"Active House USA" Incorporates Best of American and European Green Home Building Practices
FORT MILL, S.C., May 15, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Active House USA, a custom sustainable home under construction in the St. Louis suburb of Webster Groves, MO is bringing together leading green, sustainable, and environmentally conscious building practices from around the world for the first time in the United States.
The prototype home, which is expected to define the next generation of sustainable home building in this country, combines expertise from industry leading sustainable building practices in the United States and from European Active House Alliance practices. Construction began in early May and the 2600 square foot home is scheduled for occupancy in September.
The Active House USA home was designed incorporating Active House Alliance standards utilized in existing Active House Homes built around the world, and to meet, or exceed, four North American sustainable building certifications: Energy Star, EPA Indoor Air Plus, Building America Builder's Challenge and ANSI ICC-700-the National Green Building Standard.
VELUX Group, the Danish parent company of VELUX America, was involved with the founding of the Active House Alliance in 2010 in Copenhagen Denmark. The Alliance has been involved with the construction of many Active House projects.
Mikkel Skott Olsen, chairman of the Active House committee, traveled from Denmark to attend the groundbreaking. "These homes take an innovative approach to energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and interaction with the surrounding environment," he says, "and a holistic approach to sustainability and community conscious home construction."
The Active House Alliance U.S. building partner is Kim Hibbs of Hibbs Homes, a Certified Green Professional through the National Association of Homebuilders and a leading custom green homebuilder in the St. Louis area. Project manager is Matt Belcher, a nationally recognized green builder, consultant, and educator. Belcher serves as Chair of the NAHB's Green Building sub-committee. Architect is Jeff Day of Jeff Day & Associates.
The geographic location of the home is ideal because designing the prototype in St. Louis's mixed humid climate requires that cold and warm climate specifications be taken into account, allowing for easy translations of the prototype into other homes in the United States.
This prototype home is unique in that it is being built as an infill project in an historic neighborhood close to downtown shopping and restaurants. The original home on the lot was in poor condition and not a good candidate for renovation.
"From careful deconstruction and recycling of materials, such as interior framing in the original home, to the extensive use of VELUX No Leak skylights for natural light and passive ventilation, solar panels for water heating, geothermal wells for a good part of the energy requirements, and other green elements and techniques, we are building a very efficient home that will perform well," says builder, Kim Hibbs. "We even ground the concrete foundation of the original home into gravel for fill in the new construction," he says.
Project manager Matt Belcher says his company, Verdatek Solutions, has diverted as much as 80 percent of an entire deconstructed home for reuse through cooperative organizations including Habitat for Humanity and Re-Source St. Louis. "After performing an environmental analysis on the building and removing items, such as Asbestos and floor tiles, we normally give 'first crack' at donating some of the viable components to participating organizations where interested parties can procure and reuse the materials."
Belcher also points out that the Active House specifications are meant to be a guide to achieve high performance goals for building durable homes and managing the resources it takes to build, all with a sharp focus on energy efficiency to greatly reduce need for power and water use. "For example," he says, "the Active House USA design incorporates natural light sources in our energy planning while adding to the comfort of living in the home."
In addition to function, appearance was an important factor in the design of the home. The owners, David and Thuy Smith, made it clear that they didn't want a "funky" home – just a "nice, Midwestern house" that didn't "stick out" in the nearly-century old neighborhood.
Project architect Jeff Day, of Jeff Day & Associates in St. Louis, says that the two-story home will blend visually with the surrounding neighborhood, unlike more modern styles seen in some European Active House models. "A goal is to build the house with traditional design while incorporating efficiencies that will make utility costs negligible," he says.
The University of Missouri Columbia Center for Sustainable Design will monitor and document energy data for the home during the first year of occupancy.
Stephan Moyon, director of sales for VELUX America, says that the project will demonstrate to construction professionals nationwide that quality, energy efficient skylights and windows can work together to result in a highly energy efficient home. "Active House principles illustrate the concept," Moyon says, "of the interaction between homes and their occupants and why it is important for sustainability that all elements of design work together. It's a message that is being conveyed to architects and builders throughout the country."
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