Best Carbon Footprint in DC: Our First Passive House

by Shilpi Paul

Best Carbon Footprint in DC: Our First Passive House: Figure 1

This fall, DC welcomed its first passive house to the city. The home, built by a team of students from Parsons The New School for Design during the Department of Energy’s 2011 Solar Decathalon is now permanently situated in Deanwood.

Passive houses (born in Germany at the Passivhaus Institut) can look modern or traditional. Designers use off-the-shelf products to keep them as well-insulated and draft-free as possible, with insulation often a foot thick and far fewer holes than normal homes. The air-tight buildings are warmed by the sun (most plan for south-facing windows) and body heat during the winter, and use expandable awnings to cut down on sunlight in the summertime, cutting heating and cooling costs by 90 percent. While the homes still require energy for appliances, the drastically reduced HVAC costs make them more affordable than their fancy name might suggest.

Best Carbon Footprint in DC: Our First Passive House: Figure 2
The Empowerhouse on the Mall this summer. Photo courtesy of inhabitat.com

The Empowerhouse, as the Deanwood home has been dubbed, has a 4.2 kilowatt solar array that provides all the power it needs. Because of our swampy weather, designers installed dehumidifiers and carefully managed the flow of air through the home. Compare to a typical Deanwood home, they project the home will result in $2,000 in annual energy cost savings.

Early this month, the Empowerhouse was moved to 
4642 Gault Place NE (map) 
and will be 
home. Developed with
 join a traditional-looking home in Bethesda as one of the first passive homes in the DC area.

See other articles related to: best of 2011

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/best_carbon_footprint_in_dc_our_first_passive_house/4815


  1. Joe Average said at 1:10 am on Friday December 23, 2011:
    What is total cost for this home? Not including land. It would be great to know how much Joe Average would have to pay to have some of these plopped down on land he owned in the region. Thanks to anyone that supplies the answer.
  1. Rob said at 2:10 pm on Friday December 23, 2011:
    According to the DOE Solar Decathlon site, the built prototype cost $257,853.70. This does not include the second floor shown in the rendering. Also the project was designed to be a duplex. http://www.solardecathlon.gov/contest_affordability.html

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