Passive Dwellings creates net zero energy buildings that provide exceptional comfort and will survive for multiple generations. Typical American buildings use wood as their basic building material. Most wood-based structures exist for a relatively short period of time because they eventually succumb to fire, rot, or insect infestation. Passive Dwellings builds long-lasting structures built of natural materials that are fireproof, waterproof, and insect-proof. The buildings are beautiful, comfortable, low-maintenance, supremely energy efficient, and permanent.
Passive Dwellings built a 4,250 square foot home in Hillsdale, NY to the performance criteria of the U.S Department of Energy (DOE) Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) program and recently received honorable mention from DOE’s Housing Innovation Awards. These award-winning ZERH homes are independently certified to meet DOE Zero Energy Ready Home guidelines and constructed by a select group of top builders. Zero Energy Ready Home is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings initiative which aims to make commercial, industrial, public, and residential buildings 20 percent more energy efficient over the next decade.
This Passive Home by Passive Dwellings is “Energy Positive,” meaning the house produces more energy for its heating/cooling, lights, plugs, appliances, and well pump than it requires annually. It is also “Source Zero,” meaning the energy produced on site adds no net pollution to the atmosphere (either at the house or at the power plants that send electricity when the sun isn’t shining).
“Actual electric bills and solar energy production numbers are all made available to all prospective clients … It is difficult to explain what it is like to live in a home without drafts, cold spots, and heating/cooling losses through inefficient windows. Ancillary benefits are its fireproof construction, waterproof properties, and the fact that it is rodent proof.”
– Steven Bluestone, builder, Passive House
A variable refrigerant flow air-source heat pump provides high-efficiency heating and cooling for the home. The air handler and ductwork are located within the conditioned space of the home (photo 2). This Passive House saves homeowners more than $3,000 in energy bills annually with the help of a 9.6-kW pole-mounted PV, along with super-efficient construction (photo 3). All of the paints and finishes used in this EPA Indoor airPLUS certified home are low-/no-VOC-emitting. The windows are triple-glazed, argon-filled Passive House certified and fill the home lots of natural light. The roof consists of 12-inch structural insulated panels (SIPs)(photo 4). On the exterior of the autoclaved aerated concrete walls, the Passive Dwellings attached 4.5 inches of foil-faced poly-isocyanurate rigid foam and topped this with furring strips to provide a ventilation gap behind the fiber cement siding (photo 5). An energy-recovery ventilator provides continuous ventilation for clean air inside the tightly air-sealed home (0.39 ACH 50).
See photos below. Click to enlarge.
- High-Performance insulation system for enhanced quiet and comfort
- Comprehensive draft protection
- Fresh air system for cleaner indoor air
- High-efficiency comfort system
- Energy-efficient appliances and advanced lighting technology for energy and water savings
AUTOCLAVED AERATED CONCRETE
Beneath the fiber-cement siding is an unusual building material called autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC). Steve Bluestone’s Passive House is the first autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) certified Passive House in the Americas. The homes above-grade walls are made of 8-inch-thick autoclaved aerated concrete blocks (pictured left). AAC is formed by mixing fine aggregate with water and other minerals that form gas bubbles in the mix causing it to double in size. It can be molded, fired, and easily cut into lightweight blocks with structural and insulating properties.
Autoclaved Aerated Concrete is a special lightweight concrete product that was invented in Sweden in the 1920s. Today it is used throughout the world and manufactured in over 350 plants around the globe. It is structural, easy to install, unaffected by water or fire, and airtight. AAC acts as insulation, doesn’t support the growth of mold, and provides abundant comfort through its inherent mass. Passive Dwellings advocates the use of reinforced AAC in walls and floors (and on occasion, roofs) due to its unmatched properties.
Steve Bluestone, founder of Passive Dwellings, has worked as a developer, general contractor, and property manager, producing thousands of units of housing and tens of thousands of square feet of retail space. Whether working on single-family homes or very large mixed-use apartment buildings, he has helped produce structures that have reduced energy consumption by 90% and more, others that are net zero, and some that are energy-positive. He has been an industry leader in energy efficiency for decades and continues to pursue his passion of researching new products and systems and introducing innovative building methods. He has spoken at numerous building and energy conferences and continues to share his knowledge to inspire the industry to reduce overall energy and water consumption.
For more information about Passive Dwellings and Steve Bluestone, visit www.passivedwellings.com