A passive state of mind

The Passive House exterior The Passive House exterior

Yellow Springs green builder reveals the passive house

By Lara Donnelly

The Passive House exterior

If you’ve driven through Yellow Springs any time in the last year, you’ve probably noticed the unique house going up on Dayton Street, near the west end of town. The Passive House, as it’s called, is a green building with a goal: energy efficiency.

Andrew Kline, president of Green Generation Building and a resident of Yellow Springs, says that the idea for the Passive House originated in Germany, where engineers have learned to design and build structures to operate at maximum efficiency. There are now about 10 or 15 Passive Houses in the U.S., with the Yellow Springs Passive House being the most recent addition.

Kline worked with his business partner, Alex Melamud, to design and build the Passive House. They hired Eric Lang, a local engineer, to help analyze their design and structure to ensure that it met the rigorous standards for Passive House status.

The Yellow Springs Passive House, like the original German design, saves energy mainly through insulation. The walls are very thick and super insulated, and the windows and doors are top of the line, designed to diminish heat loss. “This building has almost zero drafts, zero leakage,” said Kline. There is no central heating or cooling unit, though the house has a fresh air ventilation system and is positioned for maximum solar heating in the winter.

“Basically, you create a volume of air inside the house that is extremely stable in terms of temperature and humidity, and in terms of comfort,” said Kline.

He adds that when parts of the village, including the Passive House, lost power during the Feb. 1 ice storm, the temperature inside the Passive House remained above 60 degrees for more than 24 hours. More than a few villagers are likely to be envious of that statistic. Certainly many people have expressed interest in the Passive House, which sold before construction was completed.

According to Kline, he has been approached numerous times by people who were disappointed that they had never had an opportunity to see the inside of the house. Luckily, the new homeowners have agreed to host a public open house on Feb. 20.

“They know it’s a very innovative project,” he said. “They have been very gracious in opening their home.”

The innovative and creative Passive House certainly has good company in Yellow Springs. The town boasts several straw bale houses, several structures that give nods to Passive House ideology and lots of eye-catching architecture. Kline cites this proliferation of unique buildings as one of his reasons for building the Passive House in Yellow Springs. “There are a lot of bold and innovative structures,” he said. “And the town has always been very curious and supportive of these structures.”

Besides its appealing efficiency, the Passive House is also a pleasure for the eyes. The design is minimalist and modern, yet alludes to its rural Ohio setting. The architecture looks like a cross between Frank Lloyd Wright prairie style and Walter Gropius’ Bauhaus. It is constructed from materials such as corrugated, galvanized metal and fiber cement siding panels.

“When you drive down the street, it really jumps out, above and beyond the other structures,” said Kline.

Kline says he is looking forward to the open house because it will not only satisfy the public’s curiosity about the inside of this fantastical building, but it will give people a chance to experience the environment within the Passive House. He acknowledges that some people might be skeptical about the Passive House’s lack of furnace or air conditioning. He himself originally doubted the feasibility of such a plan. “I thought it was a gimmick. How can you not need a furnace in Ohio?” he said.

But at the end of the day, the Passive House has proven itself. Kline wants to get the message out that Passive Houses are a viable proposition not only in Germany, not only in Ohio, but everywhere.

“We’d like to people to see what we can do and what we’re capable of,” he said. And it’s a message worth spreading. With all of today’s concern about the shaky state of the economy, skyrocketing gas prices and the viability of the green movement, Kline is really onto something.

“At the end of the day, a Passive House uses 90 percent less energy than new construction,” he pointed out.

If you’re interested in seeing the inside of the Passive House, get out your calendar and mark the date: the open house will take place on Feb. 20 from noon until 5:00 p.m. at 515 Dayton St. in Yellow Springs.

For more information about the Passive House, and for interior and exterior pictures, visit the Facebook page by searching “Yellow Springs Passive House” or visit their website at www.greengenerationbuilding.com/passive-house.

Reach DCP freelance writer Lara Donnelly at contactus@daytoncitypaper.com.

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