Salt Lake City Gains First Passive House Home

Here at EarthTechling, we cover far more LEED-certified U.S. homes (and even net zero ones) than we do residences certified to the rigorous efficiency demands of the Passive House standard (with some notable exceptions), which still remains far more common in Europe. Little by little, though, that’s changing, as the thinking behind Passive House has been gaining traction, and now, Salt Lake City is on track to see its first such certification.

Jetson Green reports that Ruby House — which is currently on track to be certified by Passive House U.S. — was designed by Dave Brach of Brach Design Architecture and built by Benchmark Modern. Part of the designer’s challenge with this project was to create a contemporary home constructed for extreme efficiency in a largely historic district characterized by older homes. Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, this  area of Salt Lake City was filled with Victorian-style homes served by mass-transit trolley systems. Today, The Avenues has developed a reputation one of the city’s most progressive and desirable areas, attracting young single professionals and students, as well as well-heeled urban families.

Ruby house 1

image via Brach Design Architecture

Architect Brach told Preston Koerner, “I do believe this is something downtown Salt Lake City and the Avenues Historic District can be proud of.” The owners of the home appear to agree, as they weighed in on Brach’s site as saying, ” “[Brach] optimized the placement of our house to take advantage of natural lighting, surrounding views, while maintaining privacy. [He] also considered and respected the surrounding architecture of the historic neighborhood and worked closely with the historic landmark commission to obtain approval of the plans.”

Sure, it’s a good looking green home. But what’s under the hood? We’re glad you asked.

Ruby house2

image via Brach Design Architecture

A Zehnder Comfoair 350 heat recovery ventilator system, for one, a critical factor in any building that must achieve a nearly airtight status while maintaining healthy indoor air quality. Fujitsu air-to-air heat pumps help out with the home’s heating, while a AO Smith high-efficiency water heater uses the minimum amount of energy necessary to heat hot water. Verve lighting controls ensure that when the sun is out, the lights are off, and Energate 1202 windows ensure as little heat as possible escapes via the home’s glass.

Other green features include Logix ICF foundation walls, Senergy EIFS stucco, Old Virginia Brick thin bricks, Accoya cladding, Certainteed dense-pack fiberglass insulation, exterior EPS foam, and a white vinyl roof. Wood detailing is evident throughout the home in maple stair treads, rift-sawn oak cabinets, maple veneer MDF ceiling, maple flooring and door trim, and a front and back porch soffit of marine-grade mahogany plywood.

Brach holds the distinction of being the first certified Passive House consultant in Utah, and was also the architect behind The Breezeway House, located outside the city limits in Salt Lake County, which was the first certified Passive House Western US. The Breezeway House was completed in December of 2009, and at that time was one of only 1 of 10 houses in the US to be certified to this super efficient green building standard.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.