Mar 17

Three Years Later: Life in Active House USA

On the eve of Earth Day, the owners of one of North America’s most energy-efficient homes share their experience living in this unique home.

active-house-usa-2013-green-home-builder-st-louisThree years ago, hundreds of people lined up to view a one of a kind home built in Webster Groves. The home, built by Hibbs Homes  and designed by Jeff Day & Associates Architects was the very first Active House built in the United States. The Active House Alliance, a Dutch nonprofit organization that works with sustainable builders around the world, connected with St. Louis custom home builder Hibbs Homes to create a prototype house that would be used to bolster green home building standards worldwide.

This one-of-a-kind home provided data that was used to support the development of a newly crafted green home building standard known as the Active House Alliance standards. Traditionally green building standards concern themselves with the materials and building processes, but Active House standards are the first of its kind in that they evaluate and design with a concentration on what happens in the home after the homeowners take residence.

Read More at HibbsHomes.com

by Melody Meiners
Mar 13

Active House USA Open House Attracts Thousands

St Louis, MO is causing quite a buzz in the green housing industry, both in the gateway city and abroad. The first Active House in North America is almost ready for the moving trucks to arrive but before the house becomes the Smith family’s full time home the builders and vendor partners gathered together to invite their colleagues, the general public and media to take a last look at the house and see what all of the buzz is about.

On March 8 and 9, 2013 the final open house for Active House USA was held, and close to 2,000 people came from as close as next door and as far away as Denmark to see the house first hand and speak directly with all of the industry leading green building professionals that made the prototype home a reality. Lines snaked through the backyard and down the driveway as people waited to slip on some protective shoe covers and head inside to see the home first-hand.

The public open house, which was held from 10am until 2pm on Saturday, attracted so many people that almost two hours after the designated end time people were still peeking through the windows and approaching the homeowners and builders to see if they could be squeezed in for a glimpse of this unique home.

Vendors who were on hand answering questions during the event included Hibbs Homes, Verdatek Solutions, Laclede Gas, Velux, Jeff Day and Associates, Smith Patrick CPAs, Castle Stone Products, ABF Security, Webster Window and Door, James Hardie Siding, SidingExpress.com, Scott Lee Heating, Microgrid Solar, Metro Lighting, HomeNav, Dogwood Solar, Ferguson, and the University of Missouri Energy Efficiency Research Consortium.

Once construction is completely wrapped, the Smith family will move into the home and begin working closely with the University of Missouri Energy Efficiency Research Consortium and the Active House Alliance to provide anecdotal and statistical metrics  to help assist with further research and development of green building standards both in the US and abroad.

by Melody Meiners
Dec 12

Active House USA Construction Update – December 2012

Thanks to the unseasonably warm weather, construction is nearing completion at Active House USA. Each day brings us closer to making this dream home a reality for the Smith family.

Here are a few photos showing our progress so far with various rooms and elements of the home.

Active House USA Exterior

Architect Jeff Day and designer Kristen Zivic worked diligently to design a home that blends seamlessly with the century old homes in the neighborhood. The American craftsman style home avoids a modern, or futuristic, aesthetic but has some of the most futuristic materials and systems available on the market today.

The expansive front porch is nearing completion, and features Hardie board siding and CastleStone veneer columns.

Active House USA Dining Room

The dining room in Active House USA features a wall of Loewen Windows to take advantage of the natural light provided by the rising sun during breakfast and day lighting throughout the day to illuminate the space.

Skylights and beams in Active House USA

Like the central stairwell, the master bedroom of Active House USA features Velux skylights to bring in natural daylight and improve energy efficiency.

As we move towards the finish line, Hibbs Homes and Verdatek Solutions are planning to team up with our building partners once again for a final open house in early 2013. We’ll keep you posted as dates and times for those tours!

by aburger
Oct 12

New Interior Renderings of Active House USA

We just came off a big weekend at Active House USA with a big, two day open house for all of our friends, neighbors, and industry peers! When all was said and done, we had 600 people come through the doors to take a look behind the walls and experience first-hand all of the systems and innovative technologies that will be sealed behind the walls once the interior finishes go in place. The Active House crew couldn’t be more happy to have had the chance to share such a cool project with so many people!

We plan to have a final open house to showcase the finished product when we complete construction, but, in the meantime, the Smith’s interior designer, Kristen Zivic from Lusso at Home, has shared with us a some cool sneak rendering of what the finished interiors will look like when we get there. Check out this awesome sneak peek of what the homeowners will be coming home to when they move into this very special home!


by Melody Meiners
Sep 12

How We are Building Active House USA for The Future

A view of the garage that will include a solar power electric car charger, a compress natural gas fueling station, as well as finished space for the homeowners to enjoy.

