Focused on a healthy indoor climate with superior energy efficiency and a minimum impact on environmental resources, the first Active House in North America is now nearly complete near St. Louis. The 2,500-square-foot home in Webster Groves, Mo., emphasizes balanced and efficient energy consumption; occupant comfort including healthy indoor air; and the use of durable, local, and recycled-content materials. 

ECOHOME is following this one-of-a-kind project from start to finish through first-person accounts from the construction team of Hibbs HomesVerdatek Solutions, and Jeff Day & Associates Architecture. Here, project manager Matt Belcher discusses the products used inside the home. 

There are some pretty amazing green-building technology and science behind the walls and through the trusses of Active House USA. And the components of the house’s system have a lot to do with the health, environment, and energy savings benefits for the soon-to-be-occupants. We’ll talk about those in our next blog posting. 

However, the interior finishes are another major contributing factor to the superior indoor air quality, comfort, and durability of the home. The interior design, created by Kristin Zivic of Lusso at Home in St. Louis, is a very thoughtful arrangement of elements that are intended to contribute to and compliment the home’s philosophy and systems. Working with the project team and the homeowners, Kristin has evoked an elegant interior style that reflects the home’s historic neighborhood. 

Because the Active House has a mission to work with and not against the natural world, it was very important to Kristin that she bring the outside in. She did that by using many of natural interior finishes, including flagstone, wood, marble, and granite. 

The use of stone throughout the house is a key design feature that is intended to contribute to a clean and calm atmosphere within the home to reflect its environmental philosophy. Kristin used locally sourced stone from recycled materials as a key grounding element throughout her design. It is a lightweight concrete-based product made with cement with a high fly-ash content. 

The home’s interior and exterior design called for the use of a customized flagstone and shale material produced by Castle Stone Products on the front porch columns, fireplace surround, kitchen backsplash, and kitchen island. The stonework was also manufactured and sourced locally from recycled materials. 

Like many other finishes used within the home, the wood used in Active House USA was selected because it integrates well with the desired indoor air quality and sustainability goals of the home. Northern red oak from Boardwalk Floors is made of repurposed wood fabricated from reclaimed timber and everything from the manufacturing process is repurposed. This tongue-and-groove flooring uses a water-based stain with no formaldehyde and cleans up easily with soap and water. 

The custom cabinetry in the kitchen and bathrooms was made by Jim Blair of Cabinet Alternatives using walnut, maple, and bamboo. The cabinets are seamless with no exposed hardware to better reflect the calm flow of the home. They were constructed locally with low-VOC plywood and hardwood components and a hand-applied low-VOC stain and sealer. The cabinetry and casement work borrow from mid-century modern design traditions. 

To add an extra custom touch, the four windows in the dining room were encased together to flow seamlessly and create a comfortable and airy space. 

Perhaps the most central design element of the home is the three-level staircase. As I mentioned in an earlier posting about the solar orientation of the home, the open staircase is positioned to take light from Velux skylights on the roof, through the main floor, and all the way down into the basement. The stairs are made of pine and feature light oak railings and have excess wood backings or carpeting to allow the maximum amount of light possible to move through the house. 

To complete the look we were after without breaking our budget, Kristin combed the city looking for beautiful remnants from St. Louis’s granite yards and other locations. This not only prevented waste but saved money, too. She found marble, granite, and Silestone pieces that we cut and fitted for use in the kitchen, baths, and laundry/mudroom for counters and vanity tops. These natural stone pieces include a carved Silestone remnant with a Japanese flower that will encase the Japanese soaking tub in the master bathroom. 

Another very unique design element is the butcher-block top being fashioned from repurposed construction waste destined for the kitchen island, and hand-finished with a low-VOC epoxy. Other carefully chosen interior products include Green Label carpet and padding in the recreation room and Sherwin Williams no-VOC Harmony paints throughout. As you can see, from top to bottom, Active House USA has been well thought out to meet the requirements of the Active House program: low VOC, easy to clean, and providing a healthy indoor living environment.

View past Active House articles:

From Start to Finish: Active House USA
Follow the Active House USA team as they offer insight and advice on green building, product selection, installation, and much more.

Active House Planners Consider Orientation, Design, and Site Preparation
The ultra-efficient house will blend in with 100-year-old neighboring dwellings.

From Start to Finish: Keeping the Active House on Budget
An energy-efficiency loan is key to the success of the Active House USA project.