A Practical Approach to Passive House
An architect's "best work to date" is a super-efficient home that you could build.
Synopsis: Passive House standards are the strictest residential-building parameters in the United States. Because of that, details such as window selection and the continuity of a bead of caulk can make the difference between whether or not a house is tight enough to meet the standards. Architect Steven Baczek describes in this article how he built a Passive House with standard building materials and construction techniques. Key to the project’s success was lots of planning and buy-in from everyone involved: the homeowner, the architect, the energy consultant, the general contractor, and the subs. Together, they built a house that conforms to Baczek’s goal in building high-performance houses: They should convert energy as inexpensively as possible and hold on to that energy for as long as possible. Baczek provides detailed construction plans for the following tasks: building double walls (one 2×4 and one 2×6), insulating above the slab, breaking the thermal bridge at the second floor, using a vented truss roof, and detailing windows in thick walls. Baczek believes not only that this house is the best one he’s ever designed, but that it can be replicated by any homeowner, builder, or architect.
I began my career in architecture nearly 17 years ago after spending many years as a contractor. My background has given me a strong appreciation for and understanding of people who design and build homes. I’ve designed more than 30 zero-energy homes, six deep-energy retrofits, and numerous high-performance houses. In truth, the path to optimum performance and durability hasn’t always been easy.
In many ways, the knowledge that I’ve gained over the years has culminated in the design and building of this home — my first certified Passive House, in the coastal community of Falmouth, Mass. — which I confidently consider my best work to date. Not…