One of the most frustrating things about technology is how quickly it can become outdated. With computers, tablets and phones we’ve almost come to expect that once we actually break down and buy one the next week will mark the release of the latest and greatest. One thing everyone can agree on though is that we don’t want a home that becomes quickly outdated.

One of the goals we set for Active House USA was to make sure that the home that we build for the Smith family is one that will be able to continue to grow in value over time, easily adapt to future technologies, and be at the top of the line for years to come. And there are a few ways we have designed the systems and building to meet this challenge.

Built to 2020 Codes
Every three years the building codes change, and it takes a knowledgeable team to build a home that can push beyond that expiration date and build a home that exceeds codes far enough into the future. The approach we have taken to integrating our systems and the technologies we have used look to the future and we expect the home to continue to meet and exceed building codes until at least 2020.

Planning for Future Technology
While the technologies and systems we have in the home are advanced enough that we expect them to not become mainstream and written into code for quite some time, we do know that as time goes by there are amazing advances in technology that we just can’t foresee. That is why we have roughed in for systems and laid conduit and piping that will allow the family to easily update and adapt as technology advances without major renovations or expenses.

Built with Cutting Edge Technology
The advantage to assembling a team that is on the forefront of the technology in their field is that we have been able to build Active House USA with cutting edge technology that is at the forefront of sustainability, energy efficiency, and performance. One example of this are the energy stations we are designing for in the garage. We are installing a solar power car charging station, as well as a working with partner Laclede Gas compressed natural gas fueling outfit in the garage. Not only are these two natural energy technologies future thinking, but they also expand the energy efficiency of Active House USA beyond the confines of its four walls.

The future proof building methods we are employing in Active House USA will be discussed during the panel, The Critical Path to 2020, at the 2012 EEBA Excellence in Building Conference and Expo this week in Arizona. Active House project manager, Matt Belcher of Verdatek Solutions, will be one of the speakers on the panel along with Rick Schwolsky of EcoHome Magazine, Sam Rashkin from the Department of Energy, Mark LaLiberte of LaLiberte Online, and Brad Oberg from IBACOS.

We are proud to be building a house that will be just as high tech and equitable when the Smith’s daughter goes to college as the day she moves in!

by Melody Meiners
Sep 12

Active House USA AIA Architect’s Seminar

Calling all architects interesting in green building!

You are formally invited to attend a special educational event at Active House US. Join fellow architects and building professionals to earn some credit and learn about some of the elements of the Active House project, followed by a tour of the home where you’ll get a look at it everything going on behind the drywall.

Velux America, Webster Window and Door, and Active House USA will be hosting an AIA seminar on Friday, October 12 at the Webster Window and Door store located at 55 Lincoln Ave Webster Groves, Mo 63119.

Here’s what we have on the schedule:

8:00am-8:30am – Networking amongst your architectural peers (Continental breakfast provided)

9:00am-10:00am – Loewen Window AIA presentation “Shades of Green”: Sustainability in the Window and Door Industry” which will help you understand the relevance of windows and doors in Energy efficient housing. (1.5 learning unit)

10:00am-11:00am – VELUX AIA solar seminar which will speak about global energy challenges, understanding solar energy, solar water heating market, solar water heating system designs, overcoming design challenges, and balancing aesthetics and efficiency. (1 learning unit)

11:30am-2pm Walk to the open house tour of the Active House located at 215 S Gray Ave Webster Groves, Mo 63119. (BBQ and drinks provided by Laclede Gas Co)

To sign up for this informative day of events, please contact the following members of the Active House:

VELUX America, Inc: Mike Chance mike.chance@velux.com, 704-975-0886
Webster Window and Door: Robert Sylvia rsylvia@loewenstl.com, 314-699-9872

We look forward to having you, but space is limited so please sign up early!

by Melody Meiners
Jun 12

Groundbreaking Marks the Official Start to Active House USA Construction!

Active House USA officially construction with a fun groundbreaking ceremony on May 2, 2012. The event drew a large crowd of neighbors, trade partners, and local media outlets. A few important project partners also made it, including Webster Groves Mayor Gerry Welch, and two key Active House Alliance members, Henrik Norlander and Mikkel Olsen, who made the trip all the way from Denmark, by way of the National Green Building Conference in Nashville.

Hibbs Homes and Verdatek Solutions, St Louis’s leading green homebuilders, planned the event in cooperation with Laclede Gas. (You can see a full list of project partners who have signed on to support this important project by visiting www.ActiveHouseUSA.com/partners.)

“I am both thrilled and honored to be involved with this project.  Hibbs Homes has been building high-performance sustainable homes for several years in the St. Louis area, but the Active House raises the bar for me, my staff, and my trade partners,” said Kim Hibbs, owner and general contractor of Hibbs Homes and the builder for Active House USA. “We look forward to the challenge and delivering a truly unique home to our client.”

