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WOODSTOCK PASSIVE HOUSE

Autoclaved aerated concrete (AAC) is a pre-cast masonry product developed in Sweden in the 1920s, widely used world-wide. There are about 350 manufacturing plants in the world, but only one in the United States as of 2016. AAC is 75 to 80% air, and although it is masonry it is easily cut with woodworking tools. It has a higher fire rating than concrete, 4 hours for a 4” or greater thickness. It is not attacked by termites or rodents. Because of its high air content, it can be self-insulating in a warm climate, yet to reach extreme energy efficiency Greenspring Building Systems Inc. (GBS) adds external insulation.

We have built a demonstration home in Woodstock NY which is certified by the Passive House Institute US (PHIUS), meeting the most stringent energy program in the world. At its certification in August 2016, it was one of only two PHIUS certified homes built with AAC in the US, and the only one built without foam plastic insulation.

Passive House can be more accurately called Passive Building, as it is widely used for commercial, multi-family, and school buildings. It is based on several principles: Super-insulation, Thermal-bridge free, Air tight, High performance windows and doors, Maximize solar gain, Controlled ventilation.

In the interest of building with non-toxic materials, the insulation products we used for the Woodstock Passive House are Foamglas tm, an expanded glass product, rigid mineral wool, and cellulose. Insulation levels are approximately double code requirements.

Passive buildings are carefully sealed to prevent air leakage. Controlled ventilation is provided with an energy recovery ventilation system (ERV). An ERV draws fresh air from outside, and exhausts the same quantity of air from the kitchen and bathrooms. Temperature and moisture are exchanged in the ERV, so fresh air is delivered with minimal temperature loss, and the humidity level remains at a healthy level year round. AAC is inherently air-tight.

Thermal bridges are connections between inside and out that conduct heat., For example, a chimney is a thermal bridge even if it is sealed off. Passive buildings do not need any combustion; they are so energy efficient that all electric systems work well including ductless heat pumps (‘mini-splits’), heat pump water heaters, and induction cooktops. It is far easier to maintain healthy indoor air quality without combustion equipment. A passive house can easily meet zero energy with a small photovoltaic solar system.

The major enemy of a building is water, and AAC manages water extremely well--it can get wet and will dry back out.

Perhaps the most notable feature of an AAC Passive House is extraordinary comfort. Indoor temperature barely shifts even with drastic outdoor changes; humidity remains comfortable; it is quiet. In wooded locations where mice are a constant problem, they are excluded with no need for an exterminator.

Greenspring Building Systems is available to build your home or commercial building, or we can train your crew for AAC construction. We provide consulting services regarding autoclaved aerated concrete and Passive House construction. We can also advise on energy saving measures, and modifications or new construction for accessibility.

Written by: Daniel Levy, Greenspring Building Systems


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