Architects have the know-how and creativity to make beautiful buildings that also perform better and provide a healthy future for you, the client. As leaders in the art and science of sustainability, let us help you navigate this process so you can live, work, and play in a building that is good for you and the environment. True sustainability matters to us and we hope we can show you how it can benefit you, your family, your employees, and your customers.
Passive House, a sustainability principle, is not just for homes, but the same principles can be scaled up for larger commercial buildings. The core goals of any passive house designed project are direct solar orientation, super insulated envelope, airtight construction, high-performance windows, and doors, and balanced fresh air ventilation. These five ingredients when mixed proportionately for each project result in buildings that consume 80-90% less energy utility than their standard code-built counterparts. What does this mean? It means a well built, and thought out building that is healthy for the environment and for you, the inhabitant. Our office believes in making better buildings for our clients, and through Passive House, we can deliver on this goal. Healthier buildings mean healthier people; especially considering that we spend 80% of our lives inside of buildings.
One common question we are asked is, how much more does it cost to build with Passive House Principles? The answer can depend on a few factors, as with any project and construction method, it depends on how custom you wish you make your building, what level of material finish you choose, and how fast you want the project to be completed. We can help you leverage these principles to match your goals, wants and needs.
Statistics from the Passive House Institute of the United States (PHIUS) show that comparable projects at the same size and type are ranging between 7-15% higher in initial cost than a standard code-built building. Many of them only being 10% higher. Wouldn’t you rather sacrifice a slightly higher initial cost for 90% lower energy bills and a much healthier indoor environment? Consider adding a small solar panel array to your project which would take your Passive House project to complete Net Zero Energy consumption. This means you will have no energy bills over the lifetime of the building. This return on investment can be used to take an amazing vacation if you are a homeowner or allow commercial buildings to use those savings for other programming or investments.
Many professions discuss sustainability and for each profession, there is a different definition that is crafted specifically for them. Often it includes an initiative to reduce consumption of resources, whether it is turning off the lights in unused rooms, or limiting printing of emails unnecessarily. These are valid concerns and can inspire a staff to think before you make a print, but what sustainability means to us at Sedgewick + Ferweda Architects is taking a look at the whole picture and all the minute details simultaneously to seek the best solution for our clients. In the field of architecture, sustainability is a subject that is not new or trendy, but rather something that has been imbued into the design of buildings since the 10th Century in North America. In the Mid-West and Architecture in Michigan, sustainability is paramount in how we design and what we do.
The Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings, now located in the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, represent some of the best-preserved examples of passive building design. The term, passive building design is the use of natural assets such as access to sunlight, earth as shelter, and prevalent breezes to passively heat, cool, and shelter humans. This was the only method available to the population until the Industrial Revolution when active methods such as steam boilers, and electricity generated through the burning of fossil fuels. Modern active systems now include solar panels, air handling for heating and cooling, refrigeration, and thermal comfort. All sustainable methods we have taken to the next level with our design implementation.
For a period after World War II when the baby boom created a demand for housing, building design swayed away from selecting a building site for optimal orientation and toward quickly built affordable units produced at a massive scale. Along with modern amenities like microwaves and indoor washer and dryers, the American Dream was now made possible through mass production.
The dream, however, caused a domino effect of environmental issues such as sprawling suburbs, overextended infrastructure, longer commutes in cars using fossil fuels, less walkability leading to lower overall human health and wellness, and overconsumption of natural resources. There is a bright side. A growing concern over our environmental impact is inspiring all of us to rethink how our actions impact the environment. The architecture and construction industry is leading the effort to design better buildings that not only lower our impact on natural resources but also improve the indoor quality which improves our health. One type of energy conscious design strategy that makes better buildings simple is called Passive House. Our finest example is the Satori House in Manistique Michigan, Architecture in the Upper Peninsula. A sustaining environmental dwelling with no furnace incorporating the highest level of energy awareness.
Sedgewick + Ferweda Architects have begun to work on our first Net Zero Energy projects at the commercial scale. We believe that creating buildings that can affect 100% of their energy consumption by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy systems harnessed from the sun, wind power, or geothermal ground sources, then that is true sustainability. Choosing to steer away from dependence on fossil fuels and reducing our impact on our planet we can move toward the global goal of energy independence. Because fossil fuels are finite resources, we can never know for sure how their scarcity will affect the price of power for our buildings. But if we design better buildings and move toward Net Zero Energy we can guarantee social, economic, and environmental sustainability for many generations.