News

MinnePHit Groundbreaking

I will be speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the MinnePHit Passive House remodel on August 1 at 2pm. You can learn more about the project on my page, or on the client’s blog and Facebook pages.

MinnePHit project

Reminder: Private PHitW Tour tomorrow

Passive House in the Woods

Photo: Corey Gaffer

This is a reminder that we are hosting a private tour of the Passive House in the Woods in Hudson, WI tomorrow at 1pm. If you want to join us, please RSVP via email.

Why Airtight Buildings?

A conversation on the MinnePHit website inspired me to write a quick summary of why airtight buildings are a good thing. You can find my response to the thread on the MinnePHit website. I will maintain this article on Google Knol going forward.

 

How airtightness is a good thing when it comes to making sure a building is robust and durable.

This knol was written in response to the common assumption that airtight building envelopes cause problems for buildings.
From the designer’s desk: Airtightness of the building envelope (that’s the walls, slab, and ceiling—basically what separates inside from outside) is essential to efficient and durable buildings.
What caused a lot of problems in the past were envelopes that were not airtight enough!
The leaking of warm moist air into assemblies during periods where conditions are conducive to condensation—combined with lack of drying potential of these assemblies—cause “early building degradation”, a.k.a. rot or mold. By making the shell very air tight, and field testing the tightness—thus eliminating potentially failure points—builders and owners can be assured that no worrisome leaking is occurring. By selecting proper building materials that allow for drying of any moisture inside of assemblies, the designer can further make the building more robust.
So in short, an airtight building envelope is the way to avoid building envelope problems.
One last thought: Airtightness does not mean that moisture cannot migrate through assemblies. A safe approach to building design is to make airtight but vapor-open assemblies. All this means is that leaking into the assemblies is eliminated, and drying potential is increased. This combination warrants safe assemblies in just about any climate zone. Whenever building with wood and organic materials this should be the preferred approach.

The MinnePHit House

The MinnePHit house

At TE Studio we are fortunate enough to attract some pretty incredible people. Most recently, we were commissioned by a couple from South Minneapolis to bring their mid-30s home into the 21st century of performance. A brief description of their family reads like this:

Two grown-ups, three girls, two dogs and eight chickens. A 1935 neo-Tudor in Minneapolis, MN. A passion for the planet.

MinnePHit collage

You can see where we are going with this. With ground-breaking in sight, we are looking to make a Passive House retrofit. “Ze Germans” call it EnerPHit—as in energy efficient passive house retrofit.

EnerPHit logo

This means some significant changes—most noticeably to the building envelope, or those bits that separate inside from out. TE Studio is providing the design for this winter coat. We are looking to sustainable materials in an effort to cut the heating demand to about 12kBTUs, or about three hairdryers going at the same time. 9-1/2″ i-Joists will be screwed to an air-tightened sheathing layer on the outside of the current shell, and dense-packed with cellulose insulation for an R-value of 44. Since we are also adding to the back of the house we decided to design a new “hat” for the home. A trussed hip-roof will provide R-77 of cellulose insulation. Even the basement will be insulated to R-values in the 30s. Combined with an airtightness goal of 1.0 ACH50 or better, this retrofit will meet the requirements set forth in the current draft of the EnerPHit standard. According to the German Passiv Haus Institute, this is the first EnerPHit project in North America.

Mechanical ventilation is a good idea for most buildings, but it is essential for any high-performance building. We designed an ERV-based whole house system with an efficiency rating of over 90%. This means that the precious heating energy will remain inside the envelope while the occupants are supplied with outside air year-round. We are able to recycle the home’s existing boiler and continue to heat the home with in-floor heat. The same boiler will also provide hot water. This project demonstrates the amazing potential of a high-efficiency design for existing homes in a cold climate through a great amount of recycling of what is existing—paired with carefully selected sustainable materials and methods for the retrofit and what is new.

The design is complementary to the building’s origins and surroundings. An open first floor plan will provide much needed space for the family, and offer a connection with the backyard. On the second floor we are adding bed rooms for the kids and an additional bath. At just over 2,000 finished square feet (counting the basement), this is no mansion for 5 people and two dogs, but with its well organized layout, it will be incredibly functional.

We are very excited about this project. The owners are offering updates on the project at http://www.minnephithouse.com

Only one question left to ask: What do the chickens think of this?

MinnePHit Chicken

This Blog Reviewed

Green Building Advisor logo

Scott Gibson on Greenbuildingadvisor.com was kind enough to review this blog on his blog. You may find the article at this link. Thanks Scott!

Synergy Article on Jetson Green

Jetson Green Logo

05/14/2011: Jetson Green published an article on the Synergy Concept: Synergy, a Beacon of Passive House.

Learn more about Synergy.

Introducing Synergy

Synergy Affordable High Performance Home by TE Studio

Synergy is a beacon for the 21st century renaissance of residential high-performance design. It is built on the world’s leading energy efficiency standard—Passive House. Within a building envelope that is designed to minimize maintenance cycles and age gracefully, it provides highest levels of comfort and healthy day-lit interiors. Synergy’s combination of amazing performance and built-in energy conservation make it a leapfrog performer that will save you money month after month, year after year. The extremely reduced environmental footprint and extensive use of green materials combine with highly functional floor plans and beautiful, customizable design to compliment your lifestyle.

Synergy is the essence of holistic design for sustainable homes. Welcome to Synergy. Welcome Home.

Download the brochure: Synergy Flyer Web

Talk to us about your project: info@testudio.com

We are at the Living Green Expo 2011

Join us on May 7 and 8 at the State Fair Grounds for this year’s Living Green Expo. We’ll be in the Education building, in aisle A and booth 04. We are going to showcase our holistic approach to sustainable building design. Among other things, we’ll offer an insight into affordable high-peformance designs that cut 80% of operations cost and stretch maintenance cycles by a factor of 2 and more. On Saturday, I will be lecturing at Noon about Passive House. See you!

2 Lectures this Week

I’ll be at the U of M tomorrow, 4/19/11 from 11.15 to 12.30 at Rhapson Hall to lecture on the basics of Passive House and sustainable design.

On Wednesday, I will share the stage with the owner of the Passive House in the Woods project to share our experience: 4/20/11;  10 – 11am; North Hennepin Community College. Link

PHitW Project on Minneapolis Examiner

Examiner logo

The Minneapolis Examiner published an article by Shengyin Xu about the Passive House in the Woods project yesterday. It’s a great primer on Passive House and it highlights some of the key features of the Passive House in the Woods very well. Read.