Bring on a heat wave or deep freeze. This cozy little house stays comfortable year-round without green gadgets or a typical HVAC system.
Nestled in seven pristine acres of Hudson Valley forest, this intimate little spec home is sustainable, but not in the way you might think. It has no solar panels, no geothermal system, and no wind turbines, yet it’s expected to consume only one-tenth of the heating and cooling energy used by the average three-bedroom home. How does it work?
Like a thermos.
Think of it as a 1,650-square-foot version of that super-insulated bottle that keeps your coffee hot or your iced tea cold, except in reverse. Its ultra-tight shell keeps extreme temperatures out, most of the time with little to no mechanical intervention. And its main power sources are things nature provides for free: sunlight, shade, earth, and breezes.
Created by architect Dennis Wedlick and custom builder Bill Stratton, the “Hudson Passive Project,” as it’s known, doesn’t follow the same certification playbooks most American green builders have come to rely on. Rather than adhering to LEED or similar blueprints for sustainability (“I equate LEED with the IRS,” Wedlick says. “It’s about as much paperwork and it’s easier to cheat … .”) the house is built to stringent standards set by the Passive House Institute in Germany. Under this rubric, certification is an all-or-nothing deal that’s wholly contingent on hard metrics (BTUs and pascals), not a points-based system. And the emphasis is on passive engineering and resource conservation. The design relies on simple architecture—not technology—to capture or shield the sun, depending on the season. The construction then ensures that not a single unit of precious thermal energy escapes before it is fully maximized.
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