The First Passive House in Salt Lake City

This will be the first certified Passive House in the city limits of Salt Lake City (not to take anything away from the Breezeway House located outside the city in Salt Lake County), if certification by PHIUS goes as planned. I visited the home on a nice sunny day a couple weeks ago, but the photos of this beginning photographer didn’t turn out as I’d originally expected.* That said, I hope you can get a feeling for the contemporary design and some of the materials and technology that went into this ultra-efficient home.

Ruby House, located in a historic district in the Avenues, was designed by Brach Design Architecture (Dave Brach) and built by Benchmark Modern (Garth Hare), who you may recall, depending on how long you’ve been a reader, also built the Maryfield House.

Homes in the Avenues can be colorful or aged, or some combination of the two, and I think it’s safe to say that a boxy modern home just wouldn’t be welcome by many. Yet I think Brach was able to deliver a contemporary, energy efficient design while still respecting what’s going on in the neighborhood.

The owners agreed, “[Dave] optimized the placement of our house to take advantage of natural lighting, surrounding views, while maintaining privacy. Dave also considered and respected the surrounding architecture of the historic neighborhood and worked closely with the historic landmark commission to obtain approval of the plans,” according to a testimonial on Brach’s site.

For the Passive House geeks, you may interested to know what’s inside: a Zehnder Comfoair 350 HRV, Fujitsu air-to-air heat pumps (7kBtu upstairs and 9kBtu main level), a AO Smith high-efficiency water heater, Verve lighting controls, and Energate 1202 windows.

The build includes Logix ICF foundation walls, Senergy EIFS stucco, Old Virginia Brick thin bricks in Chatham Gray, Accoya cladding, Certainteed dense-pack fiberglass insulation, exterior EPS foam, and a white vinyl roof. There’s also an abundance of rich wood detail including maple stair treads, rift-sawn oak cabinets, maple veneer MDF ceiling, maple flooring and door trim, and a front and back porch soffit of marine-grade mahogany plywood.

It’s really a handsome green home. Architect Brach said to me, “I do believe this is something downtown Salt Lake City and the avenues historic district can be proud of,” and I can say first hand that I definitely agree.

[+] More photos of the Ruby House at Dave Brach Architecture.

*I have a new DSLR that I’m trying to learn how to use, particularly with indoor photos. I’m reading all sorts of material to take better shots in the future.  Don’t hate the project for my photos! – Photo credits: JetsonGreen.com.


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  • http://hacking-shindyapin.tumblr.com ph0rque

    We need a spot market price index for passive houses, just like we have a spot market price index for PV modules.

  • Zachary Semke

    Very nice Preston – thanks for sharing. And timely, given that the national Passive House conference is happening this weekend in not-so-far-away Denver.

  • lurker

    nice house and the pictures are not so bad…really pretty design…what’s the long driveway? that shot baffles me. cheers

    • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

      I think you’re referring to the walkway into the home. It’s hard to see that without a photo of the home from a distance. Those LED lights are made with laminated, jointed wood by the owner. They’re pretty cool. I guess you’re right, though, it’s a weird shot.

      • stevenla

        If that’s a long sloping concrete slab I don’t see it as being very “green”.

        • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

          You’re talking about the entry walkway? It’s like 8-12 feet, or so. What would you suggest otherwise? They have pebble gravel for other walkways. You can sort of see it in the top photo.

          • stevenla

            porous paving or rainwater capture. the backyard hut looks like it might have rainwater capture – looks like it has downpipes going somewhere.

          • caveman664

            I often wonder about porous paving in freeze/thaw climates like the Rocky Mountain west. Each day in the winter, the temperature goes well over freezing then each night goes well below freezing. Even when the day is below freezing, many times the sun heats up the surfaces and melts any thing that is there. It seems like they wouldn’t last very long. I know they use them in Chicago and other places that don’t get the daily freeze/thaw that we get. But then again – I don’t know. I’m just wondering. And, using crusher fines or other gravel makes it really difficult to shovel the snow – at least in Denver where 5 feet a year is average. You eventually wind up with more gravel on the side than the sidewalk. I agree with Preston. Since this is probably much less than 1% of the site coverage, There really is no value to going overboard with a solution that might need replacement over time.

          • caveman664

            I often wonder about porous paving in freeze/thaw climates like the Rocky Mountain west. Each day in the winter, the temperature goes well over freezing then each night goes well below freezing. Even when the day is below freezing, many times the sun heats up the surfaces and melts any thing that is there. It seems like they wouldn’t last very long. I know they use them in Chicago and other places that don’t get the daily freeze/thaw that we get. But then again – I don’t know. I’m just wondering. And, using crusher fines or other gravel makes it really difficult to shovel the snow – at least in Denver where 5 feet a year is average. You eventually wind up with more gravel on the side than the sidewalk. I agree with Preston. Since this is probably much less than 1% of the site coverage, There really is no value to going overboard with a solution that might need replacement over time.

  • stevenla

    Preston about your foto ability.. At least in foto no 6 in the bathroom you didn’t give us a bare chested reflection foto– for which we are all grateful.

  • Bridgette Meinhold

    pictures are great. it’s all about practice

  • drb99

    If my memory serves me correctly, this house was featured in EDC for its energy harvesting self-powered light switches tied to a wifi based switching system (i.e. you push the adhesive, movable wall switch and a piezo electric captures the kinetic power of your pressure and makes a burst of radio signal to trigger the light at the circuit box). That’s a serious savings in copper wire and wiring labor cost!

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