While bickering rages on between the PassivHaus Institut and the European green building organization’s American offshoot, Illinois-based Passive House Institute US (TreeHugger’s Lloyd Alter has the latest in the potentially damaging squabble between the recently divorced groups), another rigorous European green building standard is starting to make headway stateside with a project underway in Webster Groves, Mo. The project in question is dubbed Active House USA — fitting I suppose since Brussels-based Active House Alliance inspired it and is heavily involved with its creation.
A handful of Active House prototype homes exist across Western and Central Europe, and most recently, Russia. As I described in a post about Activy Dom, a prototype dwelling located on the outskirts of Moscow, the basic differences between “active” and “passive” are pretty cut and dry: While a home built to exacting Passive House standards relies primarily on energy savings through super-tight insulation and building orientation and not on renewable energy systems, the popular-in-Denmark Active House movement is essentially a holistic, Euro take on net-zero housing (i.e. the home produces more energy than it consumes) that focuses heavily on heavily on indoor air quality, energy balance, and sustainable building materials. In a nutshell: “Active House is a vision of buildings that create healthier and more comfortable lives for their occupants without negative impact on the climate — moving us towards a cleaner, healthier and safer world.” Simple enough.
Active House USA is the brainchild of two St. Louis-based companies, builder Hibbs Homes and developer Verdatek Solutions, working in collaboration with the Active House Alliance. The $450,000 home itself was designed by Jeff Day & Associates. Velux Group, a Danish solar and roofing company that’s been heavily involved with the Active House movement since the get-go, is also a player in the project.
In addition to boasting full Active House Alliance-approval, the high-performance three-bedroom abode is expected to meet or exceed a host of American green building certifications: National Green Building Standard, EnergyStar, EPA Indoor airPLUS, and Building America Builders Challenge. A quick overview of the home’s sustainable specs:
SIP (structural insulated panel) construction
Passive solar orientation
Zero/low-VOC paints and finishes
Energy recovery ventilator
The use of reclaimed building materials salvaged from an existing home on the building site
Although Active House homes do not require performance metric-based requirements a la Passive House homes, Jennifer Goodman over at EcoHome points out that an integral component of the standard is the monitoring of energy performance and indoor air quality. In this instance, homeowners David and Thuy Smith will be permitting the University of Missouri Center for Sustainable Energy to keep tabs on the home during the first year of occupancy. And an important aspect of Active House USA is its Missouri location, a mixed humid region that's ideal "to prototype and propagate Active House standards in other countries and communities in North America.”
The project is expected to break ground in April starting with the deconstruction of aforementioned existing home on the property. Plenty more information (and much more to come, I imagine) over at the Active House USA project website and blog. And be sure to take a look around the Active House Alliance website to learn more about the standard itself and to view other existing and in-development projects built to Active House specifications. I'll try to keep you posted on this intriguing project as it moves forward.
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