Passive Makes Perfect in North Carolina

When we first profiled Anchorage Builders in 2010, they were in the construction phase of North Carolina’s first Passive House.  We followed up with the project in a subsequent post and were quite impressed with the completed home, both aesthetically and sustainably.  Building on this successful experience, Anchorage and architect Jay Fulkerson have recently collaborated on yet another Chapel Hill home designed with Passive House building methods.

Like it’s predecessor, this charming 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath bungalow uses dramatically less energy to heat and cool than a typical home, thanks to such features as:

  • 14.5” thick precast concrete walls (R-40)
  • 16” rafters (R-62)
  • Stained/polished concrete floors (R-20)
  • Triple-glazed Thermotech windows (R-7)
  • 95%-efficient UltimateAir ERV
  • Icynene and cellulose insulation
  • Wall-mounted, variable-speed Fujitsu 0.25-1.0 ton 25-SEER mini split
  • High-efficiency appliances include a non-vented Bosch condensing clothes dryer, Electrolux induction cooktop, and convection oven

Achieving Passive House certification is no easy feat, with strict metrics on heating and cooling loads, energy loss, and energy use. Intensive training and support from PHIUS (which governed the movement in the U.S. until recently) equips design professionals and builders with the ability to handle the additional challenges a Passive House must overcome.  Anchorage founder Chris Senior has advice for anyone interested in going the Passive House route:

Achieving certified PH is challenging but doable. It starts with involving the whole team, from the client and architect to the decorator and construction crew, right from the beginning of the design process.  Using the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP), we can calculate insulation needs and address air flow to ensure the home we are envisioning will meet strict Passive House standards.  Once construction is underway, the building team must be hyper-vigilant with the implementation of that plan.  Our job as the builder is to create the continuous air barrier and super insulate the home while avoiding leaky penetrations and thermal bridging.

Anchorage has another Passive House under construction in Pittsboro, in which the homeowner’s have been keeping a very informative blog about the building process.  Senior and his team relish the opportunity to perfect their technique. “The art is making this complex approach simple and affordable.  Repetition will hone our skills- but even now, there is little if any cost premium to our concrete PH’s!”

That’s good news for the movement here in the Unites States as it continues to gain momentum.  “These simple, low-load homes are the obvious future,” said Senior.

[+] More about this project at Anchorage Building Corp.

Credits: Anchorage Building Corp.


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  • Listed Green

    Someday soon, this will be the norm.

  • http://twitter.com/4elementshouse Four Elements House

    Beautiful house! Really nice design. Let’s hope that builders, architect and home owners will get inspired by projects like this.

  • Tom Bassett-Dilley

    Great project, thanks for featuring.  I just wanted to correct the comment about PHIUS–it still is the governing body for Passive House certification and training in the US, though people may choose to get certification and training through PHI (Germany).  Since the split from PHI, PHIUS is making stronger connections with the US DOE, USGBC, and others. 

    • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

      In what way is PHIUS still the governing body for Passive House when PHI, the organization behind Passive House, cancelled all contracts with PHIUS?  It’s one thing to say PHIUS can help people design/build a home that meets Passive House standards but it’s quite another to say they’re still the governing body in the US.  

      • Tom Bassett-Dilley

        Hi Preston,
        PHI cancelling contracts didn’t stop PHIUS from certification and training for Certified Passive House Consultant status.  PHIUS is the US body; still, people can, as before, choose to go with PHI or PHIUS for certification…it is after all a voluntary standard.  PHI doesn’t own the standard–4.75kBTU/s.f. and the other metrics are universal.  The N. American Passive House conference in DC was at a whole new level thanks to the split. 

  • Mike Kapp

    I was lucky enough to be able to tour the house. Very nicely executed.

  • Cliff Butler

    I love this house. It is really tight and comfortable. They are up to date on
    all the best in conservation.

  • Sue

    Anchorage Custom homes is just awesome!!   More more home builders in America should be as innovative as Chris Senior.   An energy-efficient home, like this one, will pay for itself, over time!

    Anyone considering building a new home in the Chapel Hill – Durham area should schedule an appointment with Chris Senior, right away!

  • http://www.rentalinsurance.org Tenant

    What an amazing home and good to know it is possible with a small footprint on the environment!

  • http://www.rentalinsurance.org Tenant

    What an amazing home and good to know it is possible with a small footprint on the environment!

  • Doc

    While ALL Passive Houses are remarkable and should be commended, I give extra credit to this one for choosing to look like what most people would call a house.

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