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Much Effort For A Passive House

Many strive for it, but few actually build a passive house—a construction feat that was first sought in response to the energy crisis in the 1970s and was popularized in Europe for the sake of building the most efficient house possible.

“A passive house meets its heating demand through ‘passive’ sources such as solar radiation or heat emitted from its occupants and appliances,” said Wayne Turett, the principal of Turett Collaborative Architects in Manhattan.

Mr. Turett, an architect who has designed luxury apartments and commercial centers, said the practice far exceeds even the typical green home.

For instance, a passive house consumes about 90 percent less heating energy than existing buildings, and 75 percent less energy than an average new construction—all with the goal of reaching net-zero, or relying little or not at all on fossil energy sources.

Only a few homes on the Twin Forks have actually achieved the rigorous passive house certification. And Mr. Turett’s new all-electric home in Greenport is on its way—hopefully.

“This home could possibly be a net-zero house, which means that if I have solar panels and I have very little demand of electricity I could possibly power the house by a solar panel with a battery and stay off the grid,” he said. “Here, it was extremely difficult to find the materials and the labor that could put this house together, but in Europe, if you go into their version of a Home Depot, those things that I had to import are just there on the shelves. It’s just the way they build.”

He was unable to find a builder who was knowledgeable in passive house standards, so he acted as his own construction manager to design and build his new weekend home on the North Fork.

The contemporary barn was built to match the aesthetic of historic Greenport. The two-story home is heated and cooled with a heat pump, and aided by an energy recovery ventilation system, or ERV, which regulates incoming outdoor air to freshen stale indoor air.

“The house becomes a sealed envelope so that any air that infiltrates is very minimal, especially compared to code,” Mr. Turett said. State code mandates a home is sealed to have at most three air exchanges per hour—a passive house requires 0.6.


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