Just outside of downtown Austin, Texas, our 1914 Craftsman-style home is a case study for Passive House renovation, achieving PHIUS+ 2018 Certification and PHIUS+ Source Zero Certification in a hot-humid climate. This renovation fulfilled both a personal and professional mission. My wife, Adrienne, and I bought the house more than a decade ago after falling in love with the neighborhood. We were always thinking about what it could be and planned to update it. Given my experience as an architect at Forge Craft Architecture + Design, and with Adrienne’s emphasis on healthy and sustainable interiors at her firm, Studio Ferme, we saw this as our opportunity to demonstrate the possibilities for a small, healthful, high-performance home.
Together, we improved the building envelope, which lacked insulation; added square footage with a modern addition; and created a flexible floor plan that matched our young family’s lifestyle while maintaining the integrity of the historical structure. Electrification is a priority for any Passive House project, so we also added a 6.3kw PV array and battery backup.
Starting from near scratch
The house is located in a National Register Historic District, so we wanted to keep as much of the existing structure as possible. We met with a friend who oversees Preservation Austin to talk through our proposed changes. The plan was to save all the framing, but once the siding came off and we saw the extent of the water and termite damage, the plans changed. What remains of the original structure is the porch and columns (the piers were redone in the ’80s).
Starting from near scratch allowed us to transition from 2×4 framing to 2×6, offering a deeper cavity for insulation and truer walls. We also had to address a foundation that was 2 in. out of level. New piers were installed to…
Get building science and energy efficiency advice, plus special offers, in your inbox.