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.

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 >


Six Passive Projects

What’s going on in Columbia County? Six very different building projects are applying the world’s highest energy standard under the care of BarlisWedlick Architects in a rural upstate New York community where kids raised on apple orchards and dairy farms attend schools with names like Ichabod Crane. BarlisWedlick presented the six projects at an event organized by New York Passive House April 17th at the Center for Architecture in Manhattan.

Who’s behind this hotbed of Passive House activity? Visionaries who invested in a spec house/research project, the head of a nonprofit organization providing low-income housing, the owner of a private company seeking healthy office space, the Pastor of a church to be sited north of Kinderhook, homeowners midway into transforming a 150-year old barn, and homeowners on the verge of Passive House certification (that’s us). Each one of the projects was represented in person – including ours, because Susan took the day off while Chris remained on Daddy Duty and painted the kitchen cabinets. It was a chance to look beyond our four (R-49) walls to the larger Passive House community. Shared objectives among the projects include energy efficiency, comfort and air quality.

A visit from SUNY Ulster

Students from the SUNY Ulster National Sustainable Building Advisor Certificate Program visited on Friday afternoon to see our Passive House in construction. Instructors Janus Welton and Clifford Cooper led the group. Janus heads Eco-Architecture Design Works and Clifford is a Senior Industrial Hygienist with Vertex Engineering. Dennis Wedlick and Bill Stratton spoke to the class about their experience building the first Certified Passive House in New York State (ours will be their second). “No leaks,” Dennis said, pointing to a gap around the unfinished door, soon to be foamed, taped and sealed. The airtight seal of a Passive House is one key difference between a Passive House, which is designed to drive down energy consumption for heating and cooling, and a traditional passive solar house, which aims to maximize solar energy.

Congratulations to Orca House

Usually when I tell friends we are building a Passive House, they look puzzled. “A what house?” But when I told Amy Whitman she declared, “Of COURSE you are! Why would you build anything else?” I hadn’t seen her in 15 years. During that time she had put her health supply procurement skills to good use and become a Sustainable Building Advisor. She is part of the team tied for 3rd place in the Living Aleutian Home Design Competition. Congratulations to Amy and the Orca House team! [Susan]

Looking for gaps, engineer Jordan Dentz

Expanding foam insulation fills a gap behind the deck soffit. Jordan, from The Levy Partnership, adds expertise in building science to our Passive House project.L. to R. –  On his first site visit, consulting engineer Jordan Dentz meets with Susan, general contractor Bill Stratton, and architect Brian Marsh of Dennis Wedlick Architect.Bill Stratton updating the group on construction progress. Next week should be good weather for raising the SIPs onto the glulam structure.