Homeowners, David and Thuy Smith, expect to take occupancy of the home in the fall, and during their first year in the home The University of Missouri Columbia Center for Sustainable Energy will monitor and document energy consumption and indoor air quality – an effort which will also be one of the first of it’s kind to officially document and prove out the benefits of green home building using these criteria.

If you missed the fun, you can watch a quick video from the day’s festivities, or browse through our photo gallery!

by Melody Meiners
Apr 12

Bringing Down the House: Demo Makes Way for Active House USA

We have reached a very exciting and important milestone in the construction of Active House USA-this week we completed demolition of the structure on the lot where this fall Active House USA will stand. This Active House prototype is unique in that it is being built as an infill project in historic Webster Groves, just steps from downtown shopping and restaurants.

In preparation for construction the Smith family purchased a lot with a home that was in very poor condition was not a good candidate for renovation, which made it ideal for infill building. We asked Habitat for Humanity to come in and salvage what they could from the interior and they were able to take some door frames and a few other items. After we removed additional debris from the home we were set for demolition-and the homeowner got to do the honors of taking the pieces of the home down.

The entire home demolished within an hour, and the debris from demolition and as some of the trees on the property that were dying were cleared and gathered ready to be removed and make way for next week’s groundbreaking ceremony. You can check out some more images from the demolition by heading over to Hibbs Homes’ Active House album on Facebook.

And things are just starting to get exciting: Hibbs Homes, Verdatek Solutions, the Active House Alliance as well as the homeowners and local officials will be on hand for the first official turn of the dirt on Wednesday, May 2 at 10am. With construction starting the plan is to have the home certified, monitoring set up, and the homeowners moved in this fall.

by Melody Meiners
Apr 12

Active House USA’s First Images

With demolition set to take place this week and groundbreaking next, Active House USA may not quite be ready for it’s closeup, but there are some early images that architect Jeff Day has recently made available that could almost be mistaken for a spread in a home decorating catalog they looks so good…and realistic!

Looking at the renderings you can see the simulated sunlight, and how industry leading day lighting plans and windows from Velux have been utilized and maximized in the design in order to use the natural energy and brightness of the sun in the home. And in the exterior shots you can see how the home really does look like a classic, American home despite all of the modern the technology and state of the art building techniques that have gone into it.

After demolition of the home on the current lot concludes this week, groundbreaking for Active House USA is set for May 2, and Hibbs Homes and Verdatek Solutions plan to have construction wrapped this fall!

by Melody Meiners
Apr 12

The Effects of Solar Orientation on Active House USA’s Design


Active House USA Rendering

A rendering of Active House USA shows the skylights, windows, and tunnels being used to take advantage of the Solar Orientation of the home.

Active House USA is bursting that futuristic bubble that many people associate with green home design, but aside from the traditional sensibilities that are immediately apparent when you look at the home there are some very important design features that are being built in that boost the sustainability, energy efficiency, and indoor air quality of the home. One of those key design features is the solar orientation of the home.

Solar orientation refers to orienting the design of the house in relation to the natural path of the sun. And for Active House USA it is a key to successful site planning in terms of the performance of the home.

Whether you are building  or remodeling a new home or an entire development, if you can take advantage of passive solar heating and cooling you have tapped into something truly amazing: free energy. (Well they have not figured out how to tax sunshine yet, anyway).

There is nothing you can do to a home (or any building, for that matter) that has more effect for less investment than plan to take advantage of this free energy source. A well-designed and properly oriented house capitalizes on solar heat gain in winter and deflects unwanted heat in summer. This simple consideration can save a healthy percentage of a house’s energy use—and at no extra cost for the entire life of that building. In summer, if you have oriented the house properly and are able to take advantage of shade trees and overhangs, (shading the windows and walls) the air conditioner can more effectively cool air that is approximately 20° cooler that it would be otherwise.

Proper solar orientation can also provide glare-free natural light throughout the house, especially when you factor in contemporary design techniques like light colored surfaces, glass partitions, and traditional transoms. While you want to limit Northern facing glazing because of cold temperature considerations, incorporating a balance of daylight from the North usually results in a more constant softer natural light. And vertical light, which will be incorporated into Active House USA using Velux sun tunnels and skylights), is even more effective as it provides a higher percentage of light with less glare.

The Active House USA prototype home is taking daylighting and solar orientation one step further by using daylight in our energy calculations. Engineers with Active House Network in Denmark are working with Jeff Day, our Project Architect, to maximize the effectiveness of the lighting in his design. Jeff has created an open and airy interior layout as a result that will maximize daylight throughout the house as much as possible.

The sum of all of this planning is that it reduces the need to use artificial lighting, lowering utility usage and costs. And using less artificial lighting also lowers the amount of heat generated in the house, which, in turn, further decreases the demand for air conditioning in summer.

by Matt Belcher