Green Design: Getting passive aggressive

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What’s green, healthy and beautiful? (Well, besides Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy) The answer: passive houses. Richard Pedranti Architect, a small Milford-based firm, is a specialist in designing these energy-efficient marvels.

“The passive house approach is the greenest and most sustainable building design standard in the world,” explains Pedranti, whose Northeastern Pennsylvania company has designed more than 10 such houses including the “Scranton Passive House,” named the best of its kind earlier this year by Green Builder Magazine.

Buildings that meet the passive house standard use 80 percent less energy than conventional buildings. They accomplish this by creating a virtually airtight, super-insulated, compact building envelope that relies on the heat of the sun to maintain a comfortable and constant temperature. A heat recovery ventilator brings in fresh air and provides superior indoor air quality.

“The benefit to the passive house owner is more than reduced energy consumption,” argues Pedranti. “It’s a different experience living and working in a passive house – it’s comfortable, has very healthy fresh air, has abundant natural light, it’s quiet, and it’s very simple to live in and operate.”

The key difference between passive house and other green building standards, he adds, is that passive house design doesn’t rely on a checklist or a prescriptive path. Instead, achieving the designation relies on projected, measured, and verified data from design through construction.

The 2,100-square-foot Scranton Passive House is home to two University of Scranton professors and their teenage children. Green Builder Magazine reports that the owners approached Pedranti with “a straightforward request: Make a home that was ultra-energy-efficient and practical in terms of living space.”

Of Pedranti’s 10 passive house designs to date, five are completed and occupied (including homes in Bechtelsville, Pike County and Nazareth), two more are in construction and another, in Spring Brook Township, is in the design stage. 

Pedranti stumbled upon passive house design “while searching for a more responsible way to design and construct buildings,” he recalls. “The architecture profession is sometimes solely focused on aesthetics — and this is a very important thing — but often at the expense of occupant comfort, health and energy efficiency. Passive house design is based on science, so I find this a very refreshing way to design beautiful buildings.”

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Region: Northeast

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