Building a house to LEED Platinum standards is ambitious. Building a house to Passive House standards is even more ambitious. To build a house that meets both specifications can only be characterized as super green, and, yes, super ambitious. Which is why homes like that of Ben van Willigen in Taos, New Mexico, are rare indeed.
The Willigen residence (which comes to us via Jetson Green) was built by the owner with help from BvW Inc Construction; Joaquin Karcher of Zero E Design; Michael Tarleton of Tarleton Engineering; and Wolfgang Meller of Energy Consulting in Shokan, New York. It encompasses 2,400 square feet and features three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a garage situated on 1.1 acres of picturesque land with sweeping views of Taos Mountain and Truchas Peaks. Built in the classic New Mexico adobe style, it makes use of a number of modern green features to achieve the high efficiency standards set forth by Passive House, which developed, in part, in Germany.
A central green feature of this home — as with any structure built to Passive House standards — is its walls. In this case, they’re 12 inches thick, filled with cellulose and covered with two inches of rigid foam with a thermal resistance value (R-value) of 52. The roof of the home is stuffed with loose-fill cellulose with an R-value of around 102. The windows and doors here come courtesy of Serious Windows; they’re double-glazed and feature a third heat-shield layer in the middle, to minimize heat losses during Taos’ chilly winter months (and the cool as well, during the heat of summer).
Other green features of the home is its 2.8 kilowatt solar photovoltaic array (grid connected), and a solar thermal system equipped with a 650-gallon solar water storage tank, which takes care of most of the home’s hot water needs. Inside, LEDs and CFLs keeps energy costs associated with lighting to a minimum; outside, a rainwater harvesting system irrigates the home’s garden and surrounding landscape, a key aspect of any home that home that hopes to be green in the arid Southwest. (Landscape irrigation accounts for nearly half of the water used by the average home, so this is more than a token gesture.)
The home’s design draws upon the style of adobe structures used in the nearby Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States.