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Bainbridge Island architects design Habitat for Humanity's second Passive House on West Coast

This home built for Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat Humanity was designed by Bainbridge Island architects Charlie Wenzlau and Robert Moore to meet Passive House energy-efficiency standards. (Photo courtesy Robert Moore)Wenzlau Architects and Robert Moore Architect, both of Bainbridge Island, have partnered with Habitat for Humanity to design and construct Habitat’s second Passive House on the West Coast. This highly energy-efficient home, recently completed for Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity, was designed and built to meet the rigorous standards of the Passive House Institute U.S.

Habitat has incorporated many energy-saving features into its projects in recent years in an effort to provide homes affordable for their residents to live in. Passive houses take energy-saving features even further, resulting in homes with monthly operating costs reduced by as much as 90 percent compared with homes built to current energy code standards.

A Passive House is designed to take on energy conservation from a “passive” perspective; that is, it simply recaptures as much of the cheapest available energy it can ( from the sun and heat given off by appliances and even the building occupants) and holds onto it for as long as possible. Due to the care taken in the design and construction of a Passive House, a typical mechanical system is no longer needed. In fact, winter heating needs actually can be met with the wattage of a standard hair dryer.

Also, the indoor air quality is kept fresh and comfortable with the use of whole-house heat recovery ventilation. Some of the features used by Wenzlau and Moore include high-performance triple-pane windows; double wall construction with a highly insulated building “envelope”; air-tight detailing; and Energy Star appliances. The addition of a small photovoltaic system would easily take the house to “net zero” energy usage. The architects provided their services pro bono to Habitat.

From the outside it’s difficult to tell that this house is any different from others on the street. But the Passive House construction techniques will help a new Habitat family financially by reducing their yearly heating costs while also reducing their carbon footprint, and without sacrificing comfort. As Habitat stated, “this is an opportunity to re-define affordable housing.”

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