Posted by aaron on August 21, 2013
Cascade Built’s high-performance Passive House project, Park Passive, was recently featured in the New York Times! Read the article.
Designed by NK Architects and developed by Cascade Built, Park Passive is the first certified Passive House located in Seattle. The home was certified by the Passive House Academy and authorized by the Passivhaus Institut, which sets rigorous design standards for energy use and air infiltration that translate into significantly decreased energy consumption, improved thermal comfort, and superior indoor air quality.
Posted by Sloan Ritchie on August 8, 2013
A response to the “should we certify” conundrum:
LEED Certification Matters
By Mona Lemoine
What was once an aspiration of a few innovators in isolated industries is
now part of our day-to-day lives. People around the country and particularly
in the Cascadia bioregion desire leadership and sustainability in how we
design, construct, operate and maintain the buildings where we live and
work. Green building has become part of our vernacular. And LEED helped us
The private sector increasingly uses LEED certification as a measure of not
only greenness, but also as a measure of overall quality. That’s why people
repeatedly certify their buildings. That’s why there are more than 17,000
LEED-certified commercial buildings covering 2.6 billion square feet (not to
mention more than 40,000 certified homes). That’s why 88 of the Fortune 100
companies use LEED. It’s this demand for efficiency and quality that drives
the demand for LEED, which has driven green building market growth from 2
percent in 2005 to 44 percent today.
With each newly certified project, LEED broadens the base for the necessary
and wide-scale transformation of our building industry. Thanks in no small
part to LEED, adoption of the <https://ilbi.org/lbc> Living Building
Challenge is also growing, and with it, projects that bring about local
community benefits, technological advancement, growth in manufacturing,
innovative design and restoration of the environment. LEED is a tool for the
broad adoption of green building practices to reduce the social, human
health and environmental impacts of the built environment and created a
platform for true innovation in the form of the Living Building Challenge,
that aspires for not only sustainability, but the potential for every act of
construction to restore health.
The “just build green, but don’t get LEED-certified” position, presented in
The Oregonian editorial about building West Linn’s new police station, is
neither new nor surprising
verrate.html> (“LEED certification is overrated,” July 15). No matter what
the industry, there are those who do not think verification and validation
are important. The reality is that LEED is not a “designer label,” it is
third-party proof that the building owners, in this case Oregon taxpayers,
actually got the green building they paid for. It’s not impossible to build
green without LEED, it’s just unlikely that corners won’t be cut and goals
and objectives missed, which happens every day and everywhere. “Trust me”
from the architect, engineers and contractors is not good enough.
Certification cuts through the greenwashing that is so common in the market
today and ensures that buildings are designed and built to meet an accepted
The private sector increasingly uses LEED certification as a measure of not
only greenness, but also as a measure of overall quality.
And just like the employers who hire college graduates instead of applicants
who claim to have learned the same skills, the market increasingly demands
certified buildings because they are verified energy, water and cost savers.
Despite all the evidence in favor of LEED, critics continue to argue that certification is optional, to which we say: Just look at the changes in the green building industry over the past two decades and ask yourself, would today’s nearly mainstream acceptance of and demand for better, healthier, more efficient, lower-impact buildings have been possible if we committed to a “trust me” approach to delivering on these objectives? Could the market support the Living Building Challenge and the transformation toward a living future were it not for LEED?
Oregon taxpayers deserve better than “just trust me.”
Mona Lemoine is the executive director of the Cascadia Green Building Counciland vice president of education and events of the International Living Future Institute.
Posted by Shauna on July 10, 2013
Our first Passive House project has been selected by the AIA for its first-ever Explore Design Home Tour. Park Passive was chosen as one of seven homes to be featured on the day-long tour this fall.
Designed by Marie Ljubojevic and Lauren McCunney of NK Architects, Park Passive is the first certified Passive House located in Seattle. The home was certified by the Passive House Academy and authorized by the Passivhaus Institut, which sets rigorous design standards for energy use and air infiltration that translates into significantly decreased energy consumption, improved thermal comfort, and superior indoor air quality. Our Passive House consultants on this project were Rob Harrison and Dan Whitmore.
Aaron Leitz Photography
Despite an incredibly difficult site for Passive House construction, our drive to lead sustainable building in Seattle led to the development of this project. Park Passive is situated on a tiny urban infill lot (as most of our homes do) with a small, shallow floor plate, zoning envelope that required us to work with the form of the existing house; and passive house requirements that minimized glazing on the north side of the house, where windows would have been intuitively placed and necessitated 18” thick walls.
The home’s vertical design features a day-lit open stairwell with punctuated views to the street; a double-height vaulted kitchen space that visually connects the main living area to the upstairs kids play area; and several large skylights that usher light into the kitchen area. We also salvaged existing site trees for stair treads, wall paneling, and a live-edge bathroom counter top.
