Living in a Passive House

Recently, members of the studioTROIKA team attended a lecture organized by Passive House Massachusetts at the Boston Society of Architects Space. The lecture was given by Hank Keating, architect and owner of his very own passive house. Mr. Keating and his wife moved into their passive house about a year ago, after years of planning and 18 months of construction. What they have experienced is “…beyond [their] dreams.” The house is quiet, consistently comfortable, bright, and holds ambient warmth that creates a calming space throughout the year.

The house is quiet, consistently comfortable, bright, and holds ambient warmth that creates a calming space throughout the year.

“Passive house design” boasts several inspiring features in the planning and construction world. Unparalleled comfort is provided with thick wall systems that are super-insulated and airtight. ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilators) provide a constant supply of fresh air to promote a healthy and balanced indoor air quality.

The Keating Passive House also sports a solar array that provides the home more than enough electricity throughout the year, feeding the excess into the grid. During his lecture, Mr. Keating spoke several times about the windows and the beauty of the south facing glass, clearly thrilled with the effect that light and solar heat have on his home. The deep wall section also allowed the incorporation of window seats so that occupants can enjoy the warmth of the sun throughout the year. Best of all, perhaps, is that the Keating household never turned on their Mitsubishi Mini-Split heating system all winter last year! The house regulated itself by retaining heat during the day and holding it throughout the night.

The Keating household never turned on their heating system all winter!

While passive design principles were initiated in North America in the 1970s, the German Passivhaus Institut expanded on this research in the 1980s. Over the past several years, the Passive House Institute US has committed to developing performance standards for the diverse climate zones of North America. As these strategies become more mainstream, the desire for Passive House designation becomes increasingly popular in the design / build industry.

The studtioTROIKA team is working to integrate Passive House principles on larger scale projects throughout the Greater Boston Area. The clients of a recently acquired mixed-use project have already expressed interest in designing their building to Passive House standards. TROIKA is excited at the prospect of this rewarding and challenging design experience. However, the major question remains across the industry of how to market Passive House as a beneficial strategy for design in today’s world. The true benefits lie, as Hank Keating attests, in a vastly improved quality of life and a deep comfort rooted in this thoughtful and integrated design strategy.

– Contributed by Shannon Sickler of studioTROIKA

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