Sometime this month, a family named Smith will take up residence in the nation’s first “active house” in Webster Groves, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis.
From the curb, the house doesn’t look much different from other traditional two-story frame houses on a tree-lined street in this established town. The gray fiber cement siding is accented with white trim around the windows and on porches in front and back and on a balcony on one side of the second floor. The homeowners wanted a “green” home, but they also wanted it to blend in with the neighborhood.
The house is designed to be energy efficient, with healthy indoor air and a design that allows occupants to take best advantage of sun, shade and breezes. Structurally insulated panels in the walls reduce energy consumption dramatically, and ample windows and solar tubes provide abundant natural light, according to the builder, Hibbs Homes of Chesterfield, Mo. There’s a solar-powered car charging station in the garage and a solar water heating system.
Active House standards were established in 2011 at a conference in Brussels, but the movement started in Copenhagen, Denmark. Several active houses have been built in Europe. The principles of active houses are similar to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), but they don’t require the detailed documentation of efficiency required for LEED certification.
Active House principles also stress that a house be affordable for purchase as well as in the long term. The University of Missouri Center for Sustainable Energy will monitor energy consumption and indoor air quality for the first year the Smith family lives in the house.
“If it’s not affordable, it’s hardly sustainable,” said Matt Blecher, principal of Verdatek Solutions LLC, a specialist in green building who managed the project.
The new home was built on a lot previously occupied by a stucco house built in 1921. That house was demolished, but the builder was able to recycle some of the interior framing, and the concrete foundation was pounded into gravel for use as fill in building the new house.
The house, at 215 Gray Avenue, is open to the public on Saturday, March 9, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.