Habitat for Humanity Gala

Alan Barlis, Katrin Klingenberg and Susan Guthridge-Gould

Dennis Wedlick, Alan Barlis, Sara McWilliams, Brenda Adams and Kirk Kneller

Thank you, Dennis and Alan of BarlisWedlick, for inviting us to be your guests at the Habitat for Humanity Gala. Congratulations on winning Builder of the Year for designing the wonderful Columbia Passive Townhouses in Hudson for Columbia County Habitat. Seeing you and members of your team – Liza Bridich and Mark Bailey, and Jordan Dentz and Emanuel Levy from The Levy Partnership – was a genuine pleasure. After one full year of residency, it was a rare opportunity to celebrate the vision and accomplishment that makes our home so special. We felt like we were at the heart of the Passive House community in the Basilica ballroom with Katrin Klingenberg and Dennis Wedlick — along with other local Passive House owners Paula, Naznin and Ian (see his blog on Hall Hill).

PHIUS founder Katrin Klingenberg visits

Betsey Pettit, Katrin Klingenberg, Susan Guthridge-Gould, Chris Petrone

Betsey and Katrin in our daughter Lily’s room

Chris and I were delighted to welcome the leader of the Passive House movement in the United States to our home on May 11, 2014. Katrin Klingenberg was in the area to attend the Habitat for Humanity Gala the previous night, a guest of our architects at BarlisWedlick. We skipped our usual script about what makes a Passive House (she knows). “This is beautiful!” she said on entering the living room, which rises 30 feet. She liked the peak, noting how SIPS and glu-lams fit neatly for a tight seal.

At the Gala, I had shared the backstory to my energy conservation agenda: family farm, proposed nuclear power plant, long fight in my teenage years. Standing in my sunny kitchen, I added that the house sits in the circle of a cooling tower, drawn on a utility company map in the late 1970s. Fast-forward a few decades and here I am in my supremely energy-efficient home with an energy celebrity!

Katrin is co-founder and executive director of the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS), which has trained 1,000 designers, builders and energy raters and certified 450 Passive House Consultants. She is also a licensed architect in Germany. Read her blog here.

Spreading topsoil

“What are men to rocks and mountains?” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

At long last, Chris rented a bulldozer and moved mountains of topsoil, transforming our moonscape of clay and stone. Grass seed, drifts of rudbekia and purple salvia, and banks of pachysandra will be coming soon.

Finishing the exterior foam and stucco

Our exterior work was wrapping up in autumn 2012 when cold winter temperatures arrived in November and delayed the application of exterior stucco to the lower level. The area under the front porch was tented for warmth and stucco applied. But most of it remained bare naked through winter and early spring. By June 2013, exposure to sun and weather had started to degrade the surface of the 10-inch-thick blanket of Neopor foam that wraps the foundation. It was finally warm enough to try again.

Exposure to sunlight and the elements melted the foam.We filled in the gaps with new foam.The above two images show our repair patches. Also, the partially completed stucco from last fall had cracked.We have used masonary caulk on these cracks. Later, the stucco will be painted for a more uniform and lighter grey.The stucco product that we used was Parge-All 825, specially formulated to apply over foam. When the company was contacted, they suggested that cold weather caused the cracks last fall. The product  instructions say don’t apply if the weather drops below 40 degrees. However, when we applied new stucco at the end of August, we still got cracking, even with temperate weather.

Researching online information, combined with on the job testing, solved the problem. First, we applied a thin scratch coat to set up the surface of the foam, letting it dry for several days. This layer always cracked. Then we applied a final top layer that sets up without cracking. With our exterior foam repaired and the stucco applied, the house was buttoned up for winter 2013.



Lecture by Dennis and Alan @ House of History

Sunday August 11th: Architecture Lecture by Dennis Wedlick and Alan Barlis

2:00 pm
Vanderpoel House of History, 16 Broad St., Kinderhook, NY 12106

Wedlick and Barlis, of BarlisWedlick Architects, will speak on their new book, Classic + Modern: Signature Styles , which features a number of Columbia County homes.


About the book:
“Whether we know it or not, everyone has a signature style. In Classic & Modern: Signature Styles, award-winning architects, Alan Barlis and Dennis Wedlick, share their passion for innovative architecture and interiors through fourteen illustrated stories of homes that are grounded not only in good design practices but also express the distinctive aesthetics of those who live in them.

Classic & Modern: Signature Styles is a vibrant design survey. Each signature style story illuminates the authors’ belief that when homeowners are empowered to identify their personal sense of style—while also understanding the underpinnings of good design—they become full participants in the creation of their own one-of-a-kind homes. This is how a signature style is born.”

We passed the test at 0.3 ACH

Jordan Dentz and Dave from The Levy Partnership, along with Greg Pedrick and Nathan Russell from NYSERDA, monitor our final blower door test for Passive House certification. Read more about blower door tests here and here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013: The house was filled with brainy building science and energy experts from The Levy Partnership, NYSERDA Building R&D and CDH Energy. One team performed the blower door test, which scored 0.3 air changes per hour (ACH), exceeding the Passive House standard of 0.6 ACH. Another team set up the equipment that will monitor our energy use for the next year.

The blower door test is the key to certification. We are applying through the Passive House Academy, which is accredited by the Passivhaus Institut to provide a global Passive House Certification service.

The whole Passive House movement (that’s Passivhaus in German) is quite new here in the United States, so we volunteered to be energy Guinea Pigs and now there are little black boxes on the walls and wires sticking out of the heat pump. The data will address a number of research questions: How much energy does a Passive House use and how does that compare to homes built to current building code? How do the predictions about energy use made by the planning software compare to real life? Do the mini-split heat pumps and HRV perform like they are supposed to?

A grant from the NYSERDA High Performance Development Challenge is what brought all of this expertise to our particular Passive House, thanks to previous experience at the Barlis Wedlick project in nearby Claverak. While entire walls can be purchased ready-made in Europe that meet the Passive House standard, it’s not so common here, and it’s reassuring to have the experts confirm that our house is up to snuff, technically speaking.

Saturday house tours

We visited two wildly different green building projects yesterday and discovered they have a lot in common: heat recovery ventilation, high R-value insulation, high quality windows, open plan living and fresh white paint.

10:30 a.m., Hudson: Dedication of the Columbia Passive Townhouses built by the volunteers of Columbia County Habitat for Humanity. Read more >

1:00 p.m., Copake: Tour of New York’s first Breezehouse, an eco-friendly house built on a steel frame in Blu Home’s California factory. Read more >