Remodeling and Home Design
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Littlewolf Architecture - Passive House Design - Northeast Region, New England, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut - Berkshires (Berkshire) Architect, Columbia County Architect, Litchfield County Architect

What is Passive House Design?
Passive House is an approach to home design that minimizes the energy required for heating and cooling. It is a system that has been developed and tested in Europe (Passivhaus) for over 15 years with great success in energy savings and homeowner satisfaction. Well designed Passive Houses are extremely resource efficient, comfortable, and healthy.

What are the basic features of Passive House?
Passive House sets specific targets for the heating & cooling demand, based on the treated floor area. High levels of insulation are required for cold climates to keep the heat in. Very tight construction is required to minimize heat loss and air movement through the envelope. Controlled fresh air supply is required for occupant health and comfort. These features create a home in which the internal temperature is consistantly healthy and comfortable, and in which the possibility of condensation, mold, and other building failures is greatly reduced.

How does Passive House compare with typical construction or green building?
There are many aspects to 'sustainable' or 'green' building design including site & orientation; material use & recycling; energy use; water conservation; reduction of CO2 footprint; and indoor air quality. Passive House focuses on energy use, specifically that required for heating & cooling, and as such is a cornerstone of good design and building practice. All the decisions that go into creating an efficient plan, good solar orientation and shading, super-insulation, super-tight construction, fresh ventilation air - are essential to Passive House and are reflected in the hard data of a specific energy budget for heating, cooling and ventilation. As compared with 'building to code', Passive House design can reduce the energy required for heating & cooling your home by up to 80%.

What about active solar power, geothermal power, passive solar and other alternative energy sources?
Passive House concentrates on reducing the primary energy demand. It is common sense to reduce the energy demand as much as possible, and take advantage of free solar radiation, prior to installing expensive alternative energy systems. Passive House applies this approach in a rigorous manner. Building orientation, local solar and climate data, heat gain through windows, and the necessity of summer shading are all factored into the energy demand. With Passive House design, if and when photovaltaics and/or solar hot water systems are installed, they can be smaller systems and have a greater impact on the energy budget due to the high efficiency of the building envelope.

All of this sounds great. But how much is it going to cost, and what if I have an existing home?
Super-insulation, air-tightness, high performance windows, mechanical ventilation - all have an increased up-front cost compared to 'baseline' construction. But the benefits are enormous: less energy use over the lifetime of your home; a healthy and comfortable indoor environment; reduced mechanical systems and maintenance cost. These benefits will only compound as utility and fossil fuel costs increase. Deep Energy Retrofits apply these same principles to existing homes undergoing major renovations (i.e. new siding & windows). Passive House upgrades can also be phased-in over time. The key is a planning strategy that allows for future upgrades without compromising work already done.

I want to know more about Passive House

I want to know more about Littlewolf Architecture

Littlewolf Architecture is a northeast regional practice located in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. Our primary focus is new home design, and renovations & additions to existing homes. All project types provide the opportunity to create beautiful living environments. Much of our work is set in the natural and rural Berkshire, Columbia, and Litchfield County landscapes, and we take our design cues from that envirmonment. Of vital importance is the sequence of approach, entry, and movement through a home that creates a narrative of daily use. A strong and meaningful connection to the outdoors is essential whether a new home be set in the woods, fields, or within a town. A neighborhood provides a reference, but the larger environment of sun, sky, and ground provide timeless compass points for design. The integrity of architecture lies in gathering together the environmental, practical, creative and personal influences on a project, resulting in a balanced design that is more that the sum of its parts.

Commodity & Process
Small is beautiful and the jacket needs to fit well. Custom home design requires tailoring a project for a particular dweller, program and site, yet providing a general adaptability for the legacy of a project. The process begins with drawing simple layouts and adjacencies, rooms for gathering and privacy, organizing features and good spatial flow. The design should provide for movement and repose, for reaching into the environment, and for protected shelter. Solar orientation, topography, context, and the microclimate must be considered to create a balance of view, daylight, shading, and heat retention. At the same time, the creative spark of design must be present to invite a unique solution for this place and time. A well-built shell comes next with super-insulation, high-R windows, air-sealing, and ventilation. We take a holistic approach to passive and active heating and cooling systems, emphasizing the integration of all building systems to create a comfortable and healthy New England home.

When it comes to material and detail, Architecture is a craft honed by the act of making things. Our approach is grounded in the understanding of building techniques through direct experience, coupled with a spirit of invention. Delightful details emerge throughout the design process, as the budget may allow. Natural and simple materials connect us to the earth and history: wood, stone, metal, glass. Environmentally preferable products are less energy-intensive to create, and are less detrimental to future generations and the planet. Natural building methods offer the extreme approach of treading very lightly on the earth. Durability and ease of maintenance are important for all projects. We have a healthy appreciation for conventional construction, as well as for more advanced and sustainable practices.

Studio Culture - Affordable Design
Littlewolf Architecture is committed to the concept of 'kaizen', or the constant improvement of our craft. We look intently at the fundamental details of construction in a process of continual refinement. We integrate 'green' strategies and building science practices into the natural course of design. Simple 3D CAD modeling is used for all projects. Energy modeling, employing the sophisticated Passive House software, can be used to compare the heating energy required for various design scenarios. The approach of constant refinement applies to our services as well. Templates for project delivery provide a range of services that can be tailored to specific project needs. For the DIY-homeowner on a budget, a simple design and set of drawings for permit is enough. For more creative projects a high level of detail is appropriate, including interiors, cabinetry, and site visits throughout construction. We also cultivate relationships with associated professionals here in the Berkshires to provide services beyond our own scope of practice.