Project Description

Whitchurch Passive House Cottage | Chris Miksic of Montpelier Construction and Greg Whitchurch of Concept Engineering 

2015 Vermont’s Greenest Award – Residential

2015 Net Zero Award

Proven annual energy intensive: 8.6 kBtu/sf/yr

The Whitchurch Passive House Cottage combines the traditional appeal of a timberframe with cutting-edge energy efficiency and sustainability. To achieve this goal, we chose as our starting point the most stringent energy efficiency standard in the world: the Passive House Standard.

From the modest size to the placement of the windows, almost every decision was made with energy efficiency in mind. Built in a wooded valley in Middlesex, the surrounding trees were cleared sparingly to provide insolation in winter and shade in summer; a small 4kW PV array makes this fossil-fuel-free home Net Plus.

The home is of timberframe construction that is oriented to the south. With 16 inches of cellulose in the walls, 22 inches in the roof and extreme care used in air-sealing, this house uses less than a tenth of the energy of a conventionally built home. Inside the curtain wall of insulation rests a beautifully constructed, locally harvested and milled hemlock timberframe. The southern facade features large passive house-certified triple-pane windows that flood the main level and second floor gallery/loft with sunlight. These windows, imported from Lithuania, provide much more than light and a fantastic view — they also provide more heat to the house than its heat pump-based conditioning energy recovery ventilator (CERV). Windows like these, along with air-tightness and insulation, are the three crucial components of the “energy balance” in Passive House construction.

Finally, this home was built with much respect for ecologically responsible building
practices. As previously mentioned, it was constructed with locally harvested, sawn and milled sustainable woods; kiln drying was done locally in a wood-fired kiln. Construction scraps were sorted, stored and heavily reused. We re-purposed used materials (especially foams) from tear-downs and carefully recycled all waste.  Adhesives used were low VOC, low hydrocarbon, and mostly acrylic.  We used no plywood in the house except for window boxes, no OSB except in the TJI’s, no foam above ground and only recyclable EPS below.  There were no bonfires: burnable scraps went to the firewood pile.

The Cottage received the 2015 Best of the Best Award for Innovation in New Residential Construction from Efficiency Vermont. It has been featured in articles in the Journal of Light Construction, FourSevenFive.com, and Green Energy Times.

TEAM:

Owner: Greg and Barb Whitchurch

General Contractor: Montpelier Construction

Architect: Greg Whitchurch