Passive state of mind
This is an excerpt from an article in Sanctuary magazine issue 19.
When New York State architect Dennis Wedlick set out to build the most energy efficient home he could, passive house design principles were key.
Words Anna Cumming
Photography Peter Aaron
The climate of the beautiful Hudson Valley in upstate New York, USA, can hardly be described as mild. With average daily temperatures hovering around minus five degrees Celsius in winter, and snowfall expected as much as six months of the year, building a home in the area that does not require an active heating system would seem an unlikely goal. Yet that is exactly what local architect Dennis Wedlick set out to do when he embarked on the Hudson Passive Project: design a high-performance home that was also beautiful and quick to build. The result was the state’s first certified passive house.
With the support of the New York State Energy Research Development Authority, Wedlick designed his compact prototype house with the rigorous energy efficiency specifications of the Passive House Standard (PHS) firmly in mind. Developed as ‘passivhaus’ in Germany in the 1980s, the standard requires very low space heating and cooling demand and high air-tightness. In essence, a passive house is a very well insulated, airtight building that is able to maintain a comfortable internal temperature using primarily the sun and natural ventilation. [Ed note: For more on the Passive House Standard, see the article in Sanctuary 17.]
Remarkably, the home achieves a very low energy consumption without relying on solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal or other on-site energy systems. Wedlick explains that his firm saw the project as “a chance to prove that significant energy conservation could be achieved through architecture alone”.
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