The Drive By

March 26th, 2010 by Tim Eian
J and Josh in front of the Passive House in the Woods

J Chesnut and Josh Crenshaw

It has been fun to be coming to this job site from the very beginning. Driving up the road each morning and seeing the square, white, Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) cooler rising from the ground between the rows of suburban homes. It is this first view through the trees that draws people to take a left turn and drive to the end of the road for a closer look. Most people just sit in their cars for a moment, then turn around and drive away, one so quickly that they took out the neighbor’s mailbox. Not to worry, it was easily fixed. A few have been brave enough to get out of their cars and ask a question or two. One resident of the neighborhood actually showed a keen interest in the project and grew more excited as we laid out the grander vision for the Passive House design. The most cautious have been the dog walkers; they only come to where the pavement ends half way down the block.

I think it must be the modern design that causes the curious to come in for a closer look: the flat roof, square sides, and not a diagonal in sight. You wouldn’t think that a white box would cause that much attention.  ICF is not new, it has been around since the 70’s in commercial construction and has made great strides in the residential market in the last couple of years. Thermal mass makes a lot of sense in our climate, especially in the swing seasons. Maybe word about this project is starting to get out. We have yet to install the ultra high performance windows that tilt and turn inward, or the 11” of exterior foam on the outside of the ICF. The steel deck structure and stair tower will certainly get some attention and people will surely slow down and take notice when we install the photovoltaic and solar thermal systems.

People always take note when a new house goes up, or when a new product is tried for the first time, or when a new design ends up in a traditional setting. Our curious nature causes us to seek out things that are different and we often pass judgment on it. Will it work? Is it better than the old thing I had? What do you have to sacrifice to get it?  Do I like how it looks? There is always a risk in trying something new, of changing the paradigm, or raising the expectation.  When we shift the paradigm or change the level of expectation we expose ourselves to failure and success. Yet we will often be judged by what people see as they drive down the road and they see us from a distance. The true success of this project will be when people take that left turn, come down the road and into the driveway, get out of their cars and start talking about what makes this house special. Only then can we start to have the conversation about how we live and how to improve the homes we live in.

Josh Crenshaw, Tim Eian, Steve Swanson at Passive House in the Woods

Josh Crenshaw, Tim Delhey Eian, Steve Swanson

Josh Crenshaw is the site supervisor for the Passive House in the Woods project. He works with Morr Construction.


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