Back in the fall we shared with you the first Passive House in Ohio. Recently, after news that the house had been successfully completed and sold, we were able to sit down with Green Generations’ President Andrew Kline to take a closer look into everything that goes into a Passive House.
C&H: Thank you so much, Mr. Kline, for taking the time to speak with us about Passive House. First and foremost, what first interested you in green building? What inspired you to take on the construction of Passive House?
Mr. Kline: I became interested in environmentally sensitive construction in college, where I was an interdisciplinary environmental studies major. I thought that creating a tangible, usable structure that benefits both people and the environment was a practical way to contribute to the health of my community and invest in the well being of future generations.
I was inspired to build the Passive House because it clearly stands ahead of anything built in the United States today. It is a cutting edge standard that has been proven to seamlessly integrate unmatched indoor comfort and stability with fractional energy usage. It has been acknowledged by many as vastly superior to LEED buildings in the realm of energy usage, a key global warming issue.
Additionally, Passive House construction has, as far as we know, never been attempted before in Ohio. It seemed like a particularly exciting challenge to build an exceedingly comfortable house in Ohio without a furnace. The research and technology now exist whereby we can build houses that actually use 90% less heat energy than standard construction.
C&H:When do you expect construction to be complete? Will there be tours for the public of Passive House once it’s completed, or will the buyer be moving directly in?
AK:We completed construction of the Passive House at the beginning of December, just in time to see how it actually performed in real life. The new owners moved in right away, but have graciously agreed to host an open house with us, which we will be posting on our Facebook page as soon as it is scheduled.
C&H:Have you found any more interest in building Passive Houses in the area?
AK:We have been in regular discussion with people in the Miami Valley and beyond, and are actively looking to contract with a future owner who is interested in this kind of cutting edge construction.
C&H:How has the building process gone? Do you do a lot of the construction yourself, or do you have contractors that you work with? Has finding people to work within the Passive House standards been difficult?
AK:Meeting the Passive House standard is extremely difficult, because these buildings are so precisely engineered. To minimize issues during construction, we built the critical components, namely the building envelope, in-house. This made the most sense because we engineered it, and understood its strengths, weaknesses, and what items to watch out for during assembly.
We were fortunate to have available to us excellent sub contractors for plumbing and electric who were really on-board with what we were trying to do, and were extremely helpful. Having the right subs makes all the difference on this project. They understood the critical nature of air-tightness on a passive house, and were sensitive to the structure as they installed their components. We also had some extra hands on basic interior finish work, and roofing, otherwise we essentially built the entire thing.
C&H:If you were to build another Passive House in the near future, what changes would you make to the process and to the building?
AK:Through the design process of this house, we learned a lot about Passive House Construction in general. Because the Passive House is a new standard here in the U.S., there are a number of materials and products that were unavailable when we began the process. Through the 20 – 30 revisions we made, we gained a lot of insight into the process, and ways to improve upon it.
Next time I think we would like to try a slab-on-grade floor as opposed to a framed floor and crawl space. This eliminates a number of issues around crawl spaces. We were initially going to move forward with a slab design, but ran into challenges about how to thermally break the house floor from the ambient out-door temperatures and that of the ground as well. This is a design issue we have since resolved, but it was not in time for our first Passive House Project.
C&H:What do you envision your company doing for the green movement in the Miami Valley (or beyond)?
AK:We can build structures in Ohio that almost no one else can build. We have the capacity to meet the most difficult and challenging building standard in the world. This requires an extraordinary attention for detail, which we also translate into our levels of finish and craftsmanship.
The best part of it for me however is that I now know how to create a viable alternative to mainstream construction that yields a level of comfort, durability, and unparalleled efficiency for decades to come.
Over the course of the life of this Passive House, it will produce less than half the greenhouse gasses that traditional construction would otherwise emit. This equation carried out over hundreds or thousands of buildings (as is the case in Germany where passive house is standard building code) can dramatically reduce our carbon emissions. Hopefully this first project will make people in this area aware of the possibilities and inspire them to use the same standard in their homes.
C&H:What would be the one thing you’d like to impart upon people concerning Passive House?
AK:It’s the leading standard in the world right now for energy efficiency and comfort. Many people think you have to sacrifice being comfortable in order to reduce your carbon footprint, but that is not the case with passive houses.
We recently had a cold snap with temperatures as low as 4 degrees at night, and the owners of our Passive House needed nothing more than the equivalent of a small space heater to maintain 69 degrees and a pleasant 50% indoor humidity.
We’d like to thank Mr. Kline for his generous time and consideration in answering our questions, and for his company’s incredible vision for green building!