas, was blown into wall cavities. Studio 804 students chose Douglas fir siding, which was prepared using the Japanese shou-sugi-ban method of charring the surface of the boards, brushing and washing them clean, and, once the boards were dry, applying natural oils to the charred surfaces. Prescott Passive House is 1,700 sq. ft., with three bedrooms and two baths. Railings and stair components were prefabricated by the students at the school's warehouse. Prescott Passive House was listed at $180,000.

One major source of pride in the Prescott neighborhood of south-central Kansas City, Kansas, is a 1,700-sq.-ft. home that may be the most energy efficient residence in the state. Called Prescott Passive House, it is the product of careful design, stretches of frenetic on-site activity (between snow storms), and construction methods aimed at bringing the home to Passive House performance standards.

The house is, in fact, a product of University of Kansas School of Architecture and Urban Planning’s design-build program, Studio 804. As class projects go, its performance target made it ambitious. But Prescott Passive House’s creators also had an equally ambitious, tandem goal: affordability. As Jetson Green points out in a recent post, a lot of student labor and donated materials factor into the $180,000 price of the three-bedroom, two-bath house, which is targeting prospective buyers earning 80% or less of the area median income. Studio 804 said it worked with Community Housing of Wyandotte County and the Prescott Neighborhood Group to produce a home that would serve as “as a catalyst to both educate the homeowner and the community.”

Groundbreaking was February 1, and the students documented the project’s progress with weekly updates and photos on the Studio 804 website. Based on the photos, it seems the students did a good job adding a sense of opulence to the open interior and concrete floor and countertops. The near-black exterior siding, matched in color by operable exterior louvers, is actually Douglas fir that has been charred according to the Japanese shou-sugi-ban method, which includes brushing and washing the charred planks, then treating them with a natural oil.

The Studio 804 team chose windows made by Austria-based Zech Group, which is expected to begin production in the U.S. this year.

Remaining tasks for the students: documentation for Passive House certification and LEED Platinum certification.

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