Last spring I witnessed a first, not only for the St. Louis area, but also for the United States: the groundbreaking on the country’s first home built to Active House standards. Active House isn’t well known beyond Denmark (where it was created), but the team involved in Active House USA (led by Hibbs Homes and Verdatek Solutions) hopes to change that with this prototype family home in Webster Groves.
This past weekend, the contractors opened the partially-finished building to the media, builders and the general public. I managed to get a few minutes with Kim Hibbs who showed me some of the unique elements of this home. Among them:
- Structural insulated panels (SIP) – These composite panels used on exterior walls will provide an insulating factor of R-45 for the home.
- Lots of skylights – Eleven skylights are arranged so that natural light will work its way to the first floor and basement of this two-story home. They’re also designed to help with indoor temperature and humidity: automated systems will open or close certain skylights to maintain optimal conditions.
- A super-efficient HVAC system – Space limitations meant a conventional gas heating and cooling system versus a geothermal system, but I use the word “conventional” loosely. The installed system reaches up to 97 percent efficiency, and provides zoned temperature control with a single system through creative dampering.
- A 4.8 kW capacity solar system – With the ability to produce 5000 kWh of electricity per year, this home should have no problem achieving the desired net zero status.
In addition to all of these cool features, the team will make sure that the home, once completed, is performing up to standards. The University of Missouri’s Center for Sustainable Energy will monitor the house for a full year after the homeowners have moved in, which should create a very useful data set for other home builders, architects, and vendors.
Want to get a sense of what the finished home will look like? The Active House USA blog has several sets of artist renderings of both the exterior and interior. Check them out, and let us know what you think.