Focused on a healthy and comfortable indoor climate with superior energy efficiency and a minimum impact on environmental resources, the first Active House in North America will soon be constructed near St. Louis. Hibbs Homes is working with the Brussels, Belgium-based Active House Alliance to design and construct the 2,500-square-foot home in Webster Groves, Mo., which will also meet or exceed four North American sustainable building certifications: the National Green Building Standard, Energy Star, EPA Indoor airPLUS, and Building America Builders Challenge.
The Active House concept emphasizes three key sustainability factors: balanced and efficient energy consumption; healthy indoor air; and the use of durable, local, and recycled-content materials. Active House projects have been built in Portugal, Austria, Norway, Italy, and Russia.
Designed to specifications finalized last year by the Active House Alliance, the home will serve as a prototype to help further develop Active House guidelines for North American climate and environmental needs. The project, the first of its kind in the United States and Canada, is ideally located in a mixed humid climate that requires cold and warm climate specifications, allowing for easy translations of the prototype into other regions of the country, says builder Kim Hibbs.
The three-bedroom SIPS-built house will be oriented to control and maximize the sun’s warmth, according to project manager Matt Belcher of Verdatek Solutions. At no cost, Active House Alliance staff consulted on the project’s design--especially in the areas of solar orientation and daylighting strategies—and recommended additional skylights and larger windows.
“I’ve built many homes to different green building verifications, and the difference with the Active House Alliance is that they really pay attention to daylighting,” says Hibbs. “They think that’s equally as important as the energy-efficiency component.”
Other sustainable measures will include a poured foundation with insulated walls, a 98% efficient gas furnace, no- or low-VOC materials and finishes, triple-glazed windows, and an ERV for optimal air circulation. Project planners are also considering a solar thermal hot water system.
Because the Active House program is an overarching standard with no performance metric-based requirements, an important part of the program is energy monitoring after move-in, says Belcher. The University of Missouri’s Center for Sustainable Energy will monitor energy consumption and indoor air quality for the home’s first year of residence. Construction is slated to begin in April, after deconstruction of the existing 67-year-old bungalow on the property.
For now, project planners are enjoying learning about the benefits of this internationally renowned approach to green home building, especially its customized up-front support.
“The Alliance takes a very holistic approach,” says Hibbs. “They realize that each site is different and requires a different treatment.”
Jennifer Goodman is Senior Editor for EcoHome.