County's first hyper-energy-efficient "passive house" to break ground in Ann Arbor

Webster Township-based Architectural Resource is set to break ground on what is expected to be the first Washtenaw County home to meet the stringent energy-efficiency requirements of the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS).


The architectural firm is hosting a Visible Green Home seminar on passive home technology from 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 11 at the Builders and Remodelers Association, 179 Little Lake Dr., followed by a noon groundbreaking at the construction site, 4567 Boyden Dr. in Ann Arbor.


Michael Klement, an architect with Architectural Resource, says that to understand the idea behind passive homes, one can envision two buckets, one for energy gain and one for energy loss, on a seesaw, with the goal being to get those two sides to be as balanced as possible.


He says the first and most important step is minimizing what's in the energy loss "bucket."


"The way most houses are built today, we build whatever we want, and then add a furnace as big as needed to take care of the energy demand," Klement says. "This certification looks at that in a completely different way, making reducing the energy demand a fundamental design principle."


He says a PHIUS-certified house uses about 80 percent less energy than a standard house built to code.


During construction, the building team works on minimizing energy loss primarily by creating an extremely airtight "thermal envelope," whether that means building walls that are half an inch thicker than required by local building codes, or eliminating studs that conduct energy from the inside of the house to the outside.


As far as the "gain" bucket, builders look to renewable energy sources, most often solar cells.


Klement says his team has gone through a rigorous computer design program to make sure the project hits five metrics related to heating, cooling, and the use of renewable energy sources. That process has gained the project the status of PHUIS+ 2015 "pre-certification."


"We have an opportunity to really reconsider our relationship with the natural world and our responsibilities to future generations," Klement says. "We're really excited about this approach to building and this project in particular as one possible answer to that challenge."


Klement says the seminar is almost sold out, but Washtenaw County residents who are curious about the home will have other opportunities in 2018 to tour the home while it's under construction. Updates and future tour dates will be available on the Visible Green Home tour series website.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at


Renderings courtesy of Architectural Resource.

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