Sustainability has become a topic of growing importance around the world. And as more people look for ways to be good stewards of the environment, new eco-friendly practices are gaining traction and being embraced.

Just a few examples – food and beverage brands have introduced biodegradable packaging. Auto manufacturers are expanding their electric vehicle offerings. Businesses are investing in renewable energy solutions. And more consumers than ever are supporting institutions that show a commitment to the environment.

Another market that has made a significant shift to sustainable practices is construction – which of course the Quality Buildings team is leading the way.

One design approach within the industry that puts sustainability at its forefront is passive house design.

Passive House Design Defined

Passive house design is a unique building design standard that aims to create high energy-efficient and comfortable buildings while minimizing energy consumption. It’s a concept that originated in Germany over three decades ago and has gained popularity since then.

The primary focus of passive house design is to reduce the building’s energy demand to a very low level – which significantly reduces reliance on heating and cooling systems.

According to Phius (Passive House Institute US), passive house design is recognized worldwide as one of the most rigorous and effective building performance standards. The organization provides training, certification, and resources to professionals in the building industry.

Phius also develops and maintains the stringent testing protocols that verify if a building meets the energy performance requirements of the passive house standard. They also promote passive design principles and help advance sustainable and resilient building practices in the U.S.

Principles of Passive Building

Phius shares these five principles of the passive building process:

  1. Proper Insulation. Using continuous insulation throughout the building envelope to minimize or eliminate thermal bridging.
  2. Airtight Construction. Building a well-detailed and extremely airtight building envelope, preventing infiltration of outside air and loss of conditioned air while increasing envelope durability and longevity.
  3. High-Quality Windows. Employs high-performance windows (double or triple-paned) and doors. Solar gain is managed to exploit the sun’s energy for heating purposes in the heating season and to minimize overheating during the cooling season.
  4. Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery. Using some form of balanced heat- and moisture-recovery ventilation to significantly enhance indoor air quality.
  5. Minimized Energy Consumption. Minimizing the space conditioning system because of lower space conditioning loads.

As a result of these principles, passive houses can significantly reduce energy consumption, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and provide a comfortable and healthy indoor environment for the building’s inhabitants.

A residential or commercial passive house design approach also delivers a much more durable product that will last for years to come. And in terms of pricing, construction experts say that any upfront costs are typically mitigated in the first year.

Passive House Project: The Solebury School

Quality Buildings has partnered with Quarry View Building Group to construct the first-of-its-kind sustainable housing project for the Solebury School, a private boarding and day school located in Solebury Township, Bucks County PA.

Hope Hall will be one of the first passive house dormitory projects in the country, supporting the school’s long-term strategic plan for sustainability. It will feature 32 dorm rooms and four faculty apartments. It’s the first new building on the Solebury campus since 2007.

Quality Buildings provided a turnkey timber framing package for the project. The use of prefab construction offers significant advantages including less risk of cost overages and a significant reduction of project duration by up to 30%.

Our framing package for the Solebury project included:

  • Lumber package
  • Creation of prefabricated wall panels
  • Supply of roof and floor trusses
  • Delivery to the site
  • Installation of all panels and trusses
  • Use of self-erecting tower crane
  • State-of-the-art 3D BIM modeling using MiTek

The new building structure and envelope must follow very strict passive house principles for increased thermal performance and ultra-low energy use. In passive house design, the weather barrier must be continuous around the entire envelope. This requirement created a unique and challenging detail where the barrier had to pass through the rough framing.

Because of the building’s unique wall specifications, our team had to think outside the box and determine a way to integrate our panelized wall framing approach into the design process. The integration was a success, and the building has passed all stringent third-party testing to date.

The Solebury project is slated for completion in fall 2023. Additional project partners include:

  • Metcalfe Architecture & Design, LLC
  • Re:Vision Architecture
  • Barton Associates, Inc.
  • Hunt Engineering Company
  • Gilmore & Associates, Inc.
  • Phius (Passive House Institute US)

Contact Quality Buildings for Your Next Project

To learn more about passive home design or our framing package services, contact Quality Buildings today and start the conversation.