Aaron Leitz Photography
To build a home that doesn’t need a furnace, it has to be airtight, lots of insulation, and great windows. The walls are 16” thick, airtight and full of insulation, the roof has 24” of dense-pack insulation and there is 8” of structural insulating foam under the foundation. We imported super high performance windows from Lithuania and installed them with a crane. The insulator was there a week instead of a day, and we used an infrared camera to inspect the entire house for air leaks and insulation integrity.
As one of Washington State’s most energy efficient homes, the 4-bedroom, 3-bath Park Passive uses approximately 75-80% less overall energy compared to homes built to today’s code standards. This figure reflects all of the energy used in the home by its family of four for electronics, cooking and refrigeration, clothes washing and drying, and hot water for bathing and dishwashing.
Park Passive’s average indoor air temperature of 70 degrees is managed by opening and closing its Intus high performance windows and doors in summer and using the heat recovery ventilator when it’s colder.
Purchase tickets to view Park Passive on the AIA Explore Design Home Tour on Saturday, September 14, 2013 here.
Posted by Shauna on May 22, 2013
The PHIUS Passive House Builder training is the week of June 4th in Seattle. Cascade Built is well represented, and it’s sold out. Great to see so many green builders in Seattle becoming passive house builders and learning how to achieve this level of performance. For home energy consumption it’s nothing short of revolutionary. Home heating and cooling is reduced by nearly 90% and other loads are systematically targeted, for overall 75% reduction in energy consumption, and that’s before you add any solar if you choose to. After tearing into a fifties home to discover 4 inches of insulation, it was disappointing to suddenly realize that we have only added an inch or 2 of insulation to our building codes in sixty years of building. We can do better.
Posted by Shauna on April 24, 2013
Can you have a conventional vented dryer in a passive house? Absolutely not. It consumes too much energy, and then all the hot air it generates gets dumped directly outside at 200 CFM. That’s the rough equivalent of every hour your dryer runs (like for every single load), completely emptying all the air from your house and starting over and having to re-heat or cool, depending on your climate.
Instead, a condensing dryer is the best bet (they are also referred to as a ventless dryer, since they don’t vent to the outside). Another option is a drying closet, or drying cabinet, Asko has a couple of models to choose from.
(photo courtesy of Askousa.com)
How does a condensing dryer work? Instead of sending hot humid air outside, it runs it through a condenser, and the moisture condenses and is then pumped out into the same drain where you connect your washer. So the heat is not dumped outside and you save energy and money just like that. Does it take longer to dry your clothes? Yes, it does take a little bit longer, but this is a small price to pay for such a huge reduction in your energy consumption, carbon footprint and utility bills.
Posted by Shauna on February 20, 2013
If you’re interviewing a Seattle home builder for your custom home, here are some questions you might add to the list you have about finishes, budget and communication style:
#1: Know where they stand on energy performance. ASK: how often do you blower door test the homes you build and how do they turn out? If they don’t have a laser sharp answer then probably it’s not something they focus on, and you will end up with a home that leaks energy through windows, doors, walls, and the roof. Your poor energy performing home will feel cold in the winter and too hot in the summer and your energy bills will be higher than needed. Leaky homes were acceptable back in the roaring twenties but so were horse drawn buggies. You want neither. Code minimum in Washington state is 7 ACH (air changes per hour), and soon to be 3 ACH under new energy codes. For perspective, a super energy efficient passive house is only 0.6 ACH, and that cute craftsman house from the 1920’s is double digits, which is why it’s so drafty and expensive to heat.
#2 : What about your Seattle custom homes specifically is eco-friendly? Almost every builder will tell you they do eco-friendly green building, it’s really caught on the last couple of years to almost every aspect of contracting, and sometimes it’s just talk. Caveat emptor (may the buyer beware), because your idea of green building for your new amazingly energy efficient home may be very different from that of your builder. So ask. What exactly do you do for your homes to make them stand out, or what specific strategies make your homes more energy efficient than the ones next door? In Seattle, there are incentives to build using Built Green 4 star in some cases. So your builder will advertise this, but dig deeper. Built Green 4 star is better than not doing it at all, but it is also not the most rigorous test, particularly if your goal is to drastically reduce energy consumption for the long term. I’m not picking on Built Green. There are lots of standards and each measures different things. Take the time to figure out what’s important to you and make sure your builder is doing that. For example, it is possible to reduce your home’s energy consumption to about 20% of the otherwise identical new home next door, if you wanted to do that. And I think you do, now that you know it’s possible.
#3: Ask to see previous results: Tour homes built, ask for examples of standards achieved, budgets not exceeded, performance verified. And interview the homeowners!
We’re back in a boom as proven by all of the cranes on our skyline. Perhaps one of them will belong to you.
Posted by Sloan Ritchie on January 24, 2013
I’d like to test out this little Lunos E2 through wall HRV unit on a project. It looks so simple, installed in pairs for balanced operation, and achieving 90% efficiency, says on the brochure it works in Passive House. I wonder how many you’d need in the typical house? 3-4 pairs maybe?
