To the casual observer, Wayne Turret’s home is no different than the other contemporary housing in Greenport, New York. But beneath the historical barn exterior lies three years of research, planning and an intense interweaving of highly efficient technologies to transform the old bones into an ultra-modern passive house.
Having become concerned about over-consumption and its harm on the planet, Turett had decided not only did he want to design energy-efficient homes with his firm, Turett Collaborative, he wanted to experience it for himself. And, after living in his stunning all-electric home for a year, he is well-versed to express his passion on the subject.
He explains, “Greenport is more than just an oasis for my family, it is a living model for clients and meant to inspire others, that despite costing a little more to build, the results of living in Passive House will more than pay for itself in energy savings and helping the environment. Additionally, the air quality inside is a very high standard of luxury.”
‘The Best Path to Net Zero’
Recognized as one of the ‘best paths to net zero,’ Passive House building refers a set of energy efficiency standards in buildings. These standards help certify a building’s ability to maintain comfortable temperatures year-round. In turn, this makes it require minimal energy expenditure for heating or air conditioning. And what air does need to be brought into the house gets passed through a high-efficiency filter.
It’s almost as if the house runs itself. A passive house on average consumes about 90 percent less heating energy than existing buildings. When compared to a newer construction, it’s still 75 percent more efficient.
A recent Home Energy Rating System (HERS) analysis of the 2,400+ square foot Greenport house confirms it. In total, the Turett’s home costs just over $1,700 a year to heat and cool. Compare that, then, to it costing, on average $1,400 a year to heat a 900-square-foot New York City Apartment. Not only that, the Greenport Passive House has an annual savings of $3,645 over HERS reference home numbers.
With sustainable, lower energy requirements, the Passive House approach makes possible the construction of net-zero energy buildings that rely little or not at all on fossil energy sources.
Building the Greenport Passive House
Throughout the project, Turret essentially acted as his own construction manager. According to Turett, there were three key elements that factored into building the Passive House:
- The building envelope needed to be completely sealed, with only six air changes per hour at 60 pascals of pressure.
- Insulation outside and inside the air barrier needed to ensure a far higher R-value (heat flow reduction) than the building code requires.
- A southern orientation needed elements such as roof overhangs to protect the sun from receiving too much sunlight in the summer.
The house also features a motorized dampered exhaust duct in the kitchen, triple glazed tilt and turn windows and energy-recovery ventilation (ERV), which recycles air throughout the house while still conserving most of the embodied energy. Outside, the exterior is made of ship-lapped grey cedar and cement panels while the roof is aluminum standing seam.
Despite construction costs exceeding traditional building costs, however, the smaller equipment sizes and lower monthly energy bills pay dividends in time. The high-quality insulation, in combination with ZIP panel sheathing, allows for an almost airtight building envelope. Even the metal roof plays a role in support of the structure. Because the home barely exudes any heat, snow that accumulates on the roof won’t melt during the winter.
Making the Most of the Space
The clever design of the two-story home doesn’t stop at its construction. It also features a carefully plotted layout to make the most of its placement and orientation.
For instance, the main living spaces (kitchen, dining room, living room, etc.) are located upstairs to soak up water views. Meanwhile, cathedral ceiling open up the space overhead to contribute to a light and airy feel. The color scheme, too, contributes to a sense of light and warmth, with white walls, clean lines and a neutral palette of woods and upholstery.
Downstairs, an outdoor shower helps smooth the transition from the sandy shore to the three-bedroom, two bath space on the ground floor.