Clients : Built for North River Architecture’s Senior Designer
Structural Engineering: Kaaterskill Associates
Mechanical Design: Baukraft Engineering
Consultants: Northeast Projects LLC – WUFI Passive energy modeling Spruce Mountain, Inc. – PHIUS+ Rater
Text description provided by the architects. The North River Architecture design team has embraced Passive House design as a challenge and necessity in their practice. By demonstrating that Passive House design can be affordable, beautiful, resilient, and comfortable, the designers sought to overcome the common challenges that hinder its mainstream viability. This 2,755 square foot home was designed to have zero energy or maintenance costs while respecting local historic and cultural significance.
The design concept takes its references from the simple, hardscrabble farm buildings still common and recognizable in New York's Hudson Valley since the Dutch settlers came to the area in the 17th century. This simplicity allowed for modern strategic expressions of flexibility, informality and connection to the outdoors, such as flexible living spaces and a dramatic expanse of south-facing glass. The home was also designed for longevity, and included design strategies for easy interior expansion and renovation. The structural spans, utilities rough-ins, expansive attic spaces, and modular floor layout were all designed to allow for flexible re-configuration and expansion for future occupants of the home.
With PHIUS+ Certification, the project achieves an 80 percent reduction in energy use compared to code compliant structures. The Net Zero Energy strategy ties the house to the local power grid with a 9KW photovoltaic array through a net metering agreement with the local utility; as such, the homeowner will carry no net energy costs annually. Materials and design choices were selected for longevity, durability and to be maintenance-free, high-functioning, and simple, including galvanized corrugated steel siding and a trowel-finished concrete slab floor inside.
The xeri-scaped peagravel patio needs no landscaping care or irrigation and minimizes local Lyme tick exposure. Trim materials inside and out were chosen for their adaptive re-use and low resource extraction properties, including the use of engineered lumber for trim work, salvaged white oak slats, and carmelized cork throughout the project. The cork was used inside and out for its sustainable harvest and broad utility for acoustics, water resistance, and insulation value.
While adhering to strict budgetary constraints, the design team met ambitious energy performance goals of PHIUS+ Passive House Certification and Net Zero Energy without sacrificing architectural warmth and expression. To keep costs down and promote the buildability of Passive House in the local market, contractors with no prior Passive House experience were trained on-site and common grade, overstocked materials were used during construction with low waste in mind.
Using these methods, the team was able to achieve a competitive price per square foot relative to regional costs for this market niche, demonstrating that Passive House design can have a common-sense appeal to homeowners, designers, and to conventional builders. North River Architecture hosted open house learning events during different phases of construction to promote open-source sharing of methods and solutions with the local building and design community.