First Active House in the US nears completion

First Active House in the US nears completion

When architect Jeff Day met with the family that would come to own the first Active House in the U.S., their first question was not about building science but about style.

"They wanted to know if it was going to have to look like a spaceship to meet the performance requirements," Day said. "I told them it will fit right in the neighborhood."

Day designed the 2,500 sq. ft. home, delivering a classic four-square style reflecting the site’s historic neighborhood. Although the home will meet stringent performance standards, most people will pass by without noticing the solar panels and skylights that make the home unique.

The prototype Active House was built in the Webster Groves suburb of St. Louis, Mo., known for its century-old homes and strict Architectural Review Board. The home is the first in the U.S. to be built to the Active House standard that originated in Europe. 

This innovative home will be certified under four prestigious, U.S. green-building standards including the ANSI-700 National Green Building Standard, EPA Indoor Air Quality, Energy STAR, and Builder’s Challenge Home initiatives.

As a prototype, this home is helping to promote and advance these green building standards, and includes many top-of-the-line green building technologies and products used today, making it a shining example of what high performance green building is capable of.

Because of the mixed climate zone in St. Louis, the Active House USA location is ideal for a prototype. The design and components of the home meet both the needs of hot, humid summers and frigid, icy winters, making the prototype translate well both in the north and south, as well as more consistent climates around the country.

Active House USA takes a holistic approach to energy efficiency and whole house systems integration. The home’s solar orientation and systems actually produce more energy than is used via lighting and solar products that harness the natural and free energy sources.

During the project builder Kim Hibbs learned about the value of daylighting through skylights, sun tunnels and vertical windows.

"The amount of light they let in is important, factoring in the heating and cooling, lighting and homeowner comforts," Hibbs said. "That's something I had not paid nearly enough attention to and will from now on."

Energy-efficient building techniques include:

  • Structural insulated panels from Insulspan for the walls and roof of the home to reduce heating and cooling loads. 
  • Extensive daylighting with 10-foot high triple-pane, low-E glass windows, covered by awnings on the south side of the house.
  • Electrically operated automatic, low profile Velux skylights
  • A 98% AFUE natural gas furnace, and an energy recovery ventilator
  • A 4.8 kW grid-tied PV system on the roof for renewable energy
  • Sourcing components with a 500-mile radius, including faux stone manufactured about 20 miles away.

The University of Missouri’s Center for Sustainable Energy will provide energy and indoor air quality monitoring after the home has been occupied through its first year of residence.

Read more about building green.

Topics: Certification / LEED, GREAT GREEN HOMES, Home Design & Plans

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