Joe Ancheta is the High Performance Building Liaison for Birdsmouth Construction. Joe is the muse on the Emerson Street House. He is a Certified Passive House Builder.

Joe Ancheta is the High Performance Building Liaison for Birdsmouth Construction. Joe is the muse on the Emerson Street House. He is a Certified Passive House Builder.

The Emerson St. project is the first home remodel project for Rooted Investing. The goal is to demonstrate how building a healthy, sustainable and high performance home is not only better for the environment, but can also make for financially sound investments. This project transforms a plain, mold ridden, single story building into a sustainable, livable structure.

The goal of the Emerson Street House’s construction is to engineer and construct a Net Zero home. As the name implies, a Net Zero home generates as much energy as it uses over the course of a year. This project aims to achieve Passive House certification, the most efficient path to a Net Zero home. Rooted Investing is creating Neighborhood housing for communities with this project as the flagship.

Birdsmouth Construction specializes in high performance home construction and was hired to design and build this unique home. Some of the special design features include airtight construction and greater amounts of insulation to ensure comfortable temperatures throughout the year, while creating a healthy and durable living space. This is just the beginning.

Most people are familiar with the term “Green Building,” which can be vague or misleading. Generic jargon doesn’t do this project justice. First, we have to specify what we mean when we discuss “High Performance” building. For context and clarity, we will be using the definitions outlined in two building certifications for builders of “High Performance Homes”: Passive House and Net Zero.

Both of these building certifications are third party tested and verified, and both are performance rather than prescriptive based.  A performance based home certification tests the home at various stages to confirm that it is meeting and performing to the strict energy and building science metrics of each certification. A prescriptive based certification awards points for including various features into the home, but never tests the final product to make sure it is truly performing to its stated level of performance.

Performance guidelines for Passive Houses include:

  • It employs continuous insulation through its entire envelope without any thermal bridging.
  • The building envelope is extremely airtight (<0.6 Air Changes per Hour), preventing infiltration of outside air and loss of conditioned air.
  • It employs high-performance windows (typically triple-paned) and doors
  • It uses some form of balanced heat- and moisture-recovery ventilation and uses a minimal space conditioning system.
  • Solar gain is managed to exploit the sun’s energy for heating purposes and to minimize it in cooling seasons.

Net Zero homes have become more popular recently with the availability of federal and state incentives for items and systems that help achieve greater energy conservation.  Here in Portland, Earth Advantage offers the certification for Net Zero homes.  Again, similar to Passive House design, Net Zero homes offer many of the same benefits such as:

  • Provides superior indoor air quality through an Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) or Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) system that filters and cleans the air, reducing pollutants and allergens, while retaining heat in the home.
  • Prevents moisture build-up that can result in mold problems that can cause major health issues.
  • Creates a very comfortable home environment with very few or no drafts, and quiet, steady heating or cooling, with minimal dust.
  • Creates a quiet home, due to the thick walls, triple paned windows and tight building envelope that keep outside sounds out.
  • Maintains a comfortable temperature longer in case of a power outage

The difference between Passive House and Net Zero may seem unclear. You can build a Net Zero home without using the Passive House metric, but the Passive House metric reduces the total energy load down to such a low level that it becomes easy to offset these low loads down to zero with a relatively modest photovoltaic system or other electricity generating system.

The goal of the Emerson Street House is to create a living space that is more comfortable and healthy than current homes are for years to come.

We hope to transform the current Emerson Street house into a net zero energy usage home by employing Passive House and Earth Advantage certifications and methods. These methods are new and innovative. Unplanned adventures in creating this building are anticipated and will make for great reading. Stay tuned.

For more info:

Passive House

Net Zero

Birdsmouth Construction: