Passivhaus Progress: Green Hammer Projects Mark a Turning Point

Green Hammer has designed and constructed more Passivhaus buildings than any other firm in the nation, 15 by our latest count. After completing a recent single-family home in the Roseway neighborhood of Portland, we realized an amazing trend – what used to be complicated and expensive details are becoming simple, streamlined, and accessible for every new home project.  We have an entire staff trained on the Passivhaus principles.  And the response from clients is incredible – people who want new homes, want Passivhaus!

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Details in a moment, but first a note from 30,000ft.  We at Green Hammer are often times on the leading edge where scientific advances meet market realities. Sometimes trends are just passing fads and other times they take off. We’re confident that Passivhaus is here to stay. We’re delighted to share our progress and look forward to seeing more signals of market transformation.

Remember that Passivhaus is aggressively progressive – the goal is to reduce heating energy by 90% and total energy use by 70%. Passivhaus is firmly founded in scientific research and fundamental principles of physics. The result: air seal the house, high-efficient ventilation, super-insulate for comfort and temperature control. Sounds straightforward, right? Actually, it’s no small order! Details are critical, in planning, design, and how those plans are implemented in a building.  Where is Green Hammer finding efficiencies and success?  Here are a few examples:

  • Improving and minimizing effort to seal the house for near perfect air-tightness; less labor time means lower costs and better results.
  • Envelope framing strategies that substantially reduces material costs and simplifies construction, also reducing labor costs.
  • Integrated framing strategies that accommodate structural as well as whole house systems such as ventilation, plumbing and electrical means simple construction, less labor expense and less material expense.
  • Technology shaves off more and more energy. While technology isn’t cheap, it is inspiring!  As shown in the photo gallery from this project, the clients opted to install a copper piping device that allows heat from warm shower drain water to transfer through the copper and preheat cold water from the tap.

We’re very proud of the accomplishments we’ve been able to make as a firm.  But we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the places where innovation is needed.  Here are the areas where we hope to see advancements:

  • American-made Passivhaus-certified products, e.g. high-performance windows and doors, mechanical equipment designed for the small heat demand and call for extreme efficiency of a Passivhaus
  • Training technicians in Passivhaus principles and technologies for the trades
  • Quicker implementation of high-performance building strategies into building codes
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