• The country's first Active House near St. Louis is now complete.
    The country's first Active House near St. Louis is now complete.
  • The Smith family will soon  move in to the ultra-efficient home, which will be monitored for one year by University of Missouri researchers.
    The Smith family will soon  move in to the ultra-efficient home, which will be monitored for one year by University of Missouri researchers.

Now that we’re putting the finishing touches on the Active House USA project, we are busy performing all of the final performance testing and inspections for the National Green Building Standard (ANSI ICC-700), Energy Star, Builders Challenge, and EPA’s WaterSense and Indoor airPlus Programs.

It is exciting to see how the results are proving out the theories that we tested during the planning, design, and construction phases. Our goals included an efficient design that made use of a tight building envelope--which we confirmed with a blower door test of less than 1.5 ACH--and one that made use of five different energy sources to complement and relieve each other to sustain maximum efficiency with each source. These energy sources are electric, solar PV, solar thermal, natural gas, and daylighting.

Our clients, the Smiths, were central to the entire process as we integrated their lifestyle and comfort into the core of our planning. In addition they were educated about the construction methods and materials, as well as the equipment and operation of their new home, from the planning stage through construction. As the testing is wrapped up, we are working with the Smiths to make final adjustments to the automated thermostats and ventilation systems, lighting controls, and automated skylights and shading. From here they will be shown how these systems operate as part of our overall homeowner education process.

We are also making the final connections for all monitoring equipment to prepare for year-long performance monitoring by the University of Missouri. The school will collect data and anecdotal information to prove out and support the techniques and theories used in the building process. When the clients are moved in and settled, the monitoring and verification will begin, headed by Dr. Sanjeev Khanna, director of the Industrial Services Research Center with the University of Missouri - Midwest Energy Efficiency Consortium. Dr. Khanna, a renowned research and academic professor, designed the monitoring program for the project. Among other things, he and his team will document the energy use in lighting, heating/cooling, and multi-source power demands. They will also study the way air is moved around the house, and monitor the indoor air quality for pollutants such as formaldehydes and other toxins, while measuring carbon dioxide and radon levels.

Once collected, the data will be analyzed and shared with the Brussels, Belgium-based Active House Alliance and their UK-based contract-engineering firm, Grontmij, who will do the final commissioning of this Active House prototype. The data and information will also be shared with the NAHB’s Home Innovation Research Center, the certifying body for the ANSI ICC-70 standard.

As part of the ongoing homeowner education, the data will also be shared with the homeowners. We anticipate that by providing that information, the Smiths can make minor adjustments to their lifestyle and energy consumption. The result should be an appreciable increase in performance and efficiency as the automated systems of the home are perfectly customized to match the lifestyle of the homeowners and maximize their comfort levels, which is a basic Active House tenant.

Part of our intent in building this Active House prototype was to incorporate existing green building program metrics into our approach, to implement a systems-based approach to quality and performance testing into our site development and design, and to utilize quality building design and construction practices. This approach allowed us to identify components that will provide site and building performance that are cost competitive with traditional building counterparts. This will also result in a built environment that outperforms traditional buildings in energy efficiency, carbon dioxide control, careful conservation of resources, environmental impact, maintenance costs, and occupant, health and comfort.

Originally, when the opportunity to be a part of the team to construct an Active House prototype in the United States was presented to us, it was apparent that the goal of the Active House specification and the NGBS were complimentary. Part of our mission with this prototype is to demonstrate how similar they are and create opportunities to expand the market familiarity and impact of both. The project has been wholly rewarding and the results have so far been even better than anticipated. Our client will be the beneficiary of long-lasting efficient performance and comfort that will now not be obsolete for quite possibly decades, which begs the question: Why would you build any other way?

This is the final blog post from Active House USA project manager Matt Belcher of Verdatek Solutions. For past first-person reports on the project, search “Active House USA” in the search box above.