Posted by Sloan Ritchie on December 25, 2012
We’ve been toiling away on our first passive house project for several months now, and are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Well, almost. I’ve had the opportunity to discuss the project in person with several people but have been remiss about blogging on it for wider consumption, so I thought I would share some highlights.
So what is passive house? I’ll just gloss over that concept, since you could find more info here, here and here. It is a building standard that results in unsurpassed comfort & energy efficiency. For the builder it means hitting a very airtight test number (0.6 ACH50), which is about ten times the current code required air leakage maximum (i.e., how drafty your new house can legally be). It also means optimizing the placement of windows to capture solar gains, and procuring super high performance windows. Ours came from Lithuania, made by a company called Intus. So far so good, though we are still waiting on the last couple windows to be delivered. They are comparatively heavy, with triple glazing and steel frames, so instead of packing them up the stairs manually, we had a crane help lift them into place.
In this picture, you can also see some of the double wall system. The taped sheathing is OSB with Siga tape, and Joint & Seam compound at some of the joints. Also visible is the plywood window box construction. We subsequently added vertical TJIs on top of the taped OSB, for our outer wall. The OSB layer is the air barrier, and it is the location that stops air leakage. This house will be entirely draft free. Behind the OSB, there is a standard structural 2×6 wall, so in total we have 5.5″ + 9.5″ = 15″ wall cavity, all of which will be blown in dense pack insulated.
Here’s that same window, but now with the outer TJI wall built around it. As you can see the windows are recessed into the wall system, not just stuck right on the outside of the wall in line with the siding. It will be more apparent once the siding is installed.
Is all of this overkill? Current energy codes suggest that a 5.5″ wall cavity is sufficient for our climate – why do more? most builders never get beyond this question. In my view, 5.5″ inches of insulation is insufficient for comfort, not to mention the overuse of precious natural resources (oil, coal, hydro, pick your source), and doing your part to reduce climate change might only be a few more inches of insulation. Passive House may be overkill, it is after all, a very strict high standard that barely anyone adheres to, mostly because it’s perceived to be too difficult or expensive. I figure the only way to find out is to try it and see how it works.
Siding is going up. We have a vapor open system, so it can breath from the air barrier out or in. I will update as the project progresses! If you have any interest in Passive House in Seattle or this particular house, feel free to contact us.
Posted by Shauna on November 15, 2012
New Madison Park house will meet Passive House standards
By JOURNAL STAFF
Rendering courtesy of NK Architects [enlarge]
Seattle-based NK Architects and Cascade Built are building a house in Madison Park that will meet the standards for Passive House projects.
The team said in a press release that they expect the three-story, 2,400-square-foot house to use 90 percent less energy for heating than a typical house.
Marie Ljubojevic and Lauren McCunney of NK said it will have an open floor plan, with high ceilings and natural light. Wood from a tree on the site is being used for built-in storage units.
The designers said they reduced the need for mechanical heating and cooling, reduced the carbon footprint and dramatically improved indoor air quality by focusing on air sealing and insulation. There is as much as 16 inches of insulation in the walls and ceilings.
They also are using high-performance windows, solar hot water, zero-VOC finishes and a heat recovery ventilator.
The project is scheduled to be done early next year.
Ritchie said every Cascade Built project meets green building standards set by third-party organizations, including LEED and Built Green and now Passive House Institute US.
He said the development process for Passive House has been “a lot more intense than anything I’ve done before.”
Ritchie estimated that a Passive House-type project costs 10 percent more to build than a conventional house. The biggest expenses are for ventilation, insulation and better-performing glass.
Long term, Ritchie said he would like to apply passive techniques to multifamily projects. Apartments have fewer exterior walls that lose heat and require less expensive windows than single-family structures.
Rob Harrison of Harrison Architects was involved with the initial design and later modifications to help meet the Passive House standard. Dan Whitmore Hammer and Hand is providing additional Passive House consulting during construction. Yu & Trochalakis, PLLC were the structural engineers. Jonathan Cohen of ImaginEnergy provided mechanical consulting. Landscape design is by Allworth Design and Donna Bergeron of Donna Bergeron Interior Design is doing the interiors.
Read the complete article at: http://www.djc.com/news/en/12047101.html?query=park+passive&searchtype=all
Posted by Shauna on October 9, 2012
We entered one of our very first awards this year with our Alley House 2 single family residential project, and are proud to relay that it has been named a finalist in the Green Builder® Home of the Year Awards competition. As a refresher it is a LEED-Platinum, modular home on an urban infill lot about 1 mile from downtown Seattle. The house sold in Spring 2012.
The Alley House 2 will appear in the December issue of Green Builder magazine and we should know more about specific placement in the awards program in early December. Stay tuned. And in the meantime, check out the video of this house being